Sleep-paralysis sufferer depicts his nightmares in photos

Imagine waking up in the middle of the night, unable to move and being haunted by your worst nightmares? It’s what happens to those who suffer from sleep paralysis, like photographer Nicolas Bruno, known on Flickr as thewickedend. Nicolas endured these traumatic hallucinations for years. But over time, he learned that photography helped to control them.

Nicolas describes his photos to The Weekly Flickr in the accompanying video. “[They’re] dark, mysterious, and they’re all based on my personal experiences of literally being paralyzed with fear… I like [to] give the viewer a glimpse inside the strange and chilling quality of a nonsensical nightmare.”

Nicolas started experiencing sleep paralysis when he was fifteen years old.

“Sometimes when I would wake up, I’d have shadow figures and hands grabbing at my neck, and I wouldn’t be able to move.” Nicolas describes. “ Sometimes the room would shift, the walls would start melting and the windows would open and close. After not being able to move or scream, you’d just go along with the ride and have to experience it… no matter how terrifying it is.”

VERTENZ_A

After a few years of these nightly experiences, Nicolas began to document them in a notebook. From the moment he woke up, he’d describe the figures he saw, as well as the mood and the state of helplessness he felt. Hours later, when he had a clear frame of mind, Nicolas would examine his dreams and try to make sense of it.

“During this time, I was in an art class, and my photography teacher would always push me to experiment with the things that [I] experience in my everyday life,” Nicolas says. “I took the opportunity to combine my sleep paralysis and my artwork, using it as more of a [form of] therapy; to recreate a bittersweet homage to my experiences during sleep paralysis.”

Nicolas’ shoots were always carefully thought out and well produced. He’d bring his notebook into the field: read it, underline specific things, analyze his surroundings and see if they could connect with each other. Nicolas’ ultimate goal was to express his written feelings into his photography by combining different experiences to create something new.

One example of this is a photo called INCUBU_S.

“There was a shadowy figure inside a box with lots of fog and skeletons everywhere,” Nicolas recalls. “I had a sleep paralysis dream of a small figure sitting in the corner of my room. I used that figure as the main subject of the picture. I also used the mood of like the smokiness and the fogginess of looking into the room, and expressed it in that manner.”

Many of the subjects Nicolas experienced in his sleep weren’t human, rather well dressed, oddly shaped and expressionless figures. He incorporated these haunting images in his photography as well as the use of props and costumes, such as: bowler hats, gas masks, antiques, etc. In the beginning, recreating and confronting his demons was difficult for Nicolas. After several photo shoots, to his surprise, Nicolas realized he was able to control his fears.

“When I create the photographs, it’s almost like experiencing it [his dreams] again, but in a different, more comfortable light,” Nicolas says. “I’m able to analyze it, not be paralyzed… and I’m able to move around and understand what I’m actually doing.”

Today, Nicolas says his sleep paralysis doesn’t happen as often, and he credits photography with helping to improve his emotional state. Now that he’s mentally aware of his dreams, they aren’t as terrifying anymore. And as a result, he’s created an incredible set of stunning photos.

“Photography is a medium where you can express irrational and rational thoughts, even dreams, through image,” Nicolas says. “And I use that to my advantage. I like to show what happens in my brain to everyone else. My artwork — it’s like an unsettling handshake with a stranger. It’s cold, strange, but once you get to know it, you’ll understand me.”

Visit Nicolas’ photostream to see more of his photography.

Previous episode: Explorer’s passionate pursuit of urban decay

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Mom creates fairy tales with napping son

It’s no surprise most moms consider naptime their favorite time of day; relishing the few quiet and peaceful hours while their babies sleep, but California mom and artist Queenie Liao looks forward to the downtime for an entirely different reason. For Queenie, it’s the perfect opportunity to capture adorable and imaginative photos of her youngest son, Wengenn.

