April 10, 2014

In Focus: London and the U.K. From Above

Photographer Jason Hawkes has been making fascinating aerial images since 1991. With a gyro-stabilized camera, he takes photos directly from the open door of a helicopter. Hawkes has covered subjects around the world, but specializes in aerial shots of the United Kingdom. Once more, he’s been kind enough to share some of his recent photos with us here.

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April 9, 2014

In Focus: Smithsonian Magazine’s 2013 Photo Contest

The editors of Smithsonian magazine have just announced the 60 finalists in their 11th annual photo contest. They’ve kindly allowed me to share several of these images here, including some great shots from each of the competition’s six categories: The Natural World, Travel, People, Americana, Altered Images and Mobile, a new category this year. Be sure to visit the contest page at Smithsonian.com to see all the finalists, and vote in the Reader’s Choice Awards as well.

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April 4, 2014

In Focus: Afghanistan Seen Through the Lens of Anja Niedringhaus

Niedringhaus, a photographer with the Associated Press, was shot and killed by an Afghan policeman. Fellow reporter Kathy Gannon was also wounded.

April 3, 2014

In Focus: The Aftermath of Chile’s Earthquake

Late Tuesday night, a tremendous earthquake struck off the coast of northern Chile, near the town of Iquique. The magnitude 8.2 quake triggered a localized tsunami that battered the coastline with seven-foot waves. The shallow temblor (12.5 miles below the seabed) also set off dozens of aftershocks — 18 of them above magnitude 5.0 so far, including a magnitude 7.6 aftershock last night. Surprisingly, damage and casualties were very limited. Several fires erupted, smaller structures suffered minimal damage, and six deaths were reported — the victims were either crushed under debris or suffered fatal heart attacks. Today, Chile’s navy cancelled a tsunami alert and its emergency office, Onemi, which had earlier asked residents to evacuate the coastline, said people could return to their homes.

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March 31, 2014

In Focus: The Modern Face of Kabul

Despite decades of conflict in Afghanistan, the country’s capital city of Kabul is home to a vibrant youth scene, a handful of sleek shopping malls, cafes, and more. Reuters photographer Morteza Nikoubazl recently set out to document modern Kabul, populated by musicians, artists, athletes, and activists who are trying to live 21st-century lives in spite of massive infrastructure problems and the ever-present threat of militant attacks. Afghanistan is preparing for an election on April 5 that should mark the first democratic transfer of power in the country’s history, but it has been hit by a tide of violence as the Taliban has ordered its fighters to disrupt the vote and threatened to kill anyone who participates. Many of the people in these images were happy to be photographed, but did not want to give their names. This photo essay is part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan.

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March 27, 2014
Why Selfies Sometimes Look Weird to Their Subjects

Welcome to the department of discarded selfies, a dark place deep inside my phone where dimly lit close-up shots of my face are left to fade away into the cloud. I’ve thought about sending these photos to friends many times—that’s why I took them, after all—but each time my finger lingers over the share button, a few questions stop me: Why does my face look so weird? Are my eyelids that droopy? Is my chin that lop-sided? And how come nobody warned me?
Taking purposefully ugly selfies encourages photographers to seize control of their self-image by rejecting beauty standards and embracing the imperfect humanity of our faces. But what about earnest selfies that are just accidentally ugly?
Don’t blame your face. Blame your brain instead. Selfies sometimes look strange to their subjects because of how we see ourselves in the mirror, how we perceive our own attractiveness, and the technical details of how we take them on camera phones.
Read more.

Why Selfies Sometimes Look Weird to Their Subjects

Welcome to the department of discarded selfies, a dark place deep inside my phone where dimly lit close-up shots of my face are left to fade away into the cloud. I’ve thought about sending these photos to friends many times—that’s why I took them, after all—but each time my finger lingers over the share button, a few questions stop me: Why does my face look so weird? Are my eyelids that droopy? Is my chin that lop-sided? And how come nobody warned me?

Taking purposefully ugly selfies encourages photographers to seize control of their self-image by rejecting beauty standards and embracing the imperfect humanity of our faces. But what about earnest selfies that are just accidentally ugly?

Don’t blame your face. Blame your brain instead. Selfies sometimes look strange to their subjects because of how we see ourselves in the mirror, how we perceive our own attractiveness, and the technical details of how we take them on camera phones.

Read more.

March 26, 2014

In Focus: St. Petersburg from Above

Recently, photographer Amos Chapple spent some time in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city. He used a small drone to lift his camera high above the cathedrals and fortresses, capturing some amazing aerial photos. Chapple: “There’s a legend in Russia that Saint Petersburg was constructed in the blue heavens and lowered in one piece into the marshland, ‘for how otherwise could a city so beautiful exist in a region so bleak.’” Chapple, has previously showed us Stalin’s Rope Roads, and took us on a trip to Turkmenistan.

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March 26, 2014
When Did Group Pictures Become ‘Selfies?’

The answer has more to do with language than photography.
Read more. [Image: @theellenshow]

When Did Group Pictures Become ‘Selfies?’

The answer has more to do with language than photography.

Read more. [Image: @theellenshow]

March 21, 2014

In Focus: The First Day of Spring

Yesterday was the vernal equinox, the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, despite continued wintry conditions in a few places. As the sunlight becomes more prevalent, people, plants, and animals are beginning to emerge from their winter modes to step outside, bloom, and otherwise welcome the sunshine. These photos show glimpses of the new season from around the world, as we shake off the winter and greet the spring.

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March 19, 2014

In Focus: In Syria, Three Years of War

Last weekend marked the third anniversary of Syria’s civil war, a conflict that has, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, claimed the lives of more than 146,000 people, at least a third of them civilians. As forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appear to be making slow progress against rebel forces, the humanitarian crisis has grown astronomically — as many as 2.5 million Syrians have now fled the country. Fractured rebel groups continue to fight each other, as well as Assad’s troops, with civilians bearing the brunt of attack and counterattack, their neighborhoods reduced to rubble by mortar shells and barrel bombs. Gathered here are images from Syria over the past few months.

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