Okay, these really are spectacular photos.

Usually I am not keen on people sending me “amazing photos”. But . . . but . . . okay, I admit it, these are some of the most incredible photos ever taken.

Many of them depend on absolute split-second timing — the kind of timing you get only from pure unadulterated luck.

I like the six simultaneous lightning strikes onto Lake Michigan.

The “moment before splashdown” where we see the surface of the water actually dimpling but not yet broken, is amazing.

That whale shark could inspire a story — I find I’m very visually-oriented in coming up with story ideas.

For some reason the little bird going after the praying mantis really appeals to me, though I flinch for the poor little praying mantis. Praying mantises are one of my favorite insects!

Number 25 shows a hoopoe, in case you’re interested. Just thought people might not recognize it. Actually, I don’t know what the little bird with the praying mantis is, though it’s probably a very familiar temperate species. It’s so greenish, is that just the film or is it some kind of very plain warbler? Anybody recognize it?

My vote for most artistic is number 23. Nothing like juxtaposing death with ephemeral life to get that artistic vibe going. Cutest is number 30. My absolute favorite . . . um . . . um . . . I have to pick number 28.

If you have time to click through, which is your favorite?

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6 thoughts on “Okay, these really are spectacular photos.”

  1. The hoopoe, which I wouldn’t have been able to name if you hadn’t – thank you!

    Runners up: the ducks crossing – Maybe I read MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS to our daughter way too often :-). The explosion… #28, and the bird & mantis – it’s just a great picture!

  2. As a photographer, I disagree about the luck: most of them are just a matter of being there and practice. Timing is something you can anticipate if you see a plane on fire or an airliner or a kid with mentos or a storm or even someone jumping into a pool (that one is quite impressive, even though I can think of a couple ways it wouldn’t be too hard to do). The real luck is being there, but even that doesn’t seem too hard to arrange for most of them.

    The six lightning strikes, in particular, probably came from having a very long exposure (30+ seconds) instead of happening to snap it at the exact moment when lightning struck in six places at once.

    Still, they are quite neat; the flamingos seem the most incredible, though one presumes the National Geographical does not doctor photos.

  3. The water dimpling before the surface tension breaks? How in the world would you do that? If you can explain in nontechnical terms, since I definitely am not a photographer.

  4. Easiest way (but costs $$$) is to rent a Phantom video camera (or similar) and pick out the frame you want from the 1000 fps footage. I don’t know for sure that this would work, but I suspect it doesn’t happen faster than that. Cheaper but more complicated ways would involve hooking the camera shutter (or a strobe light, with the camera shutter basically left open for a long time on darkness — there is some cool water droplet photography on Flickr done this way, see e.g. this photostream) to a trigger for contact with the water — possibly using an electrical circuit similar to what’s in a touch screen, or an acoustic trigger, or a laser/IR beam which is interrupted by the feet crossing just above the water surface.

    You could also use gelatin or something to thicken the water and/or increase the surface tension. (Cheating, right?) Looking at how the water behaves in this video suggests they may have done something like that.

    I maybe could’ve made my point better by saying: luck favors the prepared. Anyone can get a lucky shot like this once, but getting great shots repeatedly isn’t just luck, it’s due to the work great photographers puts in (kind of like writing great books). I don’t mean to imply that I’m one of those photographers, either; but look at folks like Karl Grobl, Steve McCurry, Sally Mann and you can also see the difference between random cool shots and ones that tell a story.

  5. That gelatin idea is SO COOL. I’m all for cheating — with style.

    And I’m sure that great photographers are a world away from amateurs, and in a whole different universe from point-and-click people like me, who don’t bother to figure out even how to use one cheap little digital camera.

    I really like Steve McCurry’s Upstairs Downstairs gallery, btw. Who knew stairways could be so extraordinarily appealing.

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