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Four Feline Photographers

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Yesterday I read about a documentary film that debuted at the SXSW Film Festival in which the cinematographer was a cat. The item jogged my memory, as I had posted about this same cat back in 2007. He's not the only cat who takes pictures, so let's meet several cats who record their feline adventures in images and video.

1. Mr. Lee

German engineer Jürgen Perthold has a tomcat named Mr. Lee. As tomcats will do, Mr. Lee disappeared as soon as he was allowed outside and didn't come back until he wanted to. Perthold wondered what he did all day in his South Carolina neighborhood, and as you would expect from an engineer, he figured out a way to find out. He attached a camera to Mr. Lee's collar and set it to snap a photo every couple of minutes.

The results were a fascinating look at the world as a cat sees it: Mr. Lee looked at other cats, birds, and other wildlife, and kept an eye on things from underneath various cars. Perthold kept working on the camera device. He designed a harness that would break away under pressure, which puts the camera at risk, but makes the gadget safer for the cat. He added video capability and a GPS tracker. Perthold sells these devices and kits if you'd like to make your own version. He is working on a version that can send a live video feed. The gallery page for Mr. Lee's photographs also shows some of Perthold's customers sporting their CatCams -mostly cats, but also a dog and cow.

While Perthold focused on the engineering aspects of the CatCam, everyone else was fascinated with Mr. Lee's photographs, which were first posted in 2007. Filmmaker Seth Keal produced a 15-minute documentary on Mr. Lee and his photographic activities called CatCam. It premiered last Saturday at the SXSW Film Festival.

2. Cooper

Michael and Deirdre Cross of Seattle were also curious about what their cat, Cooper, did all day, so they rigged him with a camera to capture what he observed. While Perthold the engineer focused on the technical aspects of the CatCam, the Crosses are filmmakers, so they were more impressed with the beauty of the photographs that Cooper came home with. It made them take a closer look at the meaning of photographic art.

"If my cat can take photos prettier than what we've taken, what is art? It asks a lot about the intention behind art and how it's interpreted," Michael Cross said.

Cooper wore the camera one day a week for a year. The project led to an appearance on Cats 101, a series on the Animal Planet network. Some of his best photographs were exhibited at the Urban Light Studios in Seattle in 2009.

Cooper's photographs are also in a book he authored along with Michael and Deirdre Cross called Cat Cam: The World of Cooper the Photographer Cat. Cooper branched out into cinematography with a collar-mounted video camera, which landed him a spot on the Animal Planet show Must Love Cats. You can follow the further adventures of Cooper on his blog and on Facebook.

3. Fritz

German artist Ramona Markstein purchased a CatCam from Jürgen Perthold in 2007 and attached it to her cat Fritz. After a few bugs were worked out, Fritz came home with a set of 200 pictures! Fritz only uses the CatCam twice a week. You can see photographs spanning several years in Fritz's gallery.

Fritz obviously has an eye for nature. Many of his best pictures are of interesting plants, but he also shoots humans and other cats.

4. Leo

Fran Hurcomb is an artist and photographer in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Her cat Leo wandered far from home on occasion and Hurcomb was a little concerned. She was looking for a GPS device to attach to Leo when she found Perthold's CatCam site. Leo was outfitted with the camera, and Hurcomb and her friends in Yellowknife eagerly awaited his return each day so they could see where he'd been.

Hurcomb said there were shots underneath cars, fences, and other hangouts of a cat. She would even hear about kids from the neighbourhood picking up Leo and smiling into the camera for long durations until both Leo's and their patience reached its max.

Hurcomb assembled some of the best pictures and exhibited them at the Down to Earth Gallery. You can see Leo's pictures at Flickr.

More Cat Photographers

In 2009, animal behavior specialist Dr. Jill Villarreal attached cameras to 50 selected house cats for Friskies to document what an average cat does when it's out and about. That project was expanded in 2010 when another 25 cats were selected to carry video cameras. You can see the results of that project in the film Cat Dairies.

See also: Five Fantastic Felines and Five Famous Felines.

