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the Big Picture

Archive for January 2013

January 30, 2013 Permalink

Brazil nightclub fire

Families started burying their dead and protesters marched through the streets in the wake of the devastating Kiss nightclub fire that killed more than 230 people in Santa Maria, Brazil, last weekend. A band's pyrotechnics show, which police said used flares meant for outdoors, has been blamed for setting the windowless building ablaze trapping many clubgoers inside as they fled through a single, overcrowded exit. -- Lloyd Young (28 photos total)

A woman cries during a protest against the deaths from the fire at the Kiss nightclub in the southern city of Santa Maria, Brazil, on Jan. 29. The fire killed more than 230 people in Santa Maria early on Sunday when a band's pyrotechnics show set the building ablaze and fleeing partygoers stampeded toward blocked and overcrowded exits in the ensuing panic, officials said. (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)
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January 28, 2013 Permalink

Mali endures in conflict

Since The Big Picture last visited Mali, the country has slipped further toward chaos, with Islamist rebels taking large swaths of the north of the country. Attempts by rebels to move south toward the capital Bamako prompted the intervention of France, which has supplied troops and carried out airstrikes. Charges of summary killings and other atrocities by the Malian military have clouded perceptions of the conflict. West African nations are seeking aid from the United Nations for a regional force to help France and the Malian government push back against the rebels. The military force appears to be working, although it is uncertain if rebels have been defeated, have fled, or have simply blended in with civilian populations. Gathered here are images (mostly in the south, where photographers are able to work) of the daily lives of Malians, portraits of civilians, and pictures of the increasing military presence. -- Lane Turner (41 photos total)

A man displays a Malian and a French flag in Bamako on January 20, 2013. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters)
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January 25, 2013 Permalink

China's Skies: Toxic levels of pollution

No country in history has become a major industrial power without creating a legacy of environmental damage. China is clearly not an exception. The speed and scale of China's rise has brought an unprecedented pollution problem. Public health is reeling. Pollution has made cancer China's leading cause of death according to the Ministry of Health. Ambient air pollution alone is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. The factories and spewing automobile engines recently caused hundreds of flights to be cancelled in and around Beijing. Stores are selling out of face masks and the government struggles to figure out this political challenge and provide relief of the long-term burden on its people. -- Paula Nelson ( 47 photos total)

A woman wears a mask as she does her morning exercise outdoors in Fuyang, Anhui province, Jan. 14, 2013. China's environmental watchdog has ordered greater efforts to issue early warnings for air quality. (China Daily/Reuters)
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January 23, 2013 Permalink

Afghanistan: January 2013

Our nation's presence in Afghanistan made its way back to the collective conscience last week when Afghan President Hamid Karzai appeared in a joint press conference with President Barack Obama. This post features a few images of daily life from late December and the first few weeks of January. Simple things - shelter, food - remain challenges for many of the Afghan people - displaced by years and years of conflict and war. -- Paula Nelson ( 30 photos total)

An Afghan woman stands to receive winter supplies at a UNHCR distribution center for needy refugees at the Women's Garden in Kabul, Jan. 2, 2013. Hundreds of families living in makeshift shelters around the Afghan capital collected blankets, charcoal and other supplies as authorities struggle to avoid last year's deadly winter toll. With temperatures dropping to -10 Celsius (14 Fahrenheit) at night in the city, the 35,000 refugees who live in the snow-covered camps face a battle to survive dire conditions protected only by plastic sheeting. Despite Afghanistan receiving billions of dollars of aid since 2001, more than 100 children died last year during the harshest winter in two decades. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images)
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January 18, 2013 Permalink

