single atom photograph


via giz, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (“EPSRC”) just announced the winner of its annual photography prize, which goes to David Nadlinger of Oxford University for a photography of a single strontium atom. The atom was excited by a laser, absorbs the energy, re-emits the light, and was held stationary by electric fields. The process occured sufficiently quickly for an ordinary camera to capture.


Zoom in and the atom may be seen clearly. Images © David Nadlinger.

There were over 100 entries to the competition, in 5 cutely named categories: Eureka & Discovery, Equipment & Facilities, People & Skills, Innovation, and Weird & Wonderful.

The ESPRC was formed in 1994 after the SERC was split into reserach councils responsible for engineering & physical sciences, particle physics & astronomy, and biotechnology & biological sciences. Every scientist in my university cohort who went beyond first degree knows the SERC very well.

we are not original

via petapixel

We go through flickr, or google photos, or instagram, or facebook, looking at our friends’ travel pics. Even notice they’re essentially all the same shot. Different weather, time of day, and if they are normal people who stand in front of the landmark or scenery, the difference is in the people and where they stand.

Instagrammer Oliver KMIA made a video slideshow of almost identical images of planes, people, and instantly recognisable landmarks photographed in the exact same way, calling it:

a photogenic mass tourism experience

What he’s missing is what I see a lot on my friends’ fb posts: pic of the airport gate showing where they are going, and an image of their boarding pass. (And here’s why we must NEVER EVER post pictures of boarding passes anywhere.)

To my horror, I find that I’m also guilty of some of these clichéd pics, even though I will never do the let’s-pretend-we’re-pushing-the-leaning-tower-of-pisa atrocity. Like this arashiyama bamboo forest pic, I know I took it, I can show the EXIF and prove that I was, well, in Kyoto that day. But will anyone be any wiser if I had downloaded it off google images or flickr or instagram and added it amongst all the others I took on the same trip? I doubt it. I’m conscientious about linking and acknowledging, but not everyone is. Both my friend A and I have had people link and copy our images without crediting us, but that’s not the point of this post.

As for the photogenic mass tourism experience, dpreview said

We can’t decide if the video is funny or depressing

I think it’s both and neither. It’s a sign of the times.

japan winter light festival

We’re prepping for our trip to bangkok next week. Looking back at my records, last January we went to Japan. Tokyo and Hakone for a week. Sake tasting, Fuji, onsen in the snow, Tsujiki, drugstore shopping. All fabulous.

May be one day we can make it to the winter lights festival at Nabana No Sato, a botanical theme park in Kuwana City. Looked at google maps and Kuwana is just 30mins’ drive from Nagoya. Absolutely stunning pics.

Blue mountains:

Cherry blossoms:


There are other winter light festivals around Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Nagasaki, Sendai, Kanagawa, Tochigi, and Nagoya itself. Didn’t fully realise there are so many! Definitely trip planning time.

winter’s watch

via mefi

Star Island is located 7 miles off the coast of New Hampshire, USA. It’s 38 acres in area and owned by the Star Island Corporation, a non-profit which operates hotels on the island. The island runs on solar power and has its own water supply and septic treatment facility. During the summer, staff at the hotels live on the island. During winter, there is one single inhabitant, the winter caretaker Alexandra de Steiguer. She’s been returning to the island every winter for the past 19 years.

Winter's Watch from Brian Bolster on Vimeo.

Here’s a moody, almost mysterious short film about Ms. de Steiguer’s time as the caretaker. Although it’s a video, all the shots were taken with the camera stationary, to give a sense of space and quietness. Well worth watching.

© alex de steiguer

Alexandra de Steiguer is a photographer and the film captures her taking her camera around, and processing the photographs. This is “Shoals – Rock Pool No. 1” of the Isles of Shoals series. She also has a book, called Small Island, Big Picture.

On long periods of solitude:

Most of us aren’t often by ourselves for long periods with only the wild elements for company. In a way, solitude is like being restricted to one small island – yourself. You’ve walked that personal island all your life; you take it for granted that you know every part of it. But solitude forces you to stay there, to walk it again with new eyes… to come to the very edge and gaze into the unknown.

The hotels on the island are more geared towards conferences and retreats. There is no bar (although visitors and staff may bring their own alcohol), and no real resaturant aside from the hotel dining room. From a mefi commenter:

It’s super tiny, it’s rustic, it’s homey and homely, it’s very very plain, it’s not luxurious. Yet it’s an incredible, gorgeous, elemental place to visit. You can hike the tiny island in under an hour, or ramble out on the rocks to watch the gulls and surf, and be the only person you see for hours any afternoon…It’s not for everyone, but it’s pretty wonderful if it’s the kind of thing you like.