Photography became a hobby for Queenie when her first son was born in 2002. At the time, it was the best way to watch her son grow and send updates to her family. Like most new parents, Queenie took many pictures and continued to do so over the years with her growing family. In 2010, she came across the work of Adele Enersen, who took creative images of her sleeping baby. Adele’s work inspired Queenie to experiment with similar ideas with her third child, then three-month-old son, Wengenn.

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“As an artist, I always try to be creative,” Queenie says. “I love to think, observe and imagine. Anything around you can be a source of inspiration. Growing up, I used to love fairy tales and children’s stories. I used to imagine myself as the princess in these stories, meeting my Prince Charming. I decided to use this idea but have Wengenn be the main character in some of my favorite stories.”

First Queenie would come up with an idea — or as she calls it “an adventure” — for Wengenn. Next, she’d gather materials to create a background setting.

“I’d use mostly plain clothes, bed sheets, stuffed animals and other common household items,” Queenie explains. “After everything was set up, including putting Wengenn in the appropriate costume, I’d just wait. After he fell asleep, [it was] time to get to work!”

Queenie would gently place little Wengenn into the center of the theme she created and start taking pictures. Throughout the shoot, she’d be careful not to disturb Wengenn by always working around him. If he moved in his sleep, Queenie would simply reset and readjust the props. She also made sure Wengenn’s costumes were always snug, so he wouldn’t be uncomfortable and wake up.

“Overall, he’s a very good sleeper,” Queenie admits. “This made my job much easier!”

From exploring castles in the sky to being abducted by a UFO, the little guy has been on many exciting adventures!

Wengenn’s explored the Wild West.

He flew on a magic carpet ride through the desert.

And he even conducted a high profile interview with President Barack Obama!

Today Queenie has taken over 100 photos — a series she calls “Wengenn in Wonderland.” One of her favorites is an image of Wengenn climbing a ladder and reaching for the stars, called Starcatcher.

“Starcatcher is my favorite because, to me, the stars are symbols of dreams and goals in life,” Queenie says. “I really want to see him grow up, reaching all his goals and dreams.”

Over the years, Queenie’s work has garnered a lot of attention. After posting the photos online, she received thousands of views in just a few days. She’s also received emails from fans asking for prints, calendars and photo books.

“I’m very grateful to have this opportunity to share with the world,” Queenie says. “Not just my pictures, but more importantly my love, joy and pride as a mother creating this special album for my son. I think taking pictures is a wonderful way to spend quality time with your baby.”

Queenie’s advice to other parents:

“Take lots of pictures, because they grow really fast,” Queenie says. “Be creative. Enjoy the process and have fun. It’s the work of love, and your kids will treasure them when they grow up.”

Visit Queenie’s photostream to see more of her photography.

Previous episode: Super dad takes over 20,000 photos of his twin daughters

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‘Rooftopper’ captures vertigo-inducing cityscapes

Most of us would have a panic attack standing hundreds of feet up in the air, hovering above a bustling city. But for Daniel Cheong, known on Flickr as DanielKHC, there’s no bigger thrill than “rooftopping” — a heart-stopping photography movement which involves daring photographers climbing to the top of city skyscrapers, capturing incredible and adrenaline-pumping views beneath them.

“The feeling being so high up is indescribable, it’s like you almost own the city from a photographic point of view,” Daniel tells The Weekly Flickr in the accompanying video. “It’s just a surreal experience to capture that moment.”

Living in Dubai, Daniel is surrounded by some of the most architecturally beautiful and tallest buildings in the world. Apart from a couple of photos he took from a helicopter, all his shots are taken from high balconies or rooftops. Daniel describes being up so high as an exciting experience that offers spectacular 360 degree views that most people would only dream of.

Dubai Fog Blues

“It’s so exciting to watch a big city look like a big jewel, with so many millions of lights shining on buildings nearby,” Daniel says. “You can spend the whole night shooting there — shooting wide, shooting with a tele[photo] lens or close to a building, etc.,” Daniel explains. “At the end of any rooftop session, you can walk away with hundreds of different shots, and it’s incredible.”

