Visual Inspiration: Ruins Don’t Need to Be Grey and Dull

Ruins and abandoned places are often seen as plain and boring. Granted, the color of untreated, inexpensive rock (which the majority of surviving buildings tend to be made from) often isn’t anything to write home about. But in our fiction, ruined areas don’t need to be austere and grim. You can even find real-life ruins in a variety of styles for inspiration.

For example, houses in Herculaneum famously featured colorful mosaics and painted murals. In addition, paint was generously applied elsewhere, like these pillars and external wall from House of the Relief of Telephus show:

Flickr Andy Hay Herculaneum

In Sanzhi, Taipei County, Taiwan, clusters of colorful pod houses or UFO houses once stood:

Flickr mingshah Sanzhi Pod Houses

It’s not always humans who have applied the color onto the ruins either. At the ancient Maya site called Bonampak or Ak’e, in the Chiapas area, Mexico, strikingly orange lichen is taking over building facades:

Flickr Carsten ten Brink Bonampak

(Check out the Bonampak Wikipedia article for a stunning relief carving and a painted mural!)

In Dutch photographer Roman Robroek’s shots we can see that a ruin definitely need not be grey, blocky, and boring. Partly overrun by nature could mean an almost orderly takeover, like in the photo of a Gothic-style former chapel built at the end of 19th century, below:

Robroek Former Gothic Chapel Sm

Beautiful, brightly colored arches among rubble from the childhood house of Lebanese singer Fairuz (who was born in 1934) in Beirut form a striking contrast to the greenery outside:

Robroek Arches House of Fairuz

Finally, a still strikingly turquoise—if peeling—underside of a round staircase:

Robroek Blue Staircase Sm

It vaguely reminds me of peacock feathers! I wish the photographer gave us a little more information about the history of this place. Browse more via Colossal or at Robroek’s website.

Since they exist in real life, I would be delighted to read about vibrantly colored and visually striking abandoned places in my genre fiction, too.

Images: Herculaneum by Andy Hay via Flickr (CC BY2.0). Sanzhi Pod Houses by mingshah via Flickr. Bonampak by Carsten ten Brink via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Images by Roman Robroek: Former chapel. Arches at the house of Fairuz. Blue staircase.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Living in the Science-Fictional Now: Photos from Another Planet Are Trivial

One of the astounding things about living right now is the sheer amount of scientific knowledge and technical skills humanity has gained in the past 100 years or so alone.

These days it’s trivial, for example, to get high-quality photos from a neighboring planet brought to your personal device.

(Ok, it’s not truly trivial in the strictest sense since so many steps and technologies are involved, but at the same time: Photos. From another planet. Automatically delivered. Via the Internet. Which many (if not most) of us in the West have casual access to. Pretty much daily! So yes. Trivial.)

Specifically, I’m talking about the Persevererance Imgage Bot on Twitter. It’s a project by computer engineer Niraj Sanghvi. He has automated image tweeting mostly from NASA/JPL-Caltech sources for an impressive, ever-growing collection.

The photos are purely functional, of course, helping the rover to operate, but some are also quite interesting as photographs. Below are some recent favorite shots.

Twitter PersevereImgBot Rock and Sand
Twitter PersevereImgBot Hilly Landscape
Twitter PersevereImgBot SkyCam and Stars
Twitter PersevereImgBot Smooth Sand

(Click on the image source links below to find more about each photo.)

As a bonus, here’s a short video of a Martian solar eclipse by the moon Phobos taken by Perseverance:

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Sees Solar Eclipse on Mars by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory on YouTube

Cool. Cool, cool, cool. 🙂

Images by NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU via PersevereImgBot on Twitter: Rock and sand. Hilly landscape. SkyCam with stars. Smooth sand.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Living Vicariously Through Social Media: Polar Bears Taking Over Abandoned Buildings

In September 2021, Photographer Dmitry Kokh visited the currently unoccupied Kolyuchin Island in the Chukchi Sea between Russia and Alaska, and documented some of the wildlife there. A bunch of polar bears seem to have settled in the abandoned buildings of a former Russian weather station.

Colossal Dmitry Kokh Kolyuchin Island Three Polar Bears

You can see the bears casually stroll in between the houses, and apparently even spend time inside the buildings, often peeking out of the glassless windows. Astounding!

See more of Kokh’s photos at his site or in Colossal.

Image by Dmitry Kokh via Colossal

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Living Vicariously Through Social Media: Herons in Amsterdam

Would you ever have thought large birds could live in cities? I would’ve found it a stretch on the basis of my experience, but apparently in Amsterdam in the Netherlands there is a large urban population of herons. Photographer Julie Hrudová has been documenting them, and the photos are very arresting.