I wonder what it looks like this week, under all the snow. All the pics I found on flickr and google images are during the summer. I guess since Ms. de Steiguer is the only person there, any winter or snow pictures will have to come from her.

you don’t take a photograph; you ask quietly to borrow it

You don’t take a photograph. You ask quietly to borrow it — Unknown

A couple of photography related topics.


First, this universal lens cap currently available on kickstarter. US$30 each, but one free if the campaign is shared on social media, making it $15 each. It’s a stretchable material that covers the entire lens and is supposed to be waterproof, dirtproof and shatterproof. It can completely cover a small lens which does give it more protection.

A generic 77m replacement lens cover is $4.99 on amazon, so does the kurvd cover justify being three times the price? I’m attracted to it being able to cover more of the lens than just the cover and the plastic material helps if the lens is dropped on a hard surface. The problem with these small accessories is they’re not too expensive and it’s easy to spend money on them.

As a distraction, here’s the most popular photo from flickr’s top 25 photos of 2017, say goodbye…” by Iwona Podlasinska. There are also various themed top photos like architecture, landscape, sports as well as top photos from countries like Canada and India.

say goodbye...

According to fastcompany, the photos were initially picked based on how often an image was viewed, shared or bookmarked but human editors had the final say. Although over 50% of photos uploaded on flickr were taken by an iPhone, all of the top 25 were taken using a conventional camera. What struck me about some of the photos that made the top 25 lists, is how artificial some of them are. Not to knock the photogrpher’s skill, but it seemed that Lightroom skills were more important than framing, lighting and composition.

random photography art

One boredpanda user told a story of how his boss took advantage of him by getting him to take promotional pictures for free. The business was a liquor store and the photographer naïvely agreed because the boss said the magic word: exposure.

©Terryis Xmun

He took it seriously at first but soon regretted his decision to work for free so he started not caring as much.

Callous disregard for form and aesthetic took on a form and aesthetic unto itself. Items were tossed roughly into bushes, placed literally on streets…The nastier I could get, the better.

©Terryis Xmun

The images ended up on the company’s fb page and no one questioned the insanity. His boss seemed to accept them. The beer company for this pic even liked the image. The user is puzzled as to why people seemed to like the pics. Personally, I like some of them. There’s an urban jungle randomness that a lot of commercial marketing photography tries to achieve but it’s obvious they try too hard. By not trying hard at all, he found a certain style.

Just goes to show, one person’s rubbish is another person’s art.

vending machines hokkaido

via colossal, all images ©Eiji Ohashi


I can’t stop looking at these from Japanese photographer Eiji Ohashi, who photographed vending machines in Hokkaido at night. This combines so many of my likes: Hokkaido, vending machines, photography, stillness. There are over 5 million vending machines in Japan, selling everything from the usual drinks and snacks to toys and clothing. They’re located inside buildings, outside buildings, on roads and, in rural areas, in the middle of a field. What Ohashi-san did, was notice how the light from the machine would shine on its surroundings:

vending machines downtown or in the wilderness, placed to stand in solitude, are an image of loneliness. They work tirelessly, whether it is day or night.


They’re especially beautiful when covered in snow. It’s almost like they stand there in defiance of whatever the elements throw at them.

This is part of a series called Time to Shine, more on his website.

coincidence photography

I had my eye on a small lightbox that folds to the size of an A4 piece of paper, but am slightly put off by some of the negative reviews. Price is good though.

Anyway, talking about photography, I saw these photos as part of a project called the coincidence project by Denis Cherim who arranged to take his photos as certain times and angles. Good use of

perspective, scale, and certainly a bit of luck


All images ©Denis Cherim

More on his website. Cherim is currently on a 3-month residency in Taiwan. He’s also on instagram.

container ship timelapse

And another video. This one by Jeff Tsang has been making the rounds. 10 minutes of unadulterated peacefulness and mesmerising goodness. Worth watching multiple times. He works on a container ship and set up his Nikon D750 and Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 lens facing the bow, then proceeded to collect over 80,000 images or 1.5TB of material which he edited into a timelapse video. 30 days of sailing in 10 minutes from the Red Sea to Sri Lanka to SIngapore to Hong Kong.

The sky and the weather looked so beautiful. I thought he was lucky but I remembered that pollution usually settles in built up areas and in the vast expanse of the oceans it’s really just the elements. And vast and expansive it was. For long periods there was nothing in the horizon but sky and water.