It helps that he isn’t afraid of heights. Daniel, however, does encounter dangerous and unpredictable situations on his shoots.

“In order to get the best pictures, I put my tripod close to the edge [of the buildings],” Daniel explains. “But I’ve been on some rooftops where the ledge is too high, so I find myself climbing a ladder [that he carries with him] to reach the ledge. And the whole time I just sit there, trying not to move too much, using my camera on a very fixed space. I won’t lie, it can be frightening at times.”

What makes Daniel’s photos so captivating is they border the line of surrealism. He does this purposely by using a process called digital blending, which consists of combining multiple exposures of the same scene (but taken at different shutter speeds) to create a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image.

“When you apply that HDR process to a cityscape, the results can be extremely beautiful,” Daniel explains. “The clarity and the level of details just pops. Also, because I’m using a camera that has a very high megapixel size, sometimes you can see up to a window or even past it. This is why I call my photography ‘hyper-realistic cityscape photography.’ I try to enhance the image and details so it’s even beyond what the human eye can see.”

One of Daniel’s favorite photos to capture are called “vertigo views” which is simply shooting the camera looking down but away from the building. This style of photography is striking and incredible, but it can induce a sense of vertigo, which Daniel says has caused some of his viewers to feel uncomfortable.

One of the scariest experiences Daniel’s ever had was shooting a vertigo view called Glamorous.

“I had the chance to get access to the 101th floor of a building under construction in Dubai Marina,” Daniel explains. “There were amazing 360 degree views from there, however there was no ledge. In the end, my camera was low on the tripod, looking down literally hanging, and I was crawling on the floor to compose the shot. It was terrifying but the photo came out beautifully.”

Today on Flickr, Daniel has over 20,000 followers and over 10 million views. The challenge he faces is to produce a new image that’s better than the last. He constantly strives to find new rooftops, angles and viewpoints that inspire viewers.

“At the end of the day, the reaction I want from the viewer is ‘Whoa’,” Daniel admits. “Every shot I post, I want the viewer to say ‘Wow, he did it again.’ That’s what makes me happy. I love to share what I see with everyone else, and that’s what keeps me going back up for more.”

Visit Daniel’s photostream to see more of his photography.

Previous video episode: Check out the stunning Arctic photos from a photographer who braves subzero temperatures.

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Imaginative photographer lands world-tour job at Coke

Growing up, Canadian photographer Joel Robison, known on Flickr as Boy_Wonder, was always a bit of a daydreamer. Blame it on the movies he watched or the stories he read as a kid, but it caused him to look at everyday objects differently. It’s a creative direction that blended both fantasy and reality. And years later, it would lead him to a dream job in photography and become a Flickr icon!

Joel’s foray into photography began after college graduation. It was when he established a teaching career when he felt something was missing.

Cool.Crisp.Refreshing.

“I didn’t really feel connected to that part of my mind that was creative,” Joel recalls. “I didn’t feel inspired. One day, I came across Flickr and saw photos by people that were so creative, entertaining and engaging! It was like a light bulb went off in my mind that maybe you need to try a camera.”

Joel went on eBay and bought a cheap, used DSLR camera for about $120. He began to play with it — learning different camera settings, shooting every single day, and he quickly came to realize that he wasn’t going to put the camera down for a long time.

“I started taking self-portraits and using that as a chance to to tell my story through my eyes, with me as the person that’s telling that story and that changed everything for me,” Joel admits. “On Flickr, I was inspired by connecting with other artists whom I felt have a similar style as me. It was this collaborative friendship that helped keep my inspiration flowing.”

Joel downloaded Photoshop and began to see the potential it had to create stories he’d seen in movies as a kid. He was finally able to tap into his imagination and express it to others.

“When I first started learning Photoshop, it would take a few hours for me to finish an image,” Joel says. “But the more I practiced and played with it… you know, trying to make these ideas in my head come to life, it started to happen. I started to see myself as being small, things around me being big or have a different purpose than they actually do. And the more I recognized that the pictures in front of me were the same as the ones that were in my mind, it encouraged me to keep going, keep trying new things.”

