Bengaluru’s Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath drives home a conservation message

The large photograph hanging on the wall of Hall 1 at the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath (CKP) is a particularly endearing one. It depicts three tigers huddled close together, staring into the camera lens with unblinking amber eyes.

M. N. Jayakumar, the man behind the photo, recalls being in a particular part of the national park very early one day—around 6.15 in the morning—when he saw a tiger, Gowri, rush past them and disappear into the woods. They spent the next few hours circling around that block of the national park, he says, but could simply not spot her till much later in the morning, feeding on a sambar deer.

She wasn’t alone, but was accompanied by her four sub-adult cubs. “She had made the kill and gone rushing back to bring her cubs,” says Mr. Jayakumar, who spent the next couple of hours, watching the little family feed. “I think she wanted some rest so she brought the cubs to the waterhole to play in the water,” says Mr. Jayakumar, who clicked the snap when the family was frolicking in the waterhole. “I liked this image because it looks like a family portrait,” he says.

Fiery-Throated Hummin bird .
| Photo Credit:
M N Jaykumar

A forest official in the wild

This photograph is one of the 231 that form part of Encounters in the Wild 2.0, a solo exhibition both celebrating global wildlife as well as commemorating 50 years of Project Tiger, the wildlife conservation movement launched in 1973 to protect and preserve the Bengal tiger. Talking about his obsession with wildlife and conservation, Mr. Jayakumar recalls the incident that started off his passion for the wild.

In 1971, his father took him to watch a khedda, or wild elephant capture in Mysuru, among the last conducted in India before the practice was banned under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, of 1972. He was only 19 back then, and the incident impacted him greatly, remembers Mr. Jayakumar. Looking back, he thinks, “I was destined to join the forest service.”

Humpback Whale.
| Photo Credit:
M N Jaykumar

He went on to pursue agriculture at the College of Agriculture, Bengaluru, graduating with the second rank there, before turning his attention to forest service. “I wanted a career that took me outdoors,” he says. So, he joined the Indian Forest College (now the Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy) in Dehra Dun, before becoming part of the Forest Department.

Photography happened rather serendipitously back in 1993 or so. He was working as a deputy range forest officer in Mysore, and would often host wildlife photographers from all over the country who would stop by for a meal while visiting Bandipur or Nagarahole.” On one occasion, a colleague jokingly remarked that while the whole world came to the Mysore District for photography, you—being the head of the district—are wasting your time,” he says, with a laugh. “That really spurred me to learn.”

African Elephant with Wildebeest.
| Photo Credit:
M N Jaykumar

25 years of photography

Encounters in the Wild 2.0, which is spread across four halls in the CKP multiple species, documents multiple species of animals from all across the world. Held in collaboration with the Karnataka Forest Department, the display includes 47 species of mammals, 109 types of birds, and 8 species of reptiles and frogs shot on Mr. Jayakumar’s travels to different parts of India, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Tiger Jumping.
| Photo Credit:
M N Jaykumar

From the gloriously-plumed birds of the Galapagos to tawny Bengal tigers; giraffes, elephants, and lions silhouetted against twilight skies shot with ochre and vermillion and even an aerial large shot of Machu Picchu, that icon of the ancient Inca empire, every photograph on display is evocative and stunning, a visual representation of Mr. Jayakumar’s love for the great outdoors. “Thankfully, all of us (his wife and two children) are lovers of nature. So, it doesn’t come in the way of my activity,” he says, adding that three of the images exhibited at the show were taken by his wife.

Mr. Jayakumar had his first solo exhibition in 1998, beginning with a series in New Delhi to commemorate the silver jubilee of Project Tiger. This was followed by what he thinks of as the first edition of Encounters in the Wild at CKP in 2008 and another titled Birds as Art at UB City, Bengaluru.

Red-Shanked Douc.
| Photo Credit:
M N Jaykumar

Post-retirement pictures

Most of the images in this exhibition, his fourth, were shot after he retired in 2012.  “I have a group of friends, all my age, who I travel with regularly,” he says, adding that these travels enable him to continue observing and photographing wildlife. “As soon as I have my back and legs intact, I hope to keep on documenting nature,” says Mr. Jayakumar who is all set to visit Kenya in November, followed by Rwanda, Uganda, Columbia and the U.S. early next year.

Toucan Barbet
| Photo Credit:
M N Jaykumar

As with all his shows, he hopes to “experience, educate and engage viewers,” with Encounters in the Wild 2.0. “Every image in this exhibition will have a QR code that you can scan to get to know about the animal,” he says. And yes, if you don’t like reading or are visually impaired, there is an audio option too. “All you need to do is bring your headphones,” he says.

Wildebeest Migration.
| Photo Credit:
M N Jaykumar

Way to conservation

Mr. Jayakumar firmly believes that exposing urban dwellers to the magnificence and beauty of nature through exhibitions such as this one can go a long way toward driving conservation in this country. “I hope the people who attend my exhibition will engage with the forest department afterwards, in times of crisis, to protect our precious earth,” he says. As human beings encroach into the habitat of wild animals, leading to an increase in conflict, it is more important than ever before to learn how to peaceably live with the natural world, believes Mr. Jayakumar. “We need to know how to adjust their lives to see that it is not disturbed.”

