Tag: inspiration

The details: Just one drop

Deep purple bud with water drop

Just one drop of water pooling at the lower curve of this bud, gathering and reflecting its plummy color.

Then there’s the way the sunlight gives the leaves a waxy-looking finish.

This, by the way, is just a little bit of the glory that abounds at Longwood Gardens.

Because the details make all the difference between “What?” and “Wow!”

The details: Painters on the Brooklyn Bridge cables, 1914

These men are standing (and/or lounging) somewhere between 119 and 276 feet above the East River…if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say around 200 feet.*

Painters on the Brooklyn Bridge Suspender Cables-October 7, 1914

Flickr, courtesy of the Museum of Photographic Arts

The Brooklyn Bridge was finished in 1883, so this photo must have come from a later re-painting. Two things are particularly neat about this picture:

  1. You get a look at how this massive suspension bridge is held together (click through for a larger image).
  2. You get a sense of scale, given how the men are posed along the cables. The distance between cables might be hard to judge from the ground, but with the men standing and sitting along them, it’s much easier to guess — and be impressed.

I was inspired to look for Brooklyn Bridge photos by a book I’m currently reading: David McCullough’s The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Great Bridge is a captivating read, chronicling both the human drama of the project and the physical construction of the bridge. I got interested in it because I had often wondered how the foundations of bridges are built in living, moving water.

*The bridge towers rose 276 feet above the river, and the roadway was 119 feet above the river (see McCullough, p. 224). These men are obviously well above the roadway — and much higher up than I’d be comfortable! (Though not quite as vertigo-inducing as the iconic “Lunch atop a Skyscraper” photo)

The details: Illumination

The Last Gospel illumination

Delicate paintings of insects and flowers illuminate the Last Gospel passage from the Gospel of John, in this fifteenth- or sixteenth-century manuscript. I would just as readily expect these drawings in a contemporaneous book of science, with the different parts of bug or bloom carefully labeled.

Reflection off the body and translucent wings:

The Last Gospel illumination, detail
Antennae and fringed petals:

The Last Gospel illumination, detail

Image source.

Because the details can make the difference between “What?” and “Wow!”

The details: Apollo 13 splashdown

Celebrating Apollo 13's splashdown



The details are hidden in the context of this photo (Source: NASA) from the mission control room of the Apollo 13 expedition. Because, really, there’s nothing particularly striking about this photo. A line-up of men in largely identical outfits cheering, applauding, and lighting cigars. The kind of image that you could flip right past.

But these men are celebrating for good reason: The Apollo 13 astronauts have just splashed down, safely back on Earth.

With that knowledge, the imagination sparks. How many anxious, lung-crushing hours have these men suffered as they worked to get the astronauts of Apollo 13 home? (Not to mention the anxiety of the astronauts themselves!) How much helplessness did they feel, separated by so many impassable miles? How much worry over whether, after all the crew had been through, they would actually make it home safely? All those nightmares wiped out by jubilation.

Because the details make all the difference between “What?” and “Wow!”

The details: Immortalizing a dragonfly

Dragonfly diplacodes trivialis

Dragonfly diplacodes trivialis by Joydeep (JDP90). Source: Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 3.0

Look at the lace of the wings, the fine detail on the hairs on the legs and head. This whole photo has a remarkable crispness and texture. If you click through and view the largest image size, you can even see the fine lines in the eyeballs.

Because the details make all the difference between “What?” and “Wow!”

The details: Antarctica 1912

Antarctica 1912

Map of Antarctica, 1912 (detail). Source: Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress

Interrupting this 1912 map’s vast white stretch of “unerforschetes gebiet” (“unexplored territory”) is one journey—that of Ernest Shackleton, who made it deep into Antarctica in January of 1909.

Shackleton's 1909 journey to Antarctica

This was not the expedition for which we now remember Shackleton, but an earlier one. Interestingly, though Shackleton’s is the name immortalized on the map, the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen beat him to the South Pole itself. Amundsen “was the first to reach the South Pole on Dec. 14, 1911” (polardiscover.whoi.edu).

Map of Antarctica, 1912

Map of Antarctica, 1912

Click through to see the full-size image and sites of other Antarctic exploration (if you happen to be able to read German, you’ll be in particularly good shape).

Because the details make all the difference between “What?” and “Wow!”

The Details: Turtle Eye


Turtle eye

Why, hello there.

I was lucky enough to arrive home as this guy (gal?) was crossing the driveway.

Look at the way the color travels almost perfectly from the turtle’s skin across its eye, and across all those textures. That’s the kind of detail I swoon over—both in nature and in design.

Also, if anyone knows what kind of turtle this is, give a shout out in the comments.

Always keep in mind your dream. Get as close to it as you can. Then be patient. You never know what doors will open up.


Richard Bolles, What Color is Your Parachute? 2013 edition

Food for the imagination

These photos were too magnificent not to share. Click through for full-sized images.

Space Shuttle Atlantis pre-launch

Space Shuttle Atlantis the day before launch

The rich colors, the contrast of light and dark, that wonderful reflection.

Space Shuttle Atlantis launches

Space Shuttle Atlantis launches on its final mission

The column of brightness, the upward movement of the shuttle and the outward billowing of smoke. The people who dream this venture up, then make it happen—that is creativity and determination.

An equation for opportunity

A current Nissan commercial advertises the fastest way to a promotion:

3-sentence summary: An executive has a big meeting. His car reservation has fallen through, but our hero, Daniel from Accounts, offers the executive a ride. In the course of the 33-second commercial, Daniel goes from being just some guy in Accounts to being VP of Accounts.

While the commercial is partly a comedy of errors, its basic narrative makes an excellent point: Daniel wins a great opportunity (he joins the executive for the meeting, after all) because he is available and because he has the qualifications to take advantage of his availability. It’s part of the allure of the commercial, an it’s a reminder that’s always in season.

Here’s how it breaks down.

Available + Qualified = Opportunity

  • Available. Daniel is willing and able to help out when the need arises. He doesn’t even need to be asked—he volunteers. If we want tomorrow to be different than today, we have to show up. We have to demonstrate that we’re willing to assist.
  • Qualified. Daniel has not only the bare minimum of what it takes to help out (a car), but ample qualifications (a really great car, so the commercial tells us). He makes an impression. We can build our own qualifications by obtaining relevant certifications, gaining competence with a new software program, or pursuing whatever else may be pertinent to our particular aspirations and circumstances.
  • Opportunity. Together, Daniel’s availability and his qualifications produce a singular opportunity. Note, however, that he saw the opportunity and took action. We, too, owe it to ourselves to keep our eyes open and be ready to act.

I had many encounters with this equation while working for a nonprofit, where the budget didn’t make many allowances for, well, anything. For me, that meant an abundance of opportunities. I was available, I was willing to work hard, and I was capable of doing the work well. In only a few years, I went from intern to magazine editor.

Because this isn’t math, it’s not a guarantee. We may not get that one opportunity that we want more than any other, but we have a much greater chance of obtaining it if we’re available and qualified. And who knows what unexpected adventures we might have along the way?