A few years into his photography, Joel took a picture of a few Coke bottles in the snow and posted it on Flickr. A friend of his suggested he send the photo to Coca-Cola in hopes they’d use it. At the time, Joel laughed it off and didn’t think anything of it.

“It was about a year later that I got this message from someone that works inside Coke saying, ‘Hey we’d like to take your picture and share it on Twitter. Would you be OK with that?’” Joel says, “I was very excited, and it made my day.”

“About three weeks later, I got this phone call from them saying they had developed a project for me to moderate their Flickr community,” Joel recalls. “They [Coca-Cola] wanted me to take their Flickr page, help it grow and to use my photos to encourage other people to submit their photos based around their positive themes.”

Joel moderated Coca-Cola’s Flickr community for about a year and a half. When it was all over, Coca-Cola presented Joel with an incredible opportunity.

“In 2013, they offered me a role on the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour,” Joel says. “It’s a worldwide tour, led by Coca-Cola and FIFA, taking the FIFA World Cup Trophy on a world tour of 90 countries. And they offered me the role of photographer and voice of social media. I was shocked.”

“It totally changed the course of my life,” Joel admits. “I was able to quit my job and accept photography as my full-time career, and I haven’t looked back since. It’s been non-stop, I feel more passionate about it every day, and I feel like I am allowed to share with the world what I see, and I feel very supported in that.”

Today, many Flickr members marvel at Joel’s work, and he has inspired others to follow his lead. When asked about his success, Joel says he’s extremely lucky and admits he has a dream job.

“I’m 29 years old and I never would have dreamed that my life would include photography, travel or the experiences that I’ve been able to have,” Joel says. “To be able to create what I do, be accepted as I am and have people enjoy what I do is amazing.”

Visit Joel’s photostream to see more of his photography.

Check out Zev Hoover’s story, a 14-year-old photographer who’s been inspired by Joel’s work.

WeeklyFlickr LogoDo you want to be featured on The Weekly Flickr? We are looking for your photos that amaze, excite, delight and inspire. Share them with us in the The Weekly Flickr Group, or tweet us at @TheWeeklyFlickr.

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The Lady Gaga of Flickr photography

Flickr members have compared photos by Natalie Dybisz, known as Miss Aniela, to high-fashion magazine spreads, art books, even mirroring the edgy styles of Lady Gaga! Her work bridges between reality and surrealism and many viewers call it “unforgettable” and “one of a kind” — critiques that leaves Natalie in awe.

“It’s really flattering when people express how it [her work] looks beyond the norm or speaks to them in a personal way,” she admits to The Weekly Flickr in the accompanying video. “I love it, and it just means I’m doing something right.”

Natalie started out as a self-portrait artist in 2006 sharing her images as an ‘amateur’ solely via Flickr.

“In the beginning, I was cloning myself and making myself fly, doing nudes and landscape-fused dynamic composites,” Natalie says. “They were really fun and creative images.”

In 2010, Natalie was introduced to fashion photography and started shooting other models. Natalie began to improvise by making the images as interesting as her self-portraits; giving it a new and surreal perspective.

“I got such a kick out of making surreal little touches, fusing the pictures with paintings and really toying with how one form of art can meet with another,” Natalie explains.

“All this led to my repertoire today. I do commercial and fashion-led ventures, all with a fine-art approach. I create innovative and curious images.” Natalie defines herself as a fine-arts photographer and not a fashion photographer.

“I’m not so much interested in trends and seasons of the fashion cycle,” Natalie says, “I’m more interested in what I can do creatively with elements of fashion. I like how fascinating, theatrical garments presented in front of my camera can become more bizarre. I like crazy couture and impractical outfits that are more like props than things you’d normally wear. And when I create something artistic, I have to be led by my instinct — what I like to see, not what anyone else necessarily expects to see, and I think that’s what fundamentally makes it fine art.”