His captions are simple and educational too. In just a few words he described the hard work done by pilots, how long it takes to unload and load a container ship, and how traffic is organised (in lanes going in one direction in the straits around Singapore and no organisation around the South China Sea as fishing vessels are everywhere and crisscross around the ship). He made a decision to leave the camera out to continue recording while there was a storm and paid the price of water in his lens.


My favourite bits include the enormous night sky with the Milky Way at around 0:30, lightning at around 3:20, the sky lit up by the full moon at around 6:00. And blue, blue skies.

tsingy de bemaraha national park

We had very tentative plans to travel later in the year, but nothing fixed. May be Japan again if we only have a week; Europe if we have longer. With mm’s mum’s health situation, those plans are probably out. I may still get to travel before the end of the year, but I’m not sure.

© Dave Stamboulis, BBC Travel

I’ve been looking at the bbc photoessay about Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park in Madagascar, one of the most difficult UNESCO site to reach. First, it’s in Madagascar, already one of the world’s most remote location. Secondly, the national park is in the northwestern part of the island and accessible by a dirt road that is a muddy swamp 6 months of the year. When it is relatively dry to travel, there are still 2 rivers to cross, both crocodile-infested.

Tsingy is the local language for “the place where one cannot walk” describes the sharp limestone formations in the national park. A series of suspension bridges, steel cables, pegs and ladders together with train guides allows visitors to see the spiky formations up close. UNESCO describes this world heritage site as:

impressive ‘tsingy’ peaks and a ‘forest’ of limestone needles.

I usually do quite well in those global places I’ve visited quizzes. I don’t see this often on those list challenges and it should be. I doubt I’ll ever get a chance to go but looking at the pics is enough. Spectacular.

two contests

A couple of contest winners, can’t be more different.

National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year

I can’t get into the natgo website, but the Atlantic has a great gallery. I’m also including the photographers’ captions.

© Sergio Tapiro Velasco, National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest 2017

The Power of Nature – Grand Prize and 1st Prize Nature Category. Powerful eruption of Colima Volcano in Mexico on December 13th, 2015. That night, the weather was dry and cold, friction of ash particles generated a big lightning rod of about 600 meters that connected ash and volcano, illuminating the dark scene. In last part of 2015, this volcano showed a lot of eruptive activity with ash explosions that raised 2-3 km above the crater. Most of the night explosions produced incandescent rock falls and lightning not bigger than 100 meters in average.

Or as kottke called it, Mount Doom.

A couple of others caught my eye.

© Yutaka Takafuji, National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest 2017

Forest of the Fairy – Honorable mention, Nature. This photograph was taken in the evening hours of a humid early summer day in the forest of a small remote village in the Tamba area of Japan. It beautifully captures the magical atmosphere of princess fireflies carpeting a stairway leading to a small shrine revered by the local people.

I love this, dream-like and surreal.

© Moin Ahmed, National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest 2017

The Man’s Stare – Honorable mention, People. The photo was taken on July 23rd 2016 at Tongi Railway Station in Gazipur, Bangladesh. I was there taking photos and waiting for a moment. A train from Dhaka toward another district stopped at the platform for 5 minutes for lifting passengers. It was raining a lot. Suddenly I found a pair of curious eyes looking at me through the window and on his left an umbrella has been put to protect from the rain. I got the moment.

This is almost like a painting.

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

This is for the WORST opening sentence. Not in a real novel, but participants try to write the worst opening line. Kat Russo was the winner for:

The elven city of Losstii faced towering sea cliffs and abutted rolling hills that in the summer were covered with blankets of flowers and in the winter were covered with blankets, because the elves wanted to keep the flowers warm and didn’t know much at all about gardening.

Pam Tallmann, in the Crime/Detective category:

As hard-boiled detective Max Baxter ate his soft-boiled egg, he thought about the gorgeous dame he’d found last night lying in a pool of her own blood—it being inconvenient to lie in a pool of someone else’s blood—and wondered how she liked her eggs.

They even have a Purple Prose category. Tyson Canale won with:

A sweaty Hector threw off his shirt, passion burning, skin glistening, his deodorant congealed to little chunks ensnared among the matted jungle of his armpits like so many crumbles of pungent blue cheese over a bed of sprouts, moistened with a dressing of perspiration, and lustily asked, “Are you as hungry as I am?” to the confused busboy.

red bull illume photography competition

The Red Bull Illume photography competition says it’s the greatest international contest for adventure and sports photography. With 5,646 photographers from 120 countries invited to submit to 10 categories and over 34,500 images received, it is certainly great.

The Atlantic covered some of the award-winning entries. I really like reading the descriptions that the photographers wrote to accompany the images too.