Julie Hrudova Herons Amsterdam on Roofs

Some of the birds seem to be getting quite bold:

Julie Hrudova Herons Amsterdam Indoors Sm

Fascinating, isn’t it? Also, the pictures gives me all sorts of ideas for secondary worldbuilding. I could easily imagine semi-domesticated herons in a story, rather like the reindeer in Lapland.

Found via Colossal.

Images: On roofs by Julie Hrudová. Indoors by Julie Hrudová via Colossal.

The Visual Inspiration occasional feature pulls the unusual from our world to inspire design, story-telling, and worldbuilding. If stuff like this already exists, what else could we imagine?

Living Vicariously Through Social Media: 60 Seconds of Mars

While aimlessly browsing social media, I stumbled upon a 60-second video clip from Mars. Below’s a screencap, since I was unable to find a video to embed:

Twitter NASA360 60 Seconds of Mars

(Sorry for not including more details of the area; the NASA Twitter account didn’t provide any, and I can’t find a corresponding video on their YouTube account or website, either. Perhaps it’s from Curiosity?)

Isn’t it amazing, when you think about it, that we as a species have not only sent multiple vehicles to space, but our technology is good enough that we have high-definition photography from the surface of our neighboring planet that we can just casually scroll through. And not just Mars, but the outer solar system as well.

(This video of Cassini’s grand finale at Saturn seems to have been computer-generated on the basis of Cassini photos, so not really qualify for the high-def photography category, but it’s very pretty nevertheless.)

Not bad for ugly bags of mostly water, eh? It is a very good time to be a space geek. 🙂

Found via NASA 360 on Twitter.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

A Striking Greek Gods Photoshoot

Here’s a beautiful new imagining of the Greek gods, “20 Dioses y Diosas para 2020,” photographed by Ana Martinez and styled by Mario Ville. This photoshoot combines ancient ideas, modern fashion, and imaginative graphics with Black models taking the roles of the gods. You can see the full set of photos at N20.

A few of my favorites:

Juana Mum as Hera

Lewis Amarante as Poseidon

Ruben Baika as Apollo

I appreciate how these images combine classic symbols such as Apollo’s lyre and Poseidon’s trident with modern dress and accents. I wish the artists had chosen to use color for the clothing rather than just white, since ancient images of the gods were brightly colored, not the plain white marble we are used to seeing now, but there’s no denying how strikingly the white garb sets of the models’ dark skin. I also enjoy seeing versions of some of the less well-known gods like Hestia, goddess of the hearth, and Eris, goddess of discord.

This photoshoot is another example of how effectively the ancient Greeks crafted their mythology and its visual language in ways to be flexible enough to allow for many new interpretations and to be accessible to a broad and diverse audience.

Images by Ana Martinez via Neo2

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Happy Belated Birthday, Hubble!

Oh my goodness, the Hubble telescope has turned 30 years!

NASA Large Magellanic Cloud Apr 2020 Sm

More specifically, it’s been operating, up there in Earth orbit, for 30 years. It was projected to be in service only about 10 years when it launched on April 24, 1990, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Impressive.

Read more at the NASA website:

Happy belated birthday, Hubble! Thank you for all of the space pics you’ve sent down.

Found via File 770.

Image: Large Magellanic Cloud, a vast star-forming region composed of the giant red nebula (NGC 2014) and its smaller blue neighbor (NGC 2020), by NASA / ESA / STScl via NASA

Living Vicariously Through Social Media: Firefall at Yosemite

Each February, if conditions allow the seasonal Horsetail waterfall in Yosemite National Park in California to flow, the waterfall appears to be set ablaze by the setting sun. This event is known as the firefall (apparently as homage to Yosemite Firefall).

Flickr Jay Huang Firefall Yosemite National Park

Just stunning! Why hasn’t anyone put this kind of an effect into a story yet—or have I just missed it? Anyone know???

Image by Jay Huang via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Slavic Pagan Fusion Photoshoot Is Out of This World

This photo project is an older one, but due to the buzz generated by The Witcher screen adaptation it might be of interest.

(FYI: I can’t find a webpage dedicated solely to the project, so what I know mainly comes from an article at Design You Trust.)

Polish photographer and graphic designer Marcin Nagraba collaborated with designer Agnieszka Osipa to create a photoshoot entitled Pagan Poetry. Stylistically it can be described as Slavic fusion meets myth, fantasy, or Baroque. Osipa’s outfits certainly are out of this world—just check out the three examples below!

FB Marcin Nagraba See No Evil

FB Marcin Nagraba White and Red

FB Marcin Nagraba Alberta Ushakova

Nagraba’s personal Facebook page states he’s a “Former Photographer at Marcin Nagraba – Photography & Art”, so it sounds like he will not be continuing this project. Osipa is active, however, and she’s posting new work on Instagram and Facebook.

Found via Design You Trust. Check out the article and Nagraba’s Facebook page for more photos!

Images by Marcin Nagraba via Facebook: See No Evil, red and white, Alberta Ushakova.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.