AirToob Lightning

Tags  →  nature

“Mouse Dreaming”, a fine watercolour by the realist painter Jacquelyn Stein, whose other work is well worth checking out

Thanks yet again for this one to Jerry, and for all these other treasures that I have gratefully snaffled from him over the years.

Of all the works by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, My Neighbour Totoro is undoubtedly the most loved. Children who grew up with it remember it as one of their favourite movies, and many love it even more as adults.

I never saw it as a child (I was a grown-up in 1988), but it is certainly now one of my all-time favourite movies. It's a gentle story of childhood joys and fears that celebrates kindness, a close relationship with Nature and (as one expects from Miyazaki) the Japanese tradition of respect for one's elders.

I recently had the pleasure of introducing it to my 7-year old granddaughter (not that I need an excuse to watch it), and was struck by what a wonderful antidote it is to the poisonous spirit emanating from the current US President.

I also recently discovered a marvellous retrospective of this great movie. I recommend clicking either image above to read it (the second image is actually my own screenshot). If you do, don't miss its link to an all-but-forgotten classic Disney animation called The Old Mill.

If you like this...

[The Art of Animation: Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli]

“Kaui Ferns”, a fine watercolour by Claudia Ihl, whose other work is well worth checking out

Thanks yet again for this one to Jerry, and for all these other treasures that I have gratefully snaffled from him over the years.

A very nice image of some of The 12 Apostles in the Port Campbell National Park, by the Australian nature photographer and book author Steve Parish - click the image for his interesting information about the place

A beautiful image by the Austrian photographer Franz Pazdera

One of many beautiful things to be found on the fine pages of Jilli. Do visit her if you haven't already!

What I particularly appreciate about her blog is the information that accompanies each image, something which is much appreciated.

Decorative fungi, Baulk Wood, January 2016

I took this picture a week ago in Baulk Wood, near Henlow in southern England (a site reclaimed beautifully from what used to be a rubbish tip, and extended as a nature reserve and walking area).

If you like this...

[Fantastic Fungi (science)]

The Forest Where the Wind Returns... a major new project by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki - but it's not a movie. It's a theme park on Kume Island in Okinawa, Japan, due to open in 2018, which reflects the love of nature that Miyazaki shows in so many of his films.

The image above is my screenshot from The Wind Rises - click it if you would like to see my post “The Art of Animation: Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli”.

[Latest news about the new theme park]
[Kume Island]
[All of my posts on Hayao Miyazaki]

This great hi-def trailer video comes from Fantastic Fungi, The Official Site for Everything Fungi - “for foodies, scientists and explorers”.

Thanks again to my friend overthetrail (Sandy) for this one! (She hasn't posted here much for a while, but click her overthetrail tag to see some really nice stuff that she has sent my way over the years.)

Indian Scops Owls brood of young © by the Dutch photographer Peter Otten

Thanks to my younger daughter, who knows that I have some sort of relationship with owls... (see the owls tag...)

BTW, if you ever read “My Family and Other Animals” by Gerald Durrell, it was a baby Scops owl that he found as a young boy and smuggled home. One of my all-time favourite books!

Black raspberry vine in Oregon, beautifully photographed by my friend overthetrail (Sandy)

Sandy (a friend from Stumbler days) doesn't post here very much nowadays, but I have had so much good stuff from her over the years. Click her tag above for some treasures from the past.

“Facebook Update” © by the wildlife photographer Marsel van Oosten, whose other work (as that of other photographers featured on the page) is well worth checking out.

Another great share from Gatorindo (David) (I really recommend clicking his tag above, as well as visiting his pages).

"Spring Blossoms II" (2011) by Catherine Nelson

Click the image to see a complete slideshow (worth viewing full screen)

From the page:

If you like this...

[More images of Catherine's work]

A beautiful and interesting film (well worth the hour to view) shared by my friend Overthetrail - thanks, Sandy!

(Sandy hasn't posted here much for a while, but click her tag to see some really nice stuff that she has sent my way)

Wonderful photography © by our own 007Sue1

"Eagle's flight", a White-Tailed Eagle in the Czech-Moravian Highlands, © by the Czech photographer Zdenek Ondrasek

One of many treasures to be found on the fine pages of Toetie.