Encounters in the Wild 2.0 is on till September 8 at the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath from 10 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. Entry is free for all.

Ancient Sentinels | Exploring the Worlds Oldest Trees

Ancient Sentinels | Exploring the World’s Oldest Trees

Nature has witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations, the passing of centuries, and the evolution of countless species. Throughout human history, trees have stood by silently, serving as living witnesses to history, carrying within their rings the secrets of time itself. While they hold a profound and enduring fascination for many of us, trees are vital symbols of wisdom, change and the journey of life. From the towering redwoods of California to the ancient yews of Eurasia, trees have woven their roots deep into every culture and human consciousness. They provide shade, shelter, sustenance, and inspiration, and their significance transcends mere biology.

In this blog post, we are going on a journey to uncover the unbelievable tales of Earth’s ancient, upright guardians – trees that have continued to grow and thrive for thousands of years. These arboreal giants have borne witness to the rise and fall of civilizations, silently chronicling our planet’s dramatic history. Each one tells a unique story, and as we venture into the world of these venerable giants, we’ll uncover some of those stories while also gaining a glimpse of the future where conservation and preservation efforts are paramount.

The serpentine roots of a stand of Moreton Bay figs in Kauai are like the iron walls of a living fortress. Anchored in the damp earth, the lavender trunks are free to conquer the sky above. Fine Art Limited Edition of 100.

Methuselah | White Mountains, California

Residing in the remote White Mountains of California, Methuselah is a truly remarkable tree – estimated at approximately 4,900 years old, which would make it the oldest known living bristlecone pine on the planet. This ancient sentinel has endured millennia of harsh environmental conditions including extreme cold, arid soil, and relentless winds. Its resilience serves as a living, breathing testament to the enduring power of nature’s forces. Methuselah is a symbol of longevity, evoking awe and reverence from all those who are blessed to gaze upon it.

Jomon Sugi | Yakushima Island, Japan

A gigantic, looming Cryptomeria tree (colloquially known as a Japanese sugi pine or Japanese red cedar), takes up the second spot on our list. Jomon Sugi can be found on Yakushima Island, Japan, and is estimated to be anywhere from 2,100 to a staggering 7,000 years old. This historic tree has weathered countless storms, typhoons, and changing climate conditions, yet it continues to thrive in the lush, mystical forests of Yakushima.

Revered by locals and tourists alike, Jomon Sugi is evidence of Japan’s deep-rooted cultural and historical connections with nature. Its enduring presence serves as a reminder of the enduring prowess of nature, inviting all who encounter it to reflect upon the beauty of these ancient trees.

Transform your space with Aaron Reed’s luxury fine art photography print, Embers, from his Panoramic Wall Art collection. Order yours today! Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Llangernyw Yew | Conwy, Wales

Located in a serene churchyard of the Llangernyw village in Conwy, Wales, the Llangernyw Yew watches as the seasons come and go. Estimated at around 4,000 to 5,000 years old, this ancient yew is a living relic, predating even Stonehenge. It holds a revered place in Welsh folklore and history, serving as a symbol of strength, perseverance, and continuity.

The Llangernyw Yew’s gnarled branches and lush, green foliage have offered shade to generations of visitors who have sought solace or reprieve beneath its sprawling canopy. Its longevity and connection to Welsh heritage make this a cherished and respected living monument, embodying the deep-rooted bond between people and trees.

Sarv-e Abarkuh | Yazd Province, Iran

Also known as the Zoroastrian Sarv and the Cypress of ABarkuh, Sarv-e Abarkuh is a Persian cypress in the Yazd Province of Iran. Like most of the trees on this list, Sarv-e Abarkuh is also thousands of years old – estimated to be between 4,000 and 4,500 years old. Not only is this behemoth one of the oldest living trees on Earth – it’s also a cultural icon that’s deeply ingrained in Persian and Iranian history.

Its name is in reference to a nearby village, and the tree itself has survived millennia in the desert amid war, regime changes, drought, and much more. This ancient sentinel continues to inspire awe while reflecting the enduring spirit of the region and its people.

Heavenly beams of cold sunlight swell like a mandala through the thick canopy of a redwood forest along the Del Norte Coast in Northern California. The trees themselves, shrouded in a diaphanous mist, stand like dark sentinels watching over the surrounding beds of bracken. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Gran Abuelo | Alerce Costero National Park, Chile

Like many of the world’s oldest trees, Gran Abuelo’s home is in a secluded, remote valley in southern Chile (within the Alerce Costero National Park). Gran Abuelo – or “great grandfather” – is thought to be approximately 3,650 years old. What sets Gran Abuelo apart is its status as an Alerce tree, a species that’s closely related to the giant sequoias.