Instead of traditional fashion photography — conveying what the model looks like, what she’s wearing, etc. — Natalie likes to embellish her images and create a story.

“Instead of making a fashion story with six images running in sequence, I draw together parts into one, single frame,” Natalie explains. “I call this my Surreal Fashion series. I get really excited when I see the opportunity to put something into the picture that might have no connection at all to where it was shot, or it might be something I shot in the same room or another room at the location, and bring it in together.”

Nearly all of Natalie’s Surreal Fashion images are taken at her Fashion Shoot Experience — select workshops she organizes with her partner, inviting photographers to shoot in incredible locations with styled models. The Surreal Fashion series has come to represent Natalie’s way of making her images stand out from those other attendees, and also everything in the fashion world.

“I like to think of my Surreal Fashion series as an adventure, even for me as the maker,” Natalie says. “When I’m constructing them, it’s like falling deep into a good book. And I want my viewers to feel that too. I want them to enjoy all the nuances in the visuals of each piece, and even to feel slightly ill-at-ease with what is real and not real.”

“I really love what I do,” Natalie admits. “My only goal, if I had to name one, is just to keep pursuing wonderful adventures in photography.”

Visit Natalie’s photostream to see more of her photography.

In case you missed it, check out the previous video episode Stories of the faceless woman, and discover more Weekly Flickr episodes.

WeeklyFlickr LogoDo you want to be featured on The Weekly Flickr? We are looking for your photos that amaze, excite, delight and inspire. Share them with us in the The Weekly Flickr Group, or tweet us at @TheWeeklyFlickr.

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The Weekly Flickr/立志走遍世界的部落客兼導遊:工頭堅

「The Weely Flickr 大攝影家」再度推出中文自製內容,這次要呈現的是知名旅遊部落客兼導遊工頭堅的 Flickr 感動時刻。

自小受到父親影響,立志走遍世界的工頭堅,不管走到哪裡,都會用相機記錄下每個時刻的感動,多年以來,也累積了許多十分精彩且充滿故事的作品。來看看他在 Flickr 的攝影故事吧!

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Capturing the childhood of twins

Most new parents tend to take countless photos of their kids, but none can compare to mortgage banker Geoff Black. The proud father from Sacramento, CA, picked up his first camera when his identical twin daughters, Jamisen and Jacksen, were born. Four years later, he’s taken about 20,000 adorable images and has become somewhat of an online sensation.

“I’m just a guy that likes to take pictures of his kids,” he tells The Weekly Flickr in the accompanying video. “I had no idea anyone would take an interest in [me] chasing my kids around with a camera. It’s incredible.”

Before his daughters were born, Geoff didn’t know anything about photography. When he first started, all he wanted to do was figure out how to take a decent shot.

Sista's!

“When the twins first came home [from the hospital], there was always a camera nearby,” Geoff says. “I was just trying to get pictures of all the typical things — their first steps, the first time they rolled over, their first interactions with the dog — just different odds and ends. I didn’t want to miss anything!”

Over time, Geoff slowly evolved from trying to get a perfect shot to capturing special moments.

“I drove my wife crazy for a couple of years, carrying two to three cameras in a bag every time we left the house,” Geoff admits. “I was trying to take a picture of them in a restaurant in the dark, at the park, swim lessons, everything.”

Birthday shoot - out take

Great Grandpa

While most parents rely on digital cameras to take as many photos as quickly as possible without disrupting their kids, Geoff has stuck with film, even scouring flea markets and garage sales to find the vintage cameras he favors. “I prefer the challenge of getting it right with film,” Geoff says. “With digital you take 1,000 pictures of nothing.”

Fourteen cameras and a lot of film later, Geoff has produced an intimate set of photos documenting his daughters’ childhood as a pair, called The Ladies – Life with Identical Girls.

“For me, personally, the funnest part was being able to interact with them,” Geoff admits.

