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“Acrobat” Photog Defies Death To Capture View At The Top Of The World

[SitM: more creative use of everyday tech]

“Wouter van Buuren is not only a photographer, he is also an acrobat.” That’s how one art gallery describes, perhaps too mildly, the 39-year-old Dutch photographer who scales utility poles, tip-toes across bridges, and climbs out the windows of skyscrapers to capture breathtaking vistas of cities and rural landscapes from the top of the man-made world.

Van Buuren then takes the photographs and stitches them together to create dizzying “total landscapes”–sphere-shaped panoramas that imitate a satellite’s view of the earth. He doesn’t use Photoshop. Instead, for each landscape, he painstakingly lays out 100 photos or more, trusting to his own patience and steady hands (traits you’d hope for in a guy who defies death for a living).

“I started to make the total landscapes in the Netherlands when I was climbing electricity pylons,” he tells Co.Design. “I was stunned by the beauty of the landscape I thought I knew so well. From above the mundane seemed more divine. So I continued to do this and extended this to cranes, bridges and buildings and other countries all over the world.”

To date, van Buuren has snapped pictures on everything from a construction crane in Rotterdam to a skyscraper in Shanghai to a famous bridge in New York. The most dangerous place he’s ever shot? “A ladder outside a high-rise building on the 55th floor,” he says. “Because I didn’t bring a security belt, I had to tightly grip my hands on the small roof platform. …It’s funny how you can get used to heights. After a while I have no problem walking over the edge without any security, as long as there’s no wind.”

Our favorite photographs are the ones where he puts himself in the composition. We catch a glimpse of his foot dangling out over here or his hand gripping the crane for dear life over there–evidence of the acrobat hard at work.

[Images courtesy of Wouter van Buuren; hat tip to Notcot]

Long-Exposure Pics Make Trains Look Like Laser Beams

Long-Exposure Pics Make Trains Look Like Laser Beams

[SitM: very nice results using everyday tech]

We love pictures of trains. We also love plays on light. So we reaaaally love the long-exposure shots of San Francisco photographer Aaron Durand, who manages to make the city’s commuter trains look like a phaser shootout in Star Trek.

The impressive part: He does it without any fancy equipment or Photoshop trickery. He just hangs around Caltrain tracks (places he knows well from his salad days photographing graffiti art), aims his camera at an oncoming train, then pops open the shutter, letting light pour in for seconds on end as the train hurtles past. The slow shutter speed is what produces those ghostly streaks of light.

Durand shoots almost exclusively at night, which is the best time of day for snapping long exposures; the darker your background, the more dramatic your light trails. It also heightens the sense that you’re not looking at San Francisco at all, but rather some sort of dystopian industrial wasteland, stardate 5920.

A Light Installation Turns Chicago’s “Bean” Into A Gigantic Disco Ball

A Light Installation Turns Chicago’s “Bean” Into A Gigantic Disco Ball

[SitM: this is a good example of how simple it is to achieve a dramatic effect with mirrored light]

From now until the February 20, “Cloud Gate” (a.k.a. “The Bean”), Anish Kapoor’s iconic curving sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park, is the site of a trippy video and sound installation whose shifting geometric shapes and colors will transform its shiny surface into an interactive light show. The effect is not unlike a ’70s disco party set to percussive music.

For “Luminous Field,” the Chicago-based artists Sean Gallero and Petra Bachmaier, who collaborate under the moniker Luftwerk, mounted 10 projectors on truss towers to illuminate the space in and around Cloud Gate’s reflective vortex, forming what the designers describe as a “’playground’ for people to follow and engage with light.”

“We like the combination of image and surface, and the surface can be a structure, an architectural space, or a material,” Bachmaier says. “What happens between those two is what really interests us.” This isn’t the first time Luftwerk has played off the built environment. In celebration of the 75th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, they installed a dynamic light display highlighting the dialogue between the building’s organic form and its setting.

Macro Photos of Animal Eyes

Macro Photos of Animal Eyes

[SitM: they all sorta look like Dark Lord Sauron don’t they?]

Worlds Captured in Drops of Water

Worlds Captured in Drops of Water

[SitM: clever stuff!]

Japanese girl’s ‘levitation’ photos

Japanese girl’s ‘levitation’ photos

[SitM: this teen is definitely very creative. Work looks like CGI out of the original Matrix movie. Salut!]

Tokyo teenager Natsumi Hayashi has an odd, but incredibly fascinating hobby – she takes photographs of herself jumping, until she gets a perfectly clear shot that looks like she’s levitating.

Witness her ‘flying’ around the house with a vacuum cleaner, down the street and down a railway platform. The shots have a magical quality about them that belie the hectic pace of Tokyo and add a touch of mysticism. Oh, and they’re damn cool.

Yurikamome High Speed Rail Line by Appuru Pai

Yurikamome High Speed Rail Line by Appuru Pai


Photographer Appuru Pai presents an amazing series of photographs taken on the Japanese high speed rail line, Yurikamome.