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Courtesy of Nikon
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science
Microscopic Videos Provide a Rare Close-Up Glimpse of the Natural World
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Courtesy of Nikon

Nature’s wonders aren’t always visible to the naked eye. To celebrate the miniature realm, Nikon’s Small World in Motion digital video competition awards prizes to the most stunning microscopic moving images, as filmed and submitted by photographers and scientists. The winners of the seventh annual competition were just announced on September 21—and you can check out the top submissions below.

FIRST PRIZE

Daniel von Wangenheim, a biologist at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, took first place with a time-lapse video of thale cress root growth. For the uninitiated, thale cress—known to scientists as Arabidopsis thalianais a small flowering plant, considered by many to be a weed. Plant and genetics researchers like thale cress because of its fast growth cycle, abundant seed production, ability to pollinate itself, and wild genes, which haven’t been subjected to breeding and artificial selection.

Von Wangenheim’s footage condenses 17 hours of root tip growth into just 10 seconds. Magnified with a confocal microscope, the root appears neon green and pink—but von Wangenheim’s work shouldn’t be appreciated only for its aesthetics, he explains in a Nikon news release.

"Once we have a better understanding of the behavior of plant roots and its underlying mechanisms, we can help them grow deeper into the soil to reach water, or defy gravity in upper areas of the soil to adjust their root branching angle to areas with richer nutrients," said von Wangenheim, who studies how plants perceive and respond to gravity. "One step further, this could finally help to successfully grow plants under microgravity conditions in outer space—to provide food for astronauts in long-lasting missions."

SECOND PRIZE

Second place went to Tsutomu Tomita and Shun Miyazaki, both seasoned micro-photographers. They used a stereomicroscope to create a time-lapse video of a sweating fingertip, resulting in footage that’s both mesmerizing and gross.

To prompt the scene, "Tomita created tension amongst the subjects by showing them a video of daredevils climbing to the top of a skyscraper," according to Nikon. "Sweating is a common part of daily life, but being able to see it at a microscopic level is equal parts enlightening and cringe-worthy."

THIRD PRIZE

Third prize was awarded to Satoshi Nishimura, a professor from Japan’s Jichi Medical University who’s also a photography hobbyist. He filmed leukocyte accumulations and platelet aggregations in injured mouse cells. The rainbow-hued video "provides a rare look at how the body reacts to a puncture wound and begins the healing process by creating a blood clot," Nikon said.

To view the complete list of winners, visit Nikon’s website.

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Department of the Interior. Office of Indian Affairs. Fort Totten Agency. 1903-1947, National Archives and Records Administration
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History
Help the National Archives Tag Photos of Life on Native American Reservations
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Department of the Interior. Office of Indian Affairs. Fort Totten Agency. 1903-1947, National Archives and Records Administration

The National Archives needs your help. The federal agency is looking for volunteer archivists to make its collections of photography from life on Native American reservations more accessible via online searches.

Volunteers will tag these historic photos of reservation life, taken in the early- and mid-20th century by photographers from federal agencies like the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Citizen archivists can generate searchable tags by identifying the people, places, and activities shown in the images. It helps if you have a bit of insider knowledge and can recognize individuals or the locations where the images were shot, but non-experts can lend a hand by labeling what's happening in the photos.

Corn dries in front of a log cabin.
Department of the Interior. Office of Indian Affairs. Fort Totten Agency. 1903-1947, National Archives and Records Administration

The collections span everything from images of 4-H participants from 1933 to photos of locations you can no longer see, such as parts of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota that were flooded by the construction of a dam in the late 1940s, causing the tribes who lived there to lose 94 percent of their agricultural land. Tagging these photos makes these vital documentations of reservation life more accessible to the public and to scholars.

Previously, the National Archives has solicited regular folks for other digitization projects, including transcribing declassified documents that included records from UFO sightings and tagging a congressional cookbook.

To participate, start with the National Archives' email newsletter, which contains some ideas for which collections to start on. You can register as a "citizen archivist" on archives.gov.

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