“I’ve tried to make their personalities come through, because that’s how I want to remember them when they get older,” Geoff says. “Jamisen is the oldest by one minute, and she definitely takes on the first-born traits. When she was younger, I was able to get a good picture. Now, she’s quite stubborn.”

Jacksen definitely assumes the role of the younger sister,” Geoff explains. “She’s very sweet, very kind, very playful and she’s got great dance moves. Jacksen’s definitely very playful and sweet, whereas Jameson is far more of a character.”

Taking a picture of one child is difficult for most people. But with two little kids, Geoff has had to improvise over the years.

“I would typically have a camera in my hand and try to amuse them with the other. I’d try to interact with them; have them look in a certain direction or sit in a certain spot. When they were younger, I would play and entertain them — doing all the kooky things that stereotypical photographers do to get attention,” Geoff says. “But as they got older and I could communicate with them a little bit better, it would get challenging! Of course, a little piece of candy or something would go a long way. They would immediately jump into shape and do exactly what I was looking for!”

4!

“Now they see a spot and say, ‘Daddy take a picture of me over there’ and of course I have to go along with it. Because when the real moment comes, I want to be able to still get them to cooperate.”, Geoff admits. “But they’re at a place where they like looking at pictures. They look through some of the images and say, ‘Oh, that’s from when we were camping,’ or ‘That’s when we were at the beach,’ which is ultimately the goal. It’s to be able to give them some sort of a memory of the things they did. And I love it.”

Geoff offers 3 tips for parents taking photos of their kids:

1) Turn off the flash. Learn how to use whatever light is available. You’ll figure out the difference between good and bad available light.

2) Lose the zoom lens that comes with the camera. Instead, get a fixed focal-length lens and force yourself to use that lens for at least a couple of months, so you can learn what that lens will do in different circumstances.

3) Force yourself to take one picture per day. Over time, you’ll see how much you improve.

Visit Geoff’s photostream to see more of his photography.

Previous video episode: Photographer shoots “extreme” family photos

WeeklyFlickr LogoDo you want to be featured on The Weekly Flickr? We are looking for your photos that amaze, excite, delight and inspire. Share them with us in the The Weekly Flickr Group, or tweet us at @TheWeeklyFlickr.

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Your Best Shot 2013: The Weekly Flickr Edition

As 2013 comes to an end, we asked you to share Your Best Shot 2013. We loved seeing your interesting, beautiful and thought-provoking photos!

In this edition of The Weekly Flickr, we put together some of our favorites, and we hope they inspire you to get out there and take more photos.

We can’t wait to see what’s behind your lenses in 2014!

After you watched the video, be sure to check out the photos in the Your Best Shot 2013 group and the Your Best Shot 2013 galleries curated by Yahoo Editorial.

Masai Village (Kenya, Day 1)

Sandy feet.

Valais, Switzerland

Mortal combat

Papua New Guinea

என்னை குளியல்...

Bassin

Untitled

Photos from rcrhee, whooosh., philippe julien, ~andre, Stephen Walford Photography, rafimmedia Photography, Rainer Hamburg, and New Dan. Also check out Yahoo’s 2013 Year in Review for more of this year’s highlights.

WeeklyFlickr LogoDo you want to be featured on The Weekly Flickr? We are looking for your photos that amaze, excite, delight and inspire. Share them with us in the The Weekly Flickr Group, or tweet us at @TheWeeklyFlickr.

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Bee portraits like you’ve never seen before

Most of us freak out at the mere sight of a bug — let alone a photo! But there’s something about biologist Sam Droege’s pictures of insects that has hundreds of thousands of people marveling at them. Sam’s photostream offers viewers a detailed and rare look at bees; comparing these little, hairy creatures to mesmerizing works of art.

Sam Droege is the head of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory in Maryland and for the past seven years he’s been photographing bees and other insects. The purpose is to create online reference catalogs to help researchers identify the thousands of bee species across North America.