Maha Kumbh Mela

Held only once every twelve years, the cleansing ritual of the Maha Kumbh Mela sees up to a hundred million Hindu devotees symbolically bathe away their sins in the holy Ganges River. It is thought to be the largest gathering of humanity on earth. For 55 days devotees wade into the river to bathe, and join other religious observations on the banks of the Triveni Sangam, the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers. Various sadhu and sadhvi (holy men and women) abound. The Maha Kumbh Mela began this year on January 14, with preparations starting weeks earlier. [Editors' note: The Big Picture will not publish on Monday, January 21, as we observe the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. We will return on January 23 with regular posts.] -- Lane Turner (37 photos total)

Hindu devotees bathe in the waters of the holy Ganges river during the auspicious bathing day of Makar Sankranti of the Maha Kumbh Mela on January 14, 2013 in Allahabad, India. The Maha Kumbh Mela, believed to be the largest religious gathering on earth, is held every 12 years on the banks of Sangam, the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. The Kumbh Mela alternates between the cities of Nasik, Allahabad, Ujjain and Haridwar every three years. The Maha Kumbh Mela celebrated at the holy site of Sangam in Allahabad, is the largest and holiest. Celebrated over 55 days, it is expected to attract over 100 million people. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
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January 16, 2013 Permalink

Dakar Rally 2013

This year, racers in the Dakar Rally are more than halfway through their 8,000-mile journey. They travel via motorcycle, quad bike, car, or truck over extreme terrain in three countries in South America. Competitors and support crews come from more than 50 countries to challenge their mechanical, driving, and orienteering skills. The race kicked off in Lima on Jan. 5 and will wrap up this Sunday with the podium celebrations in Santiago, Chile. -- Lloyd Young (36 photos total)

Salvadoran Jorge Aguilar takes part in the sixth stage of Dakar Rally between Arica and Calama, Chile, on Jan. 10. (Felipe Trueba/European Pressphoto Agency)
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January 14, 2013 Permalink

Fashion weeks

For some, fashion is a corporate industry. For others, it's an artistic expression. And for still others, it's an embrace of cultural traditions. Fashion is a shallow pursuit in the eyes of many, and a deep embodiment of identity for others. Definitions of what is fashionable are myriad and contradictory, but the annual spectacle of the presentation and the scramble of the preparations endure long after this year's look is forgotten. Venues vary from a junkyard in Sao Paulo to the Royal Albert Hall in London. Creations from the absurd to the avant-garde by turns entertain, inspire, or pay homage. Gathered here are images from fall and winter shows both famous and obscure. -- Lane Turner (38 photos total)

Audience members watch a model during the J. Mendel Spring/Summer 2013 show at New York Fashion Week on September 12, 2012. By exposing for the darkened audience, the photographer overexposed the brightly lit model. (Andrew Burton/Reuters)
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January 11, 2013 Permalink

125 Years of National Geographic

I've been a fan of the photography and the stories featured in National Geographic Magazine since I was a child. I explored the world by simply turning the pages. It featured some of the most amazing and groundbreaking photography then and it's never stopped finding new ways to surprise. On January 13, 2013, the National Geographic Society will celebrate its 125th anniversary and its evolution from a small scientific body to one of the world's largest educational and scientific organizations committed to inspiring people to care about the planet. The Society has shared some images that represent those moments of discovery and will continue in its 126th year, to provide a front-row seat to what's happening at the extremes of exploration - bringing everyone along for the ride through its storytelling and photography. You can even "hangout" with some of it's more prominent explorers Jane Goodall, James Cameron and Robert Ballard, on the anniversary date, 1 p.m. EST -- Paula Nelson ( 23 photos total)

1909 | CANADA - National Geographic funded Cmdr. Robert E. Peary’s 1909 expedition to the North Pole. Whether Peary and his assistant, Matthew Henson, reached the Pole or not, they came closer to that goal than anyone before them. (Photo © Robert E. Peary Collection, NGS)
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January 9, 2013 Permalink

Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival 2013

The opening ceremonies for this year's Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival in Heilongjiang province in northeastern China were held earlier this week. The event, held since 1963, can last more than a month, depending on the weather, and attracts visitors from around the world who come to see the elaborate ice and snow sculptures. -- Lloyd Young (20 photos total)