The conservation efforts surrounding this primordial giant underscore its ecological importance. Indeed, the existence of these trees serves as a poignant reminder of humanity’s responsibility to protect these elder giants and ensure they continue to enrich the Earth with their enduring presence.

O Patriarca | Amazon Rainforest, Brazil

Lovingly known as “The Patriarch Tree”, O Patriarca resides deep within the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil. Estimated to be between 3,000 and 3,600 years old, this giant Samaúma tree stands tall as a symbol of the ecological importance of the Amazon. Not only does it shelter a vast array of biodiversity within its colossal trunk – it also connects deeply to the indigenous cultures of the region and is revered as a sacred, living entity.

As the Amazon continues to face threats from deforestation and climate change, O Patriarca is a reminder of the irreplaceable value of these ancient sentinels. They help maintain the delicate balance of the planet’s ecosystems while also absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and replenishing oxygen levels.

Fall aspens, like Grecian columns, reach towards transient puffs of cloud in a brilliant blue sky. When the days grow chill, groves of clonal aspen turn hillsides like this one near Aspen, Colorado into cascades of rippling gold. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Sajama Tree | Sajama National Park, Bolivia

Deep within the high-altitude terrain of Sajama National Park in Bolivia, the Sajama Tree has grown for 2,000 to 3,000 years. This ancient Queñua tree has shown the adaptability and perseverance of natural forces even at high altitudes. It has served as a crucial resource for indigenous communities – providing wood for fuel and shelter.

Beyond its practical uses, the Sajama Tree holds immense cultural significance, as it’s featured prominently in indigenous rituals and various traditions. The Sajama Tree is a living connection to the rich heritage of the Andean highlands, reminding us of the profound role that nature plays in sustaining and shaping human civilization.

Chestnut Tree of One Hundred Horses | Mount Etna, Sicily

More commonly known as the Hundred-Horse Chestnut, this tree is the tallest, broadest, and oldest known chestnut tree in the world. Located on Linguaglossa road in Sant’Alfio, on the eastern slope of Mount Etna in Sicily — only 8 km (5.0 mi) from the volcano’s crater. While experts figure this tree is somewhere between 2,000 to 4,000 years old, it has borne witness to centuries of human history. In fact, it gets its name from allegedly having sheltered a group of one hundred Aragonian horsemen during a tempestuous rainstorm. Its sprawling canopy and impressive girth reflect the interconnectedness all humans share with our arboreal siblings.

Wisps of fog drift silently down a lush hillside in the foothills of Mount Rainier National Park. Wraithlike, stands of fir and aromatic red cedar keep watch in the sheltered vales. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

General Sherman | Sequoia National Park

According to the National Park Service, the General Sherman Tree is the world’s largest tree when measured by volume. Located in California’s Sequoia National Park, General Sherman has stood for around 2,200 years.

Named after Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, this looming colossus captivates with its immense size while symbolizing the enduring spirit of our species’ conservation efforts. This tree in particular reminds us of how important it is to preserve these ancient trees and the myriad ecosystems they support.

Living Testaments of Earth’s Rich History

In the tapestry of our world’s greatest natural wonders, ancient trees are the remarkable threats that weave together stories of endurance, adaptation, and perseverance. All around the world, trees both large and small bear witness to the history of our planet and human civilization. These trees inspire us with their resilience and remind us to be diligent stewards of our planet and the life that calls our planet home.

While the images in this blog are not representative of the oldest living trees in this list, they are a living testament to my personal love of and connection with trees. Tree photography has always been my favorite subject and all types of trees, from smallest to greatest and youngest to oldest, continue to inspire me every day of my career and my life.

These ancient sentinels are much more than mere artifacts from the past; they are living treasures, fragile yet robust, and they hold the key to unlocking a greener, more sustainable future. In nurturing and safeguarding these timeworn beauties, we enshrine their stories in our own history. May they continue to be a part of our planet’s legacy for generations to come.

The wild gnarled branches of the ancient Angel Oak snake across the sky and burrow into the ground in a forest in South Carolina. A uniform blanket of copper leaves adorns the soil beneath a grey sky. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

The bleached skeleton of a leafless tree weathers the cold chill of a desert valley in Zion National Park. The rosy sandstone, vibrant even in the depths of winter, bleeds through the spider’s web of bare branches. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

The early morning sun breaks through a strand of dancing aspen trees that fought though years of heavy snowfall to to grow against all odds near Telluride, Colorado. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

The blazing crown of a gnarled Japanese maple stands stark against the emerald tapestry of the surrounding vegetation. Suspended above the ringing waters of a reflecting pool, the diffused rays of the sun give the tree a numinous glow. Fine Art Limited Edition of 100.

1stdibs vs Singulart | Where To Buy Photography Art Online

1stDibs vs Singulart | Where To Buy Photography Online

eCommerce art platforms are where creativity and consumerism combine to disseminate art, furniture, and other luxury items to the masses. Two such marketplaces have risen to prominence in recent years: 1stDibs and Singulart. Both of these platforms have their distinctive approach to the art market, and they cater to diverse tastes, budgets, and artistic sensibilities. Because I am a photographer, let’s take a dive into the photographic art for sale that these two platforms have to offer.