Halictus ligatus, F, side, Philidelphia, PA_2013-01-04-14.53.42 ZS PMax

Bombus bimaculatus, M, Side, VA, Wolftrap_2013-06-26-16.10.55 ZS PMax

“We have to take a lot of pictures because many of these species vary only by very subtle characteristics,” Sam explains. “For some it might be the tiny pits on the surface of the top of the bee, and others it might be the pits within the pits. It’s important to take as many pictures as possible allowing our specialists to look at anything they might be interested in.”

For years, Sam and his team took pictures using simple point-and-shoot cameras. The level of detail, however, was extremely limiting.

Euglossa-dilemma,-male,-side_2012-06-27-17.32.14-ZS-PMax

“We were taking pictures of bees through microscopes,” Sam says. “We literally attached cameras to microscopes, often with plumbing fixtures. But in the end, we were disappointed with the number of pixels and the amount of resolution of the photos. After a while, we largely stopped pictures through microscopes because the quality wasn’t up to our standards.”

Centris haemorrhoidalis, F, Side, Puerto Rico_2013-06-27-15.32.17 ZS PMax

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But all that changed in 2010 when Sam’s team was approached by the U.S. Army. They had developed techniques using macro photography to take photos of insect infestations from foreign bases (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.). Macro photography allowed the army to get high-quality pictures that, in turn, helped them to identify these insects and treat those affected. When Sam first saw these photos, the level of detail blew his mind.

“The army’s novelty here was the portraiture,” Sam admits. “It was the solid, black background, the off-centeredness, the flash, just everything helped provide a portrait of a bee, rather than a documentation of a bee.”

It was from that point onwards, Sam and his team adopted and modified this technique and resumed photographing their specimens.

Augochloropsis-anonyma,-face_2012-07-09-17.11.06-ZS-PMax

Anthophora affabilis, F, side, Pennington County, SD_2012-11-13-14.02.56 ZS PMax

To capture the bees with such detail, Sam and his team take several different shots of the (already dead) insect and combine them together to form one image using a special software. This software creates detailed macro images which can be blown up to five feet by eight feet without pixelating.

Osmia chalybea, M, side, Georgia, Camden County_2013-01-10-15.14.36 ZS PMax

“When we started looking at these pictures, I just wanted to gaze at these shots for long periods of time,” Sam says. “I had seen these insects for many years, but the level of detail was incredible. The fact that everything was focused, the beauty and the arrangement of the insects themselves — the ratios of the eyes, the golden means, the french curves of the body, and the colors that would slide very naturally from one shade to another were just beautiful! It was the kind of thing that we could not achieve at the highest level of art.”

Sam began to show these pictures to several colleagues who also found them visually appealing. They encouraged him to share the photos on Flickr, as a means to transfer these images to other scientists and researchers.

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“At some point we found out that someone had posted the Flickr pictures onto Reddit, and it got a huge number of views,” Sam says. “I think it was 200,000 views in two days. I couldn’t believe it! It was at that point we realized that there is interest in these kinds of pictures outside of our scientific circles, and that people just like looking at them.”

Sam says he’s always tried to attract people to what he does but admits it’s been difficult because many us have a preconceived notion that bugs are bad or gross. With these pictures, all of a sudden people were attracted to these insects because of their beauty. People described the bees as “fluffy” with “stained-glass wings.” It’s an entirely new way of reaching people Sam never thought was possible.

“I feel honored as a public servant to bring these pictures to people,” Sam admits. “They’re all public for anyone to see. And the fact that it’s not just important scientifically, but also beautiful… it makes me feel good. It reaches my soft side of my hard-scientist body. And I smile every day when I look at the number of views we’re getting on Flickr.”

Augochloropsis metallica, F, Side, U_2013-06-19-14.20.50 ZS PMax

Megachile lanata, female, side_2012-06-26-16.47.02 ZS PMax

Visit Sam’s photostream to see more of his photography.