People visit the Ice and Snow World at the opening ceremony of the 2013 Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, in northeast China's Heilongjiang province on Jan. 5. This year's "Ice and Snow World" features majestic ice castles and sculptures of fairytale characters equipped with LED lights, bringing a colorful and warm aura to the icy wonderland. (AFP/Getty Images)
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January 7, 2013 Permalink

2012 National Geographic Photography Contest Winners

The winners have been named in the 2012 National Geographic Photography contest. As a leader in capturing the world through brilliant imagery, National Geographic sets the standard for photographic excellence. This year's competition brought 22,000 entries from over 150 countries, professionals and amateurs participating. Photographs were submitted in three categories: people, places and nature; and entries judged on creativity and photographic quality by a panel of experts. There was a Grand Prize winner, a winner in each category and a collection of Viewer's Choice Winners as well. Enjoy. -- Paula Nelson ( 14 photos total)

Grand Prize Winner and 1st Place/Nature: THE EXPLOSION! - The subject's name is Busaba, a well cared for Indochinese Tigress whose home is at Khao Kheow Open Zoo, Thailand. I had taken many portraits of Busaba previously and it was becoming more and more difficult to come up with an image that appeared any different to the others. Which is why I took to observing her more carefully during my visits in the hope of capturing something of a behavioral shot. The opportunity finally presented itself while watching Busaba enjoying her private pool then shaking herself dry. In all humility I have to say that Mother Nature smiled favorably on me that day! (Photo and caption by Ashley Vincent/National Geographic Photo Contest)
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January 7, 2013 Permalink

Shadow and light

The components of the word "photography" are Greek in origin. Photography quite literally means "to write with light."  While light serves as noun, adjective, and verb for photographers, shadows complete their sentences in bold type. The qualities of light in a picture influence our perceptions of subjects by setting mood, revealing texture, and shading detail.  These qualities appear in countless varieties of light: the shaft of sunlight in a dark scene, the gentle bath of sidelight from a big window, the cold fade of dusk, the warm glow of a tungsten bulb or a late afternoon, the eerie pulse of an electronic screen, the candy splash of a neon sign, and the contrast of a backlit silhouette.  Shadows simplify, hide, and dramatize in an endless dance with illumination.  The pictures collected here are united not by theme, but by photographers writing with light. -- Lane Turner (42 photos total)

A vendor prepares rice to be donated to the poor on a roadside in Islamabad, Pakistan on November 1, 2012. (Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press)
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January 4, 2013 Permalink

Indian rape victim's death sparks outrage

Violent protests grew in India over the death of a young woman student who was raped in New Delhi in December by several men in a moving bus. She died from the injuries she received in the brutal attack resulting in severe internal injuries. She was cremated away from the public glare, but her case spoke loudly to the general population. Demonstrators are seeking action from a government that has long been at a loss as to how to deal with rape cases in Indian society. The men have been charged with murder and could face the death penalty. -- Paula Nelson ( 25 photos total)

Indian protesters hold banners during a rally in New Delhi, Dec. 30, 2012, following the cremation of a gangrape victim in the Indian capital. The victim of a gang-rape and murder which triggered an outpouring of grief and anger across India was cremated at a private ceremony, hours after her body was flown home from Singapore. The 23-year-old student, the focus of nationwide protests since she was brutally attacked on a bus in New Delhi two weeks ago, was cremated away from the public glare at the request of her parents. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
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January 2, 2013 Permalink

2013: Marking the New Year

Around the globe people celebrated with fireworks, kisses, toasts, cheers, and plunges into icy bodies of water to welcome the new year. Here's a look at how some of them marked the transition. -- Lloyd Young ( 39 photos total)

A woman celebrates the new year as she watches fireworks exploding above Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro on Jan. 1. More than two million people gathered along Rio's most famous beach to witness the 20-minute display and celebrate the beginning of a new year. (Pilar Olivares/Reuters)
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