From the National Trust Knightshayes:

“Some of the lovely wild art created over the weekend in one of our 50 things before you're 11¾ themed acivities:”

Click the picture, or go here, to see the rest of the wild art from these activities

(the "50 Things" referred to are featured in my previous post)

I love this... shared some time ago by a kind friend whose name I have mislaid - if it was you, please let me know!

A truly beautiful video, blending science, nature and spirituality, from Cristóbal Vila
(click any screenshot to play, opens in a separate window)

Thanks, Elegantlady (Roberta)!

If you like this...

["Nature by Numbers", another beautiful video by Cristóbal Vila]

"Two lives, one leaf" - author unknown

Found on the very fine pages of Toetie.

Once in a while, we are lucky enough to get a movie that provides an experience like no other. Last year, for me, that was Hugo. This year it was Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee.

Apart from being a great story of spirituality and adventure, the movie contains what must be among the most beautiful images ever seen in the cinema, and some of the most awe-inspiring visions of the ocean in all its moods and variety. Like Hugo, it can't be fully appreciated except on the big screen, and like Hugo it really needs 3D.

Not to be missed!


If you're interested in the technology of film making, Scot Byrd of Rhythm & Hues Studios corrected an article in Time Magazine as follows:

Just to be clear, motion capture was not used in "Life of Pi." Key frame animation was the technique employed by the digital artists at Rhythm & Hues, the visual effects company responsible for production of the computer-generated animals in "Life of Pi." (R&H also created the photorealistic skies and oceans during the open ocean scenes. London's Moving Picture Company - MPC - was responsible for the shipwreck sequence.)

Motion capture technique uses sensors to capture a single performance, usually performed by a human being. (Imagine putting motion sensors on a living tiger!) Key frame animation works like puppetry inside the computer. The animator sets a pose, which the computer remembers as a key frame. The performance is created as the artist sets a multitude of key frames/poses and the computer moves the character rig from pose to pose to pose.

The origins of key frame animation go back to traditional 2D cell animation, as seen in any Disney animated feature going all the way back to Steamboat Willie, followed by most Saturday morning cartoon shows and the modern animated incarnations up to and including those produced by Pixar, Dreamworks Animation, BlueSky, et al.

For Rhythm & Hues, the actual line of ascension runs from the Coca Cola Polar Bears to "Babe", "Cats & Dogs", "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe", "The Golden Compass", "Alvin and the Chipmunks" to "Life of Pi."

While it may seem an academic distinction, in the world of animation, the key frame technique has a long tradition, and the artists who have spent a lifetime developing their craft deserve their recognition. The added challenge and critically acclaimed success of melding photorealistic, computer-generated characters with photorealistic computer-generated environments demonstrates just how groundbreaking the technology and artistry of "Life of Pi" is.

If you like this...

[My movies page]

"Who goes there?" from an original painting by the wildlife artist Roy Chaffin

Roy sent me this picture recently as an electronic Christmas Card. I am lucky enough to receive one of his paintings each year in this way, and thereby hangs a tale (which you can read here if you are interested, especially if you like aircraft or flight simulation).

(Meerkats, BTW, feature in a surreal and beautiful sequence in that awesome movie, Life of Pi - if you haven't seen it then I highly recommend it!)

Nature versus progress...

From the page:

A photo of desert blooms with much of the proposed project site in the background. The creosote bush scrub habitat is home to a robust tortoise population, and one of the last remaining pockets of a rare desert plant known as the white-margined beardtongue...


A particularly good animation of Conway's Game of Life

John Conway's "Game of Life" is an exploration of how complexity evolves in nature. It is a game you can play at home, using any board with squares (a chess board is too small, a Go board is better). You lay down any pattern of stones or pieces on the board, and then apply some very simple rules to determine what the next pattern looks like.

If you have the patience to repeat this exercise through many patterns, applying the same rules from one pattern to the next (or better, use a computer) then you will see some strange and wonderful things (as illustrated in this video).

The "Game of Life" is an example of a whole family of investigations into how Nature works, in particular the fascinating study of Cellular Automata. These show how even very simple rules, repeated many times, can lead to very complex (and sometimes very beautiful) results.

Cellular Automata crop up in a very interesting SF trilogy by Robert J. Sawyer (who wrote Flashforward), about the evolution of intelligence in the World Wide Web - if you are interested, I reviewed the books (which start with "Wake") here.

The "Game of Life" is described here on my web site.