1stDibs, which is known for its lavishness and exclusivity, offers a curated selection of premium, high-end art, antiques, and other shiny baubles. It beckons to collectors and connoisseurs of the rare and extravagant, although the price tags can definitely get out of hand. You can purchase original contemporary photography from various artists as well as rare artworks such as The Museum Set by Ansel Adams for $850,000 or the most expensive piece of photography on the website, a family of elephants for just over 1.4 million, but hey, it even comes with a frame!

In contrast, Singulart has taken a more democratic approach by championing contemporary art and seeking to make art more accessible to a global audience. Singulart serves as a launching pad for emerging artists and the platform helps connect these burgeoning talents directly with buyers. Where else can you purchase Louis Vuitton lips for your wall for under 25k, or this visually stunning masterpiece for $17,960?

Beyond their marketing rigmarole and glossy websites – are these platforms really all they’re gussied up to be? Or do buyers and artists have different experiences to share?

1stDibs The Most Beautiful Things On Earth

For designers and appreciators of a wide range of luxury items, 1stDibs might seem like a great online marketplace to score some new swag. Their website boasts just about everything: furniture, lighting fixtures, decor and gifts, art, jewelry and watches, fashionwear, knickknacks, paddywhacks, and even a few things made out of bone. However, the prices on some of their wares are simply outrageous, even by big spenders’ standards.

1stDibs positions itself as a platform for “the most beautiful things on earth” – rare and unique finds that you cannot access anywhere else. Many listings are antique or vintage pieces, often curated from high-end dealers and galleries. But this exclusivity comes with a hefty price tag, which is partly why 1stDibs is a playground for the wealthy. It’s a place where you can find a $100,000 antique chandelier or a $10,000 Sterling Silver wine goblet set without breaking a sweat.

The appeal of 1stDibs is in its ability to connect buyers with these items and provide a glimpse into the realm of lavish luxury living. However, for the average consumer, it may feel more like windowshopping in an opulent dreamland. Bargain hunters beware; 1stDibs is not the best place to snag a good deal. It’s more about indulgence, sumptuousness, and showcasing a curated collection of truly unique pieces.

While 1stDibs may not cater to everyone’s budget, there’s no denying it has made a significant impact on the world of interior design and luxury retail. It’s become a go-to source for designers, collectors, and the hyper-wealthy seeking one-of-a-kind statement pieces – but at what cost?

Bands of gold cross the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Aspen Colorado. Mature aspens serve as a seasonal clock in the mountains, heralding and celebrating the arrival of autumn, then falling quiet again at the first snow. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Singulart | Your Online Art Gallery

Singulart’s focus is less on ‘stuff’ and more on art, as its name coyly implies. It’s an online platform where contemporary art caters to both creators and consumers of fine art – investors, too.

Serving as a bridge between emerging artists, established artists, and art enthusiasts worldwide, it’s a place where visitors can discover and purchase original paintings, sculptures, and digital art – all from a vibrant, contemporary art scene. Singulart fancies itself as a benevolent force in the art world, nurturing artistic talent and connecting artists with their global audience.

Singulart’s artist-centric approach seeks to empower artists to take control of their careers by providing a digital nexus for direct interaction with buyers and art lovers from around the world. This kind of exposure between the artist and collector not only fosters a greater sense of community, but also helps artists sell more of their work.

Oh, you’re curious about pricing? The pieces available for purchase on Singulart’s platform range from below $1,000 to over $10,000. Prices are determined by the artist and a Singulart expert, and are based on proven sales records, so buyers know what they’re getting into.

Exploring the Singulart website is actually quite intuitive and enjoyable. Visitors can browse by artist or medium, and there are helpful categories to guide buyers to exactly what they’re looking for. Like an artist’s work? You can follow them and receive emails about new works and exclusive deals. It’s a very handy, accessible site that makes the shopping process much easier and more enjoyable. But is there more to Singulart’s polished visage?

The placid waters of a seaside lagoon reflect the fires of dusk along Iceland’s western coast. Suspended as if in midair, the verdant monolith of Kirkjufell sits like a forgotten ziggurat, guarding the land of auroras from the frigid waters of the Arctic. Fine Art Limited Edition of 100.

1stDibs and Singulart Online Reviews

Internet critics can be a loathsome, scathing bunch. Ravenous, ill-tempered, and delusional at times. But more often than not, especially when it comes to providing helpful ratings to warn other buyers of potential scams and poor customer service, online reviews can be trusted when scrupulously considered. That said, you can find plenty of good and bad reviews for both 1stDibs and Singulart.

Most buyers’ frustrations with 1stDibs seem to revolve around unpleasant experiences with buyers, receiving damaged products, and not having helpful interactions with customer service representatives. Similarly, Singulart critics were chagrined by gross shipping costs and lengthy shipping times. Many users, however, have also reported positive interactions and successful art acquisitions on Singulart, praising the quality and diversity of artwork available for purchase.

