The Best Images Of 2009: Picture Of The Year Finalists
There's something so appealing and breathtaking about good photography; I really can't seem to get enough.
Each image is beautiful in its own right, but if you look a little further (which I've become fond of doing recently), there's a whole history of things going on.
I'm one of those people who loves to go to art museums and by deductive reasoning, try to determine what the people in the paintings were like; what did they see in their lifetimes, what did they enjoy doing, what is their story? I try to pick things out of the image to help me understand who they were. I love to learn more about the subjects of these photographs, too.
The images here were finalists in the 2009 Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Year competition; a yearly contest that began in 2006. All images are freely licensed, often with the only request being that images be credited to the photographers.
Images are collected from the "featured picture of the day" category at the end of each year, and viewers are allowed to vote for whichever images they like. The image with the most user votes wins the prestigious title of First Place in Picture of the Year.
Picture of the Year 2011 has not yet started, though photos are being processed.
Sikh pilgrim at the Harmandir Sahib (ਹਰਿਮੰਦਰ ਸਾਹਿਬ, "Golden Temple") in Amritsar, India. The man has just had a ritual bath. Attribution: photograph by Paulrudd, available here.
The construction of this Sikh gurdwara ("gateway" to the guru; place of worship) was begun by Guru Ram Das in 1585, and was completed in 1604 by his successor, Guru Arjan Dev. For most of the 17th and 18th centuries, the site was held in limbo by Mughal and Afghan forces hostile to the Sikhs. The gurdwara suffered damage, but survived. In the 19th century the Punjab borders were secured from outside attack by the famous Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the first Maharaja of the Sikh empire, and the upper floors were covered in gold, lending it the name, "The Golden Temple."
Beautiful Elakala Waterfalls in the Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia, USA. Attribution: photograph by ForestWander Nature Photography, forestwander.com.
Waterfall #1, the most popular falls within Blackwater Falls State Park, is 35 feet high (10.7 meters) and is easily accessible from the trail; in fact, a bridge goes over the river, enabling beautiful photographs like this one. The name of the falls, Elakala, is based on a Native American legend. Elakala, a princess maiden, threw herself over the falls, the legend goes, when her lover scorned her. Apparently these types of stories exist for many waterfalls in the eastern USA, though not many can be confirmed.
The Russian military honor guard welcomes U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, Russia, June 26, 2009. Mullen is on a three-day trip to the country, meeting with counterparts and touring the Russian military academy. Attribution: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, US Navy (public domain), available here.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a war memorial dedicated to unknown Soviet soldiers killed during World War I. The soldiers had initially been buried in a mass grave in 1941, but were relocated in 1966 to where they now reside (at the Kremlin Wall in the Alexander Garden in Moscow). This location represents the closest approach of the Nazi armies during the war. A large brass star emits an eternal flame, illuminating a plaque which reads: "Ihr Name ist unbekannt, ist deine Tat unsterblich" ("Your name is unknown, your deed is immortal.")
The Milky Way arches across this 360-degree panorama of the night sky above the Paranal Observatory, home of ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Attribution: ESO / H.H. Heyer, available here.
The Moon is just rising and the zodiacal light shines above it, while the Milky Way stretches across the sky opposite the observatory. To the right in the image and below the arc of the Milky Way, two of our galactic neighbours, the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds, can be seen. The open telescope domes of the world’s most advanced ground-based astronomical observatory are all visible in the image: the four smaller 1.8-metre Auxiliary Telescopes that can be used together in the interferometric mode, and the four giant 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes. The image was made from 37 individual frames with a total exposure time of about 30 minutes, taken in the early morning hours.
A exposure blended photo of the Sydney Opera House, as viewed from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Attribution: photograph by David Iliff, License: CC-BY-SA 3.0, available here.
The Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia, was designed and built by Jørn Utzon, a Danish architect. Though he won the design contest for the new opera house in 1957, the idea wasn't acted on or completed until 1973, 16 years later. In 2003, five years before his death at the age of 90, he won architecture's highest honor, the Pritzker Prize. The prize citation stated: "There is no doubt that the Sydney Opera House is his masterpiece. It is one of the great iconic buildings of the 20th century, an image of great beauty that has become known throughout the world--a symbol for not only a city, but a whole country and continent."
Tavurvur, an active stratovolcano near Rabaul in Papua New Guinea. Attribution: photograph by Taro Taylor, available here.
Tavurvur is a sub-vent of the larger Rabaul caldera volcano, and is well known for its destructive eruptions. After all, the provincial capital of Papua New Guinea, Rabaul, lies in the center of the caldera. Tavurvur is still active to this day, with the most recent eruption taking place in 2009 (pictured.) In 1937, 507 people were killed when Tavurvur and another local volcano (Vulcan) erupted.
