Photogenic Earth

Each week we do a recap for all of those who aren’t following us on Twitter and might have missed out on some of the top stories in photography that we covered. However, Twitter isn’t the only place where we’re posting interesting and beautiful things. Over on our Facebook page hardly a day goes by where we’re not sharing a photo of earth, the sky, or even the cosmos. Some of these pictures look impossible. A few look like something you’d expect to see in a movie like Avatar — but every last one of these photographs shows real phenomena that can be seen on the planet Earth.

This photo is from Glass Beach in Fort Brag, California. Today, this beach is part of a state park but at the end of WWII, the beach was an unregulated dumping ground where people discarded glass bottles, appliances, and even cars. Trash accumulated on the beach until 1967 when the North Coast Water Quality Board and the Fort Bragg city leaders closed the area down and removed some of the larger articles left there. For the next twenty years, nature was left alone to reclaim the beach. And, as always when left alone, Nature obliged. The sea cleaned the beach and the waves crashing down on it sculpted the remaining glass into smooth, colored pebbles as can be seen in this picture.

This photo was taken by Lisa D. Walker.

No, this isn’t a special effect or a trick. This is a real tree. It’s a Baobab tree which can grow in Africa or Australia. Baobab trees can grow to be as tall as 30 meters high and up to 11 meters in diameter. The swollen trunk allows them to store up to 32,000 gallons of water, enabling these trees to survive the harsh drought conditions in their areas.

This double-rainbow was captured by amateur photographer Jonmikel Pardo in Lander, Wyoming on the first of September.

Anyone who paid attention in science class knows that rainbows are formed when sunlight enters a raindrop. The beam of light is slowed down and refracted, dispersed, and reflected. When the light is bent in the raindrop, its colors will separate according to the least-to-greatest refraction. Red light refracts the least and violet the most hence the rainbow’s red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet color scheme.

However, when a secondary rainbow appears as is seen in this photo, you can spot two things. First, the color order is reversed and the colors are not as sharp as they are in the primary rainbow. The reversal of the colors is because the light is reflected twice within the raindrop — the second reflection inverts the color order. This second reflection not only reverses the colors, it also diminishes the intensity which is why the secondary rainbow is very different looking from the primary rainbow.

From billions of miles away, the extraterrestrials came in peace to help bring humanity into the greater galactic civilization. These photos of their ships were the first real evidence that mankind had of the greater galaxy beyond the sky.

Kidding! These are lenticular clouds. Stationary, these lens-shaped clouds are formed at high altitudes with a base that can be stationed anywhere between about 2,000 to 7,000 meters above sea level. Lenticular clouds form when moist air is forced to flow up around mountains and large hills. The water is supercooled and condensed from air with a temperature below the dew point. Aircraft pilots do their best to avoid these clouds as they are places of extreme turbulence. The turbulence (aka “bumpy air” for anyone who’s flown recently) is caused by rotor circulation. This kind of air circulation forms within the lee of the barriers (mountains or hills) or within a valley and is hence known as a type of lee eddy. The surface wind of the cloud, however, is flowing in the opposite direction to the gradient wind creating turbulence for airplanes.

Still, some adventurous glider and sailplane pilots like to see these kinds of clouds because the air currents around them can provide great vertical lift, allowing these smaller, more maneuverable craft, to climb to extreme altitudes for gliding.

No, that’s not a tornado. That’s a tornado’s weirder and weaker sibling: a water spout. This particular water spout was caught over Lake Okeechobee in Florida. Water spouts are generally less powerful than their wind-driven brethren and cause less damage. They occur when high layers of cool air blow across a body of water while warm, moist air sweeps up from below. These spouts appear as thin columns with the funnels sucking up water. They can vary in size being a small as a few feet tall to more than a mile high, from being a few feet wide to hundreds. They can move up to 80 mph and the wind inside the spout can spiral around at speeds of up to 120 mph.

Like a tornado, a spout can pick up and carry some rather interesting objects. They have sucked up and spit out showers of tadpoles in New York and toads in France. One spout in Providence, Rhode Island, rained fish down on people. The more intrepid amongst those individuals collected and sold the fish, giving a new twist to the phrase “when life gives you lemons…”

This photo was taken by Fred K. Smith.

Auroras. Many people go their entire lives without ever seeing one of these fascinating light shows with their own eyes. Auroras are caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere. Auroras can generally only be witnessed at very high latitudes both north and south. This particular image was captured by Iurie Belegurschi in Iceland. Seen through the shimmering haze of the aurora is the Milky Way. The ground below, part of the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, reflects the light show taking place in the heavens above.

It’s spectacular sight and it’s one of many spectacular sights you could see if you head over to Facebook and “Like” our page there.

— da Bird

If any of the images used in this post were captured by you, please post a comment and let us know so that we can give you proper credit.