While online reviews can offer valuable insights, it’s essential to approach with a discerning eye. Both 1stDibs and Singulart have their share of satisfied customers and detractors, making it crucial for potential buyers to research their options and take calculated risks when attempting to procure fine artwork.

The whites and indigos of an alpine meadow of lupine mirror the crags and glaciers of Mount Rainier National Park’s eponymous peak. The highest summit in the Pacific Northwest, the dormant volcano slumbers peacefully beneath the quiet grandeur of a midsummer sunset. Fine Art Limited Edition of 100.

Clash of the Titans | Singulart Vs 1stDibs

While both companies find themselves on a number of ‘best places to buy art online in 2023’ lists, how do they measure up against one another?

1stDibs caters primarily to affluent collectors, interior designers seeking rare antiques, vintage hunters, and buyers of top-tier contemporary art. The platform boasts exclusivity, prestige, and they frequently partner with well-known dealers and galleries from around the globe. With the prestige, however, comes a premium price tag which makes 1stDibs largely inaccessible to the average art enthusiast.

Singulart, on the other hand, has taken a more inclusive route. This platform prioritizes direct connections between artists and buyers, offering more affordable options for those seeking to purchase contemporary art, paintings, sculptures, and even digital creations.

In lay terms, 1stDibs is kind of like a high-risk, high-reward dealer. You will likely pay a lot of money to get something decent or even of exceptional value. But you might also have to deal with poor customer service, difficulty communicating with sellers, and other headaches that make the cost seem ludicrous. Artists and buyers on Singulart may have an easier time facilitating purchases, but there are still risks associated with eCommerce platforms – items can arrive late, damaged, or with missing elements, etc.

The choice between the two will ultimately boil down to your budget, artistic preferences, and how much patience you have to deal with artists and artist platforms.

The gnarled branches of a Japanese maple spread forth a flaming crown in a sculpted garden in Portland, Oregon. Beside a tranquil pond, the winding footpaths and soft beds of moss are scattered with the gold and crimson stars from this dazzling display. Fine Art Limited Edition of 100.

Artist Direct Original Art For Sale

If you’d like to preserve your sanity, it’s generally best to buy photography directly from the artist. While these platforms can certainly do a lot for aspiring creators and artists who have made careers from their practices, the only surefire way to support an artist whose work you love is to hand them money directly. This way the buyer knows where their money goes, and the artist gets to buy dinner for another day – everyone wins!

As a family-owned and operated business you will always work with me (the artist) directly, never disconnected office staff, wholesale distributors or pushy gallery directors. I believe in offering the highest quality photographic art available in the world today, while continuously going above and beyond for collectors of my work, providing exceptional and personal customer service. Whether you are simply looking for a single showpiece to transform a room or have a grand vision to fill your home or office with the world’s finest photographic art, my level of dedication to you never wavers.

The choice is yours, you can purchase beautiful nature photography for your home or office, or you can get that elephant print with the killer frame. I think you know the right choice.

A moss-covered tōrō or Japanese lantern sits in contemplative repose beside the tranquil waters of a reflecting pool in Seattle, Washington. A slight breeze caresses the surface, stirring the shades of the maples beyond into a cloud of red and gold. Fine Art Limited Edition of 100.

Torn ruins of crumbled cliffsides are pummeled by the Pacific to create a tattered tableau of towers and archways along California’s Big Sur. Beds of ruddy ice plant melt down the hillside, clinging to the smallest fissure for purchase against the forces of gravity. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

A royal carpet of scarlet leaves winds through a stand of maples in the deep of fall. A quiet country road bears its hidden splendor before the snows that will hide its brilliant chromatic display until next year. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Lasers cut through star trails in beautiful photo from ESO

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) shared a beautiful new image of stars trailing across the night sky. It was taken at the ESO’s Paranal Observatory, located in the Chilean Atacama Desert. The observatory is home to the Very Large Telescope (VLT), which consists of four Unit Telescopes and four smaller, movable Auxiliary Telescopes, like the one in the foreground of the image on the right. 

Astronomers used a long exposure technique in which the night sky is photographed over several hours, capturing the movements of stars as they travel overhead. This creates a dazzling trailing effect, where  starlight appears to arc over the observatory’s ground-based telescopes. 

Two bright orange lasers are also seen beaming out of one of the Unit Telescopes. These laser beams, known as laser guide stars, are used to correct the distortion of starlight caused by Earth’s turbulent atmosphere, according to a statement from the ESO. The beams are pointed in opposite directions because the long exposure technique took several hours to complete, during which the telescope moved to observe different targets in the sky, ESO officials said. 

Related: Amazing space views of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (photos)

A laser guide star creates an artificial star by shooting a laser beam into the sky, which excites sodium atoms in the upper layer of the atmosphere and causes them to glow like stars. This, in turn, provides a reference point for ground-based telescopes, enabling them to cancel out the effects of atmospheric turbulence and create a sharper image of the sky. 