Eilean Donan Castle, in the Scottish Highlands. Attribution: photograph by Guillaume Piolle, available here.
Like many historical structures of Scotland, the history is immense, detailed, and somewhat confusing unless you're familiar with the clans, names, wars, and takeovers of the area. Suffice it to say that since the 13th century the castle had seen many wars, skirmishes, and takeovers. That all ended in 1719 after Spanish forces, who were seeking to help the Jacobites, fired upon three British ships attempting to overtake the castle. All three ships fired back, and after expending 27 barrels of gunpowder, Eilean Donan castle was destroyed. Between 1919 and 1932 the castle was restored by Lt. Col. John MacRae-Gilstrap, who added a bridge connecting the land to the island, giving easier access.
Barn Owl (Tyto alba) in flight. Attribution: photograph by Luc Viatour, available here.
The Barn Owl is one of the most widely-distributed owls, and one of the most widespread birds in the world. It has a huge range of common names (about 23), from Death Owl, Night Owl, Rat Owl, or Church Owl, to the common name in the USA, the Screech Owl. Many of these names are based on its silent flight, its appearance, or its piercing call. This species has a wingspan of between 30-43 inches (75-110 cm), with the females typically being larger than the males. They live in open fields, farms, and grasslands, with a diet consisting mostly of small rodents.
"Wild" horses in the Erlebnispark Tripsdrill wildlife and theme park near Cleebronn in Southern Germany. Attribution: photography by Robin Müller, available here.
The Erlebnispark Tripsdrill wildlife park, part of a larger theme park near Cleebronn, Germany, was expanded from a small petting zoo to a 120 acre (47 hectare) petting zoo in 1972. The forests and fields are home to wild horses (pictured), fallow deer, brown bears, arctic wolves, and others (130 animals in all.) Most of the animals can be petted and fed by visitors year-round.
12mm long Apis mellifera flying back to its hive carrying pollen in a pollen basket. Pictured in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on a private facility. Attribution: Muhammad Mahdi Karim, available here.
Apis mellifera is more commonly know as the Western Honey Bee or European Honey Bee. These bees were the subject of much worldwide scrutiny in recent years, suffering a steady decline in what scientists call "colony collapse disorder." Honey bees, for reasons not yet understood (but potentially pesticide-related), rapidly declined, died off, and disappeared in record numbers starting in 2006. This was/is significant because an astounding array of both flowers and agricultural plants depend on these bees for pollination.
Flesh fly, (Sarcophagidae), Austin's Ferry, Tasmania, Australia. Attribution: photograph by JJ Harrison, available here.
Most flesh flies breed in rotting carcasses, dung, decaying material, or in the open wounds of mammals (giving them their common name.) They're often found around pit latrines and compost piles. They have a lot going for them, since aside from laying their larvae on dead human and other animal corpses, they also happen to spread the infamous leprosy bacilli (the source of leprosy.) Their lifespan and habits are so much like clockwork that they're used in forensic analysis to determine exact time of death, at times helping in murder and missing person investigations.
Iguana posing in the Oslo Reptile Park (Green Iguana – Iguana iguana). It's an adult male, and his name is Charlie. The small wound on his nose is self-inflicted. During the mating season (springtime), he turns a bit aggressive and will sometimes throw himself at his keepers and straight into walls. Those wounds heal quickly by themselves. Attribution: photograph by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, available here.
These arboreal (tree dwelling) reptiles live on a purely vegetarian diet, and are indigenous to Central and South America (though feral populations exist in Florida and Texas.) They grow on average to a full length of about 4.9 feet (1.5 meters), but have been known to reach up to 6.6 feet (over 2 meters), weighing up to 20 pounds (9.1 kg). These iguanas are diurnal (live during the day), as they have very poor night vision. However, their daytime vision is superb, rendering sharp colors and the ability to see ultraviolet wavelengths.
My favorite image is:
The "Indigo Lactarius," species Lactarius indigo (Schwein.) Fr. Specimen photographed in Strouds Run State Park, Athens, Ohio, USA. Attribution: photograph by Dan Molter, available here.
Sometimes called the Blue Milk Mushroom or indigo milk cap, these beautiful blue mushrooms range naturally from Central and North America to East Asia.
They grow in both coniferous and deciduous forests, and form very important symbiotic relationships (called mycorrhiza) with the roots of trees.
The milk that oozes from a cut or broken Lactarius indigo is also a beautiful blue color, giving it its common name (blue milk mushroom.)
The caps grow from 2-6 inches across (5-15 cm), and are often sold in rural markets in Mexico, Guatemala, and China as edible mushrooms.