A shot of one of the many thermal pools in Yellowstone National Park © by Danielle Goldstein (available as desktop wallpaper)

From the page:

Born in Moscow and now living and working in London, Tviga is a photographer and installation artist making interactive audio – visual work. Tviga makes sound visible. Her Sound Light and Sound Still projects are conceived in the knowledge that only 8% of the earth’s ancient forests are protected, and that destructive logging is threatening vast areas. She set about recording the sounds of the Silger forest along the border of Russia with Finland – she captured the voices of trees about to be felled - and then made them both audible and visible. In the process she created a series of hauntingly beautiful sounds and of compelling, striking images...

The white forms in these photographs are the sculptural manifestations of audio footage that was recorded along the border between Russia and Finland. Here the unique old-growth forests stand, The Green Belt of Fennoscandia. Recently these ancient trees are being logged for their valuable timber. There are only few remaining areas of ancient forest in Europe with the vast majority of the vanishing old-growth forests remaining in the North of European Russia.

The soundwaves are actual objects, each is 6 metres high, reminiscent of the height of a tree, despite looking like digital intervention...

Tviga recorded the sounds of the trees in the Silger forest in the Novrogod region of the Russian federation and then amplified them 250 times. Listen to their voices at her other site Vanished: Forest Studies.

A great share from my SU friend Cookitaly (Carmelita).

From the page:

This young barn owl is one in a million after being born with a rare genetic condition that has made her feathers jet black.

Sable, who is two years old, suffers from melanism, a 100,000-to-one gene mutation that makes her the exact opposite to an albino.

Dark-hued owls are normally killed at birth by their confused mothers but Sable was born in captivity and so she survived, meaning she is one of only three in existence in Britain.


This is the current avatar of Toetie, a lady from the Netherlands (and another SU refugee) whose pages are filled with great art.

An exceptionally well-presented and educational virtual tour of Finland's forests by UPM (a very environmentally-conscious company) - thanks, Louvain95 (Lou)!

This marvelous site provides free ambient sounds, with your own mixer desk to customize them, in a whole range of categories, many of them very relaxing, and often educational as well.

You can listen to them online, or for a small charge you can download the audio (after you have customized it, if you like).

If you don't like this one (you can turn off the lion's snore if it's too unnerving!) try Summer Forest, with bird song, animal calls and a gentle wind sound, or choose from a huge number of others.

(The image above is actually my composite of one of the images from the site and its mixer desk.)

Thanks to Elegantlady (Roberta) for another of her many generous and excellent shares.

(Original post: September 15th, 2011)

Autumn arrived early this year! Found on the nice pages of Ayrabella.

"Winter Hydrangea", oil on linen, one of many wonderful paintings by Paula Martiesian

Thanks, Inga!

"The Texture Of Mushrooms"

"Magic Barge"

From Neon Art by our own Samaryantha (click her name in the tags at the top of this post)

"3 Cats"

"Winter Skies"

Some very nice photography by Samaryantha, a very talented English lady whose photography site has moved (you can find it here but you won't find these images there, at least not yet).

Sunlight and stones create an undulating effect on a Canadian river bottom.

Very nice desktop wallpaper, photographed for National Geographic by Paul Nicklen, whose other work is well worth checking out.

Thanks to elegantlady for this nice chill out video (if the wrong video plays, swing your cursor to the left of the screen to select it - it's currently the 4th one)

There are some other very good HD chillout nature videos on this page

[Some of my soothing favourites if you're feeling jangled...]

"Shoreham Lavender" copyright by Derek Hansen

Shoreham in Kent, England is noted for its lavender production - see here

"Frozen pearl beads" (as close a translation as I can get!) by the Finnish photographer Jerkku Hannula

This was a 2007 series winner in the annual Finnish Nature Photo of the Year competition

Found among Migrant-Picker's many nice selections.

An example from the great photoblog of KeithinFrance from Brittany, discovered (as with so many good things in life) via Aline

A beautiful image of (I am almost sure) the Sonoran Desert, California, by Jack Dykinga, which features on the front cover of his book
"Large Format Nature Photography"

Click the image to visit a site with many great photographs

(Original post: July 14th, 2010)

"Petrified sand dunes and reflection, Paria Canyon - Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona" by Jack Dykinga

"Twilight of the Giants - African elephants at twilight, Chobe National Park, Botswana" by Frans Lanting

From a collection that represents a wide range of styles and genres and spans over 100 years of the history of photography, nominated and chosen by members of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP), a fellowship of the world's top professional conservation photographers.