“Each laser delivers 22 watts of power — about 4000 times the maximum allowed for a laser pointer — in a beam that’s about 30 centimeters in diameter,” ESO officials said in the statement. “This remarkable display doesn’t just look pretty: the twinkling of these artificial stars is measured in real time and used by the adaptive optics system to correct for the blurring caused by the Earth’s atmosphere so that the telescope can create sharp images.” 

When we look up at the night sky, we see stars as individual points of twinkling light. However, the new image of the star trails over ESO’s Paranal Observatory remind us of Earth’s constant rotation, or spin, around its axis. Long exposure images such as this capture the beautiful motion of the sky as the Earth rotates relative to the backdrop of stars.  

This week in farming: Politics, nature and latest new kit

Hello and welcome to This Week in Farming, your regular round-up of the best Farmers Weekly content from the past seven days.

Here’s a selection of the key topics the FW team have been focused on as party conference season kicked off and the latest State of Nature report once again pointed the finger at intensive farming.

Politics, politics

The Liberal Democrats kicked off its autumn conference in an upbeat mood in Bournemouth, with a clear aim to target the so-called “blue wall” constituencies, where it believes its candidates might oust any sitting Conservatives at the next general election.

As part of the process, the party promised an extra £1bn in funding for agriculture, taking the total UK pot to £4.4bn should they come to power, with much of it targeted to more nature-friendly farming.

The party also passed a wide-ranging motion, setting out its priorities for the rural economy, with a particular focus on food security and trade.

Former party leader and rural affairs spokesman Tim Farron also used an NFU fringe meeting to lambast the Tories’ record in government, warning that the steep cuts in Basic Payment Scheme funding, which have not been fully returned to farmers, is putting their livelihoods at risk.

The Conservatives struck back, saying the £1bn funding pledge was uncosted, and claiming the Lib Dems wanted to “take us back into the EU and the hated Common Agricultural Policy”.

State of Nature

Farming’s environmental impact came in for further scrutiny with publication of the State of Nature report, which is put together by a consortium of conservation groups every few years.

As ever, intensive agriculture was blamed for the 19% drop in species abundance since the 1970s, with birds and pollinators badly affected.

But the NFU mounted a strong defence, pointing to ongoing efforts by farmers to work with and restore nature through hedge planting and flower margin creation, for example.

Pro-science think tank Science for Sustainable Agriculture said the report also ignored the enormous progress made by Britain’s farmers in the area of precision agriculture and low-till cultivation.

Green lobbyists also took a pop at Defra this week for what they said was a “rowing back” on plans to require housebuilders to deliver 10% biodiversity net gain (BNG) in relation to construction sites.

Initial fears that the policy was being kicked into the long grass were quickly dismissed by government, which said BNG would be a legal requirement from January 2024, just two months later than originally planned.

Welsh angst

Welsh farmers and landowners expressed their anger and frustration, as rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths announced the new Habitat Wales Scheme would be open for applications from Friday 29 September, but she was not able to say how much farmers would be paid.

The scheme is supposed to bridge the gap between the old Glastir agri-environment scheme and the new Sustainable Farming Scheme, which starts in 2025.

But with government money clearly short – to the tune of £900m according to Ms Griffiths – farmers say they have been put in an “impossible position”.

Meanwhile, English farmers looking to join Defra’s new Sustainable Farming Incentive have had their lives made a little easier, with the setting up of a new online landing page designed to simplify the process.

It is understood that more than 10,000 farmers have now submitted expressions of interest in the scheme.

Machinery news

In more news…. the Farmers Weekly machinery team has been as busy as ever, with a number of new pieces of kit placed under the editorial microscope. 

Machinery editor Oli Mark takes a detailed look at tractor manufacturer Valtra’s revamped flagship S-series range, with deliveries anticipated in the middle of next year.

He also finds time to study JCB’s latest addition to its Loadall range, in the form of the new compact 530-60 Agri Super. 

There’s a quick look a Horsch’s new Xeric 14FS fertiliser spreader, “designed for high-output, accurate applications using a wide range of fertiliser products, with boom widths of 36m and 48m”.

And then there is Makita’s first cordless air compressor…


If a picture speaks a thousand words, then this year’s Farmers Weekly Harvest Photography Competition is a veritable magnum opus, with more than 1,600 brilliant entries received.

Selecting an overall winner was not easy, but the judges finally settled for a stunning shot by Jacob Dennis from Cambridgeshire.

It shows his brother Joshua driving the New Holland TF78 combine and Joshua’s partner Kate grain carting during their first-ever harvest as council farm tenants in Cambridgeshire.

The image graces this week’s print front cover.

And if you’re in the mood for more photography, then our annual competition for amateur photographers, covering eight categories, opens next week. Check next week’s magazine for details.

The results will be shared in our Christmas double issue on 15 December. 