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Nelson Mandela’s last photo shoot

Nelson Mandela, the revered statesman who emerged from prison after 27 years to lead South Africa out of decades of apartheid, passed away on December 5, 2013. Few men in the history of mankind have had more impact on a nation and inspired the world like the former president.

Shortly before he retreated from public life in 2011, Mandela participated in photographer Adrian Steirn’s 21 Icons project — a photographic and short-film series profiling the men and women who shaped modern South Africa.

Untitled

Untitled

“We were lucky enough to have incredible access to Nelson Mandela,” Adrian says. “He was shown the concept of the project about three years ago, and he really liked what he saw. He saw the photographs, a lot of these people were his friends. And it was something that, I think, he really wanted to be involved in.”

Adrian, one of Africa’s pre-eminent photographers and filmmakers, sat down with Madiba (as he’s affectionately called by South Africans) at his boyhood home in the nation’s Eastern Cape Province. His admiration for Mandela and what the statesman had achieved in uniting the people of South Africa post-democracy, inspired Adrian to create 21 Icons.

The photo shoot would become one of the last portrait-sittings with the former leader.

Nelson Mandela Shoot

Nelson Mandela Shoot

“We were very nervous,” Adrian recalls. “We had the lights set up, Madiba came down and he was so good natured, so good humored. He made the crew feel at ease, and I think that any nerves that we felt were gone. He could see that we were very emotional, and he helped us through the shoot, and it’s something obviously that I’ll be eternally grateful for.”

The concept of the portrait depicts Nelson Mandela’s face reflected in a mirror.

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“The theme ‘reflection’ was all about looking at South Africa now, reflecting on where it had come from and the part that Nelson Mandela had played in that process,” Adrian explains.

Adrian described the photo shoot as both lighthearted and deeply emotional. One moment Adrian never forgot is when he showed Mandela several portraits from the project on his iPad. One in particular of F.W. de Klerk struck a cord with the former president.

Nelson Mandela Shoot

Nelson Mandela Shoot

“When Madiba saw de Klerk — who was the last apartheid president and released Nelson Mandela — he stopped and choked up,” Adrian remembers. “It was very emotional because Nelson Mandela is an old man, he doesn’t talk much, he conserves his energy… and for him to see a photo, for that to spark a memory and talk to the entire room — that’s really what kicked off the emotion for us.”

“It’s one thing to be sitting there with Nelson Mandela, talking and having a portrait-sitting with him,” Adrian adds. “It’s every photographer’s dream… but for him to address us in that deeply personable way and to give us insight into what he was going through during his periods in jail — it was unforgettable. I mean, I did look up at one point, and the entire crew was just crying… it was very emotional for us.”

Nelson Mandela Shoot

When asked about Nelson Mandela’s legacy — the man who inspired his series — Adrian’s eyes lit up with emotion.

“I think the first thing he [Nelson Mandela] will tell you is that he’s a human being just like every single one of us, but what he’s come to symbolize for us is the best of humanity,” Adrian says. “He symbolizes forgiveness, he symbolizes a country’s future, he symbolizes all that is good. I feel that Madiba wants us to understand that there’s goodness in all of us. He’s the first thing to tell you: He’s human, he’s made mistakes. But, I think the one thing that he symbolizes for all of us is the goodness in humanity.”

Nelson Mandela Shoot

Visit Adrian’s photostream and the 21 Icons project to see more of his photography. Also, check out the Nelson Mandela Tribute gallery, featuring photos of sculptures and other dedications in memory of Mandela.

**Update – A photographic portrait of the late Nelson Mandela has been bought by a private art collector in New York for $200,000, the highest price ever paid for a local portrait on Dec. 3.

The money will be donated to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, currently under construction in Johannesburg, and to the World Wildlife Fund. The construction of a children’s hospital has been a long-held dream of Mandela’s, and before he fell ill, he had campaigned for funds for its construction. The state-of-the-art hospital is scheduled to open late in 2014 and will be a 200-bed facility providing world-class pediatric care.

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