Organic Architecture: Living Tree Building Designs & Ideas

Organic Architecture: Living Tree Building Designs & Ideas

Once a far-fetched futuristic idea, a living tree building is now not only possible but is also a reality – amazing living architecture that uses growing trees as their structural supports, twisted, shaped and connected as they make their way skywardThese so-called Botany Buildings by students from the University of Stuttgart use trees that meet a series of critical criteria, from fast growth rates to flexibility, adaptability and durability. The core structures are augmented with artificial elements and can be used to support everything from rooms and platforms to towers and walkwaysUnlike conventional construction, there are many unique challenges that come with custom tree building techniques. Connections must be checked and added by hand as growth progresses, variations in strength have to be accounted for and stability is paramount – these are just some the flip-sides of using living and growing materials4

[SitM: to simplify this process they should use stainless steel trees]

Broken Houses by Ofra Lapid

Broken Houses by Ofra Lapid


The series Broken houses is based on photographs of abandoned structures neglected by man and destroyed by the weather. The photos are found in the web while pursuing an amateur photographer from North Dakota who obsessively documents the decaying process of these houses. His photographs are used to create small scale models. Afterward, in the studio, the models are photographed again, omitted from their background and placed in gray.

The Theft That Made The ‘Mona Lisa’ A Masterpiece

The Theft That Made The ‘Mona Lisa’ A Masterpiece


[SitM: it is interesting how the most famous piece of art ever didn’t become famous until after it was stolen]

If you were standing outside the Louvre in Paris on the morning of Aug. 21, 1911, you might have noticed three men hurrying out of the museum.

They would have been pretty conspicuous on a quiet Monday morning, writer and historian James Zug tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz. “Sunday night was a big social night in Paris,” he says, “so a lot of people were hung over on Monday morning.”

The men, three Italian handymen, were not hungover. But they might have been a little tired. They’d just spent the night in an art-supply closet.

And on that morning, with the Louvre still closed, they slipped out of the closet and lifted 200 pounds of painting, frame and protective glass case off the wall. Stripped of its frame and case, the wooden canvas was covered with a blanket and hustled off to the Quai d’Orsay station, where the trio boarded a 7:47 a.m. express train out of the city.

They’d stolen the “Mona Lisa.”

Famous, Overnight

Before its theft, the “Mona Lisa” was not widely known outside the art world. Leonardo da Vinci painted it in 1507, but it wasn’t until the 1860s that critics began to hail it as a masterwork of Renaissance painting. And that judgment didn’t filter outside a thin slice of French intelligentsia.

“The ‘Mona Lisa’ wasn’t even the most famous painting in its gallery, let alone in the Louvre,” Zug says.

Dorothy and Tom Hoobler wrote about the painting’s heist in their book, The Crimes of Paris. It was 28 hours, they say, until anyone even noticed the four bare hooks.

The guy who noticed was a pushy still-life artist who set up his easel to paint that gallery in the Louvre.

“He felt he couldn’t work as long as the ‘Mona Lisa’ wasn’t there,” Tom Hoobler says.

But the artist wasn’t alarmed. At that time, there was a project under way to photograph the Louvre’s many works. Each piece had to be taken to the roof, since cameras of the day did not work well inside.

“So finally he persuaded a guard to go see how long the photographers were going to have the painting,” Tom Hoobler says. “He went off and came back, and said, ‘You know what, the photographers say they don’t have it!’ ”

All of a sudden, James Zug says, “the ‘Mona Lisa’ becomes this incredibly famous painting — literally overnight.”

Mark of Shame

After the Louvre announced the theft, newspapers all over the world ran headlines about the missing masterpiece.

“60 Detectives Seek Stolen ‘Mona Lisa,’ French Public Indignant,” the New York Times declared. The heist had become something of a national scandal.

“In France, there was a great deal of concern that American millionaires were buying up the legacy of France — the best paintings,” Dorothy Hoobler says. At one point, American tycoon and art lover J.P. Morgan was suspected of commissioning the theft. Pablo Picasso was also considered a suspect, and was questioned.

And as tensions were escalating between France and Germany ahead of World War I, “there were people who thought the Kaiser was behind it,” Hoobler says.

After a weeklong shutdown, the Louvre re-opened to mobs of people, Franz Kafka among them, all rushing to see the empty spot that had become a “mark of shame” for Parisians.

Meanwhile, the thieves had made a clean getaway. They were three Italians: two brothers, Vincenzo and Michele Lancelotti, and the ringleader, Vincenzo Perugia. He was a handyman who had worked for the Louvre to install the very same protective glass cases he had ripped from the “Mona Lisa.”

Perugia hoped to sell the painting. But the heist had received so much attention that the “Mona Lisa” became too hot to hock, Zug says.

“Within days, newspapers were offering rewards. [Perugia] could have brought it in, but I think the main reason he didn’t do that is he was worried about being arrested — and that the story was so big that he probably didn’t think he could get away with it.”

So Perugia stashed it in the false bottom of a trunk in his Paris boardinghouse.

A Masterpiece Returned

Twenty-eight months after he snatched it from the Louvre, Perugia finally made a pass at selling the “Mona Lisa” to an art dealer in Florence.

But the dealer was suspicious. He had the head of an Italian art gallery come take a look at the painting.

A stamp on the back confirmed its authenticity.

“They said, ‘OK, leave it with us, and we’ll see that you get a reward,'” Tom Hoobler says. Perugia went back home. But half an hour later, to his surprise, the police were at his door.

“He said later that he was trying to return it to Italy — that he was a patriot and it was stolen by Napoleon — and he was trying to return it to the land of his birth,” James Zug says.

And so, with much fanfare, the painting was returned to the Louvre. Perugia pleaded guilty to stealing it, and was sentenced to just eight months in prison.

But a few days after his trial, Dorothy Hoobler says, World War I broke out. Suddenly, the drama of an art heist was off the front pages.

“This seemed like a very small story,” she says.