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Ric Flair looks unrecognizable as the ‘Nature Boy’ posts a photo from his high school prom: ‘I’ve always been a handsome son of a b****’

  • Ric Flair sported a white tux and bowtie to his prom more than 50 years ago
  • And some fans even joked that he looked like a popular ‘Karate Kid’ character
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Ric Flair has shared a photo from his high school prom, and the wrestling legend looks unrecognizable in his younger days.

Flair can be seen with a full head of blonde hair, a white tux and a youthful smile as he posed next to his date.

Given that the photo was taken at his senior prom, it’s about 56 years old as Flair is now 74.

He captioned the snap, ‘Throwback To My Senior Prom! I’ve Always Been A Handsome Son Of A B****! Stylin’ & Profilin’ For Decades! WOOOOO! #ThrowbackThursday.’

Multiple fans joked that Flair resembled Johnny Lawrence from ‘The Karate Kid.’

Ric Flair shared a picture from his high school prom to his Instagram last week

Flair is now 74 years old following a legendary wrestling career in his younger days

Flair’s fans joked that he resembled Johnny Lawrence from ‘The Karate Kid’ in the old snap

Flair recently appeared on comedy show ‘Kill Tony’ as a judge. 

Last month, Flair broke the news of Terry Funk’s passing on social media, posting, ‘In My Entire Life, I’ve Never Met A Guy Who Worked Harder.

‘Terry Funk Was A Great Wrestler, Entertainer, Unbelievably Fearless, And A Great Friend!

‘Rest In Peace My Friend Terry Funk Knowing That No One Will Ever Replace You In The World Of Professional Wrestling!’

Lafayette youth nature program lands program expansion grant – Boulder Daily Camera

The nonprofit Great Outdoors Colorado has awarded $371,000 to the Nature Kids/Jóvenes de la Naturaleza program in Lafayette, enabling it to provide more opportunities to access nature and the outdoors.

The NKJN, with help from Lafayette, provides year-round nature exploration for underrepresented Lafayette youth and families. The additional funding will allow the NKJN to focus on family engagement, expand youth programs and to provide support to families.

NKJN will also expand its Spanish bilingual and internship programs, while continuing to help break down barriers preventing some families from program participation such as language, transportation and accessibility.

The funding is part of GOCO’s Generation Wild program which helps introduce Colorado communities to nature. More information is available at

Second Nature Brands in Madison Heights to Acquire Sahale Snacks for $34M

Second Nature Brands has agreed to acquire Sahale Snacks from J.M. Smucker Co. for $34 million. // Photo courtesy of Second Nature Brands

Madison Heights-based Second Nature Brands has agreed to acquire Sahale Snacks in Seattle from J.M. Smucker Co. for $34 million.

With net sales of more than $48 million, Sahale is a leading manufacturer and marketer of premium, branded nut, and fruit snack mixes sold across the U.S. and internationally under the Sahale Snacks brand.

The transaction will include all trademarks, as well as the Sahale Snacks leased manufacturing facility in Seattle. Approximately 100 employees will transition to Second Nature Brands on completion of the deal.

Second Nature Brands owns a growing portfolio of leading brands including: Kar’s Nuts, Second Nature Snacks, Sanders, and Brownie Brittle.

The acquisition of Sahale Snacks follows Second Nature Brands’ purchase of Brownie Brittle in December 2022, and forms part of the company’s plans to accelerate the growth of the business and position Second Nature Brands as a U.S. leader in snacks and treats.

“Sahale Snacks adds a fantastic super-premium product to our range, considerably broadens our snack mix and nut portfolio, and unlocks significant new opportunities for us to help grow the category, which we are very excited about,” says Victor Mehren, CEO of Second Nature Brands.

“On completion, we look forward to welcoming 100 new colleagues to the Second Nature Brands team and (we) see significant opportunity to build on their success to date to drive innovation, brand penetration, and growth.”

The transaction is anticipated to close in the third quarter of The J.M. Smucker Co. current fiscal year, ending April 30, 2024, subject to customary closing conditions.

Stunning image of dramatic card game wins world’s biggest photo competition

The winners of the world’s largest photography competition, the CEWE Photo Award, were announced at the Photopia festival in Hamburg, Germany, last week.

Ariani Dikye won the People category and was also crowned overall winner – no mean feat considering that there were a total of 509,612 entries to the competition, celebrating the theme ‘Our world is beautiful’, from across the world.

The winners were selected by a new jury for 2023, which featured seven members chosen for their photo expertise and different perspectives, and was chaired by world-renowned Swiss fashion and nature photographer Michel Comte.

“The ‘Our world is beautiful‘ motto is such an inspiration for me,“ said Ariani, who won a holiday of her choice worth €15,000, €7,500 of photography equipment and €2,500 of CEWE products.

“The beauty of the world can be seen in so many different forms in life. The people, environment and animals are the things that add beauty in life – especially people because they have emotions and make the world smile.