"Windswept Sand at Dusk", Oregon, one of many beautiful abstract landscapes by Russell Tomlin

Thanks to IsaacLonetree for this one.

"Autumn Nocturne", by the multi-talented photographer and digital artist Ron Jones

Untitled work by the Polish artist Henryk Radziszewski

Click the image for many more beautiful paintings by this artist

"Touch the Sky", very nice macro-photography by unlimitedmind, whose other work is well worth checking out

A personal triumph for the photographer, Jeff Kouri from Colorado Springs - captured with a macro lens.

This amazing photograph is also featured in my "Best of the Web" photography page.

An extraordinary photograph of a humpback whale calf by the underwater and architecture photographer Kate Westaway

Kate's special genius was to realise that the impact would be increased by turning the photograph upside down. The sky is below you in this photograph!

This is from the spiritual blog of a rather wonderful lady called Jonie. She has divided her blog into a number of sections, each with a theme illustrated by beautiful pictures and thoughts. Jonie is obviously deeply Christian, but her blog will strike a chord with many people of other faiths, or none.

Unfortunately, I don't know who created this also rather wonderful image!

One of many gorgeous photographs from Miguel Ángel de Arriba

Miguel's work includes nature, landscapes and portraits, and on his excellent site you can also enjoy good music to go along with the slide shows.

Thanks for this one, renaissance2007!
(Original post: May 16th, 2009)

"Spirit of the Jaguar" by the wildlife artist Roy Chaffin

Roy sent me this picture last year as an electronic Christmas Card. I am lucky enough to receive one of his paintings each year in this way, and thereby hangs a tale.

Roy is not only a talented wildlife artist, he is also one of the brightest stars on the Flight Simulator horizon. He and a small team of equally talented people, collectively R.C.S. Panels, produced among other things one of the best aircraft/panel combinations for Microsoft Flight Simulator that there have ever been.

The picture below is not a painting. It is the flight sim model of the R4D, a military version of the DC-3 aircraft. You can walk around it, get in it and sit down in one of the most amazingly realistic cockpits ever produced for the flight sim, and fly it. Whether you view it from inside or outside as you fly, it looks, sounds and behaves like the real plane. And it is freeware - a true labour of love, the result of countless hours of dedicated, unpaid work.

Roy and his team supported aircraft restoration projects at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum (MAAM), Pennsylvania, with a "donationware" CD containing a special collection of flight sim models. I made a small donation... and have received a wonderful Christmas card from Roy ever since.

BTW: Roy has some interesting views on what has happened recently to Microsoft, which you can read if you click the aircraft picture.

[MAAM's "World War II Weekend" with restored aircraft, attended by Roy Chaffin]
[The R4D flight sim package with details of cockpits]
["Fantasy of Flight", Florida, an amazing collection of privately restored aircraft]
[My "Flight Simulator" page]

A stunning macro photograph of a Jumping Spider, one of many startling eye close-ups on this page.
I was struck by how closely these wonderful colours from nature had been used in Ludmila Curilova's painting below.

"Gentle Light III"

"Blue in the garden"

Two beautiful pictures by the excellent and prolific nature photographer Callu

Long Eared Owl © by Rein Hofman, probably one of the best bird photographers on the planet

"Submerged leaves" - one of Sandy's own pictures from her recent field trip. Click the picture to see the rest!
Thanks for sharing, Sandy!

Which just reminded me...

[River Man - a haunting autumnal song in 5/4 time by Nick Drake]

"Keep an eye on your nuts", a delightful oil painting by Jon R. Friedman

"Pitch pines"

"Butterfly bush"

"Ballston surf"

Oil paintings by the naturalistic artist Jon R. Friedman.

One of several beautiful chromogenic photographs of insects by Jo Whaley

Thanks to my friend eftych for this one!

"Red Shouldered Hawk", a truly wonderful photo by Cary Maures

Thanks to my friend skip2mylou for this one.

"Fog and Pennyroyal, Lagunitas Lake, MMWD"

One of many beautiful photographs of nature by Dan Baumbach.

I love the colours in this one.

"Bear Feet" © by Bill Lockhart

I have a weakness for bears! If I were a bear, and a big bear too, I would like to add myself to this warm pile of fur and snooze the afternoon away...

Thanks to serendipity7 (Raine) for leading me to this great wildlife and landscape photographer.