The young French girl placed her most precious items in an elaborately decorated antique box — among them a personal letter, old coins, a sea shell, a compass and two glass negatives.
French photographer Matheiu Stern, who discovered the accidental time capsule earlier this year, used a vintage technique to develop the plates and reveal the images they contained: A photo of a small tabby cat posing on a door step, and another of the same tabby with a kitten and a gentle-looking dog.
The process Matheiu used is called cyanotype, and as its name implies, it renders everything in a blueish scale rather than grayscale or color. The process was popular for most of the 19th century before it gave way to newer and more accurate photography methods, but it was used long after that as a cheap method of reproducing architectural schematics, thus the name “blueprints.”
The photographs have the unmistakable hue of the process used to develop them, and show the people of the 19th century bonded with their cats just as we do.
They also prove that people have always loved taking photos of cats, and the ubiquity of cat images on the Internet was inevitable. Resistance always was futile:
As some of our readers know, I spent the first years of my professional career as a crime reporter, covering everything from murders to mall shooters, plane crashes and freak accidents.
One of the perks of the job — aside from seeing some truly crazy and bizarre things up close — was getting to work side-by-side with amazing photojournalists.
I watched how they handled themselves, what they were willing to do to get their shots and how they captured the essence of a story in just one or two frames.
It turns out photographing cats isn’t much different from capturing random moments of life. Our furry friends are unpredictable, they tend to shy away from the camera and they won’t wait for you to get the shot.
Some of this advice is general and some