© Lorenz Holder / Red Bull Illume

This is the amazing image by overall winner Lorenz Holder: “Senad and I were on the way to a different location early in the morning when we passed this scenic spot. We saw a sign from the street and I had some pictures in mind that I’d seen from this bridge on the internet. When we got there the sun was just above the trees and it was lighting up the full color-spectrum of the autumn leaves in a very soft way. I’d chosen a very low camera position to get an almost perfect mirrored scene on the water surface. The bridge looked like a perfect circle and the light was still very good. When Senad was on the bridge, it took us two or three tries to get the shot. There was also no more time for another try because the wind came up and the perfect reflection on the water was gone.”

Timing is everything, but it takes a masterful photographer to spot the correct light, setting and action.


I discovered loremflickr and have been having a lot of fun with it. What is loremflickr? It’s a free random picture generator. In the same vein as lorem ipsum for text, it posts

placeholder images for every case, web or print, on almost any subject, in any size

Images are sourced from flickr that are marked creative commons and the user is acknowledged. Just enter the url including size, colour, subject. Let’s call a 500×375 pic of food, so the url is


How about same size, red, shoes:


It does multiple searches too. So I may want a random pic of car or train:,train/all


This is fun. And the best part is, I have literally no idea what will show up on this post.

flickr explore | old websites

Tim Carmody who is standing in for Jason Kottke this week has been asking interesting hive-mind questions, like best wesbsites that are gone, hidden gem websites and best things in the history of the internet. The hidden gems list is interesting by itself.

Matt Haughey, in response to the best historical internet questions, wrote about flickr explore. Flickr has been through a lot, especially since it was bought by yahoo. Most of it negative as users abandoned it for other sites that offered more instant gratification. As an image repository, it’s been overtaken by facebook. As a social app, it’s been replaced by almost everything–snapchat, instagram, facebook again. The flickr explore page isn’t perfect, there are too many landscape pics, too many macro pics, and too many overly HDR pics. But there’s at least one that is inspiring and unlike instagram, no one is trying to get me to follow them or sell me something.


I just clicked on the page. Random pics and I daresay I find something pleasing in every single one.

p.s. he also asked about great websites that are gone and the top one is google reader. For me, it’s google reader too, but I won’t forget about

fascinating north korea pics

I have a morbid fascination with North Korea. Currently it’s fairly nearby in terms of geography and a quick bit of googling tells me that there are package tours. Expensive, the 4-day tour is more than the flight+5 nights hotel package I got for Paris. Plus a) it departs Beijing and b) it’s more for foreign passport holders.

Which is why I was so fascinated at a r/pics thread of a European traveller who went to the DPK recently and came back with wonderful pics. Many were quick snaps out of range of the ever-present guides.


The pic that grabbed my attention to the thread, entitled Off-limits shop in North Korea. I had 15 seconds to take this picture before my guide realised I wasn’t around, which says it all really.

Road to North Korea

The first album posted, of the initial part of the journey, is a huge eye-opener. It isn’t entirely surprising, because we know about the poverty, isolation and amount of propaganda there, especially as more and more people visit. It’s just sad and shocking to the system to see how real it is. It’s worth scrolling through every pic and reading the commentary.

p.s. all pics copyright Michael Huniewicz @

can anyone hear the screaming


Picadilly Circus, originally uploaded by IanVisits

Nowadays I’m so used to shops being open all year round, even on Christmas Day — shoppers paradise means retail trumps everything. I almost can’t remember how London is, nothing is open, no tube, no bus, no shops (apart from small corner shops may be). So i was intrigued to find via mefi phootographs by IanVisits, who took the trouble of photographing London early on Christmas Day. The resultant flickr set, abandoned london is very eerie. To see places like Trafalgar Square, Oxford Street totally empty, it’s like something out of a science fiction movie.

relax home

relax nude

When I was looking for the hammock graphic for yesterday’s post I put in “relax home” in a google image search. This came up on the first page, in fact it was on the top line. Clicking on the image brought me to the uk durex site, which was um surprising. The reason is that the alt of the image is relax_home.jpg.

Anyway, I studied it for a little while and realised that I wasn’t offended by the nudity. In fact, I began to appreciate the photography — in particular the composition and how the head, arms and legs are positioned. It did show a relaxed body, but there was also something anticipatory about the pose. Normally I’m clueless about art, classifying everything under “like” or “don’t like” — this definitely falls under the “like” pile.

There’s too much stigma in society about nakedness, we should put away the prudishness and start noticing the how natural the human form can be.