“Basically, the beauty is all around us. All we have to do is just look around and will find it. I always try to see the beauty in so many things that I see around me. So I always think that the world is a beautiful place.”

Ariani‘s image froze a moment where people were meeting to play cards in a village in Bogor, Indonesia.

Click here to go to the competition homepage.

About the competition

The Cewe Photo Award is the world’s largest photography competition – for every photo entered, Cewe donates 10 cents to SOS Children’s Villages worldwide, meaning the charity will receive €50,961 ($54,000/£44,200) this year.

Open to everyone from keen amateur photographers to established professionals, the competition aims to celebrate the best in photography across the globe.

The category winners receive €5,000 worth of photography equipment and €2,500 worth of CEWE products. Those placed 11th–30th receive €2,500 worth of photography equipment and €1,000 worth of CEWE products. In addition, those who are placed 31st–1000th receive a £100 CEWE voucher.

There are 10 categories that budding photographers can enter – from aerial shots and animals to landscapes, cooking and food, highlighting the true beauty of our world.

“This year’s winner conveys an authentic glimpse into everyday life in Indonesia with her magnificent shot,“ said Thomas Mehls, CEWE Board Member.

“At the same time, she succeeds in capturing the beauty of the moment. Her motif perfectly reflects the motto of the CEWE Photo Award: ‘Our world is beautiful.’

“We are once again delighted by the unbroken enthusiasm for photography, which has repeatedly made the CEWE Photo Award the world’s largest photo competition.

“Furthermore, we are once again able to actively support SOS Children’s Villages worldwide with a significant donation of over €50,000.”

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La Jolla biologist connects people to nature through photography and travel

In the pre-dawn hours of a mid-September morning, biologist, photographer and environmental advocate Nigella Hillgarth woke up in a tent surrounded by acacia trees in the African Savanna.

Hillgarth, a La Jolla resident, is as at-home in Kenya as by the ocean. She retired to La Jolla in 2018, after having living there from 2002 to 2014, when she was executive director of Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She also holds a remote post as an affiliate professor and research scientist at the University of Washington.

Hillgarth spends a great deal of time traveling, with her international trips encompassing both business and pleasure.

Her recent African adventure was a photographic safari with a small group. “First light appears as I drink a cup of coffee and pack my cameras for the day,” Hillgarth said. “Early morning is my favorite part of the day, before it gets too hot and many animals are out and light for photography is good.”

They camped in the Southern Masai Mara, and were off by 6 a.m. most mornings, looking for lions, leopards and other animals.

“For a biologist like myself, African animals are fascinating. There are still so many large wild animals living free in their natural habitat, and living and interacting in the same way they have for thousands, if not millions of years,” Hillgarth said. “As a photographer, it is a great place to go to get wonderful shots and the light can be amazing.”

An image captured by Nigella Hillgarth while in the Masai Mara of Africa.

(Provided by Nigella Hillgarth)

She said that the groups take photos until the heat of the day, when they retire back to camp, venturing out again in the evenings for a few more hours.

Despite being retired, Hillgarth still strives to connect people to the natural world, and lets others know what can be done to protect it in the face of habitat loss, pollution and the shifting climate. She combines her photography and science background to develop shows, which help teach the public about environmental issues.

Although she had been to East Africa before, Hillgarth’s current venture is her first visit to Kenya. In January, she will travel to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, departing from the southern tip of Argentina.

“This will be my fifth trip to Antarctica and I can’t wait to go back,” she said. “Antarctica is full of color and sound and life.” She described the sunsets as “the best I have ever seen,” the penguins as “delightful” and the icebergs and glaciers as “incredible.”

In late July, Hillgarth will travel to the Arctic, to Svalbard, the Greenland Sea and Iceland. The following October she will visit the Seychelles in East Africa.

Before returning to La Jolla from Kenya, she plans to take a trip to Ireland for a few days. There, she will visit friends and stay at a small cottage she has there, in Tipperary on Lough Derg, near Nenagh, next to where she was born and grew up.

Hillgarth’s hometown nurtured her love of animals and nature during her upbringing.

So much so that when Hillgarth was 5, she went around her house saying “I am an animal lover, I am an animal lover” over and over again, and “I really haven’t changed,” she said.

An Oxford University graduate, she received her master’s degree in zoology and doctoral degree in animal behavior. She specialized in the behavior and physiology of pheasants, and conducted research in Britain, India and Thailand.

She later became the executive director of the Tracy Aviary, the nation’s largest bird park, in Salt Lake, Utah, then the president and CIO of the New England Aquarium in Boston, before landing at Birch Aquarium.

Of all the places Hillgarth has traveled, she is always happy to come back home.

“What is not to like about La Jolla? It has so much history for the area, and great institutions such as Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, the Salk Institute and several others,” she said, and praised the friendly people, great atmosphere, restaurants and stores, and the fantastic weather.

“And of course, the ocean is simply wonderful,” Hillgarth said. “What better place is there to retire?”

Hillgarth’s work can be seen at

People in Your Neighborhood shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send an email to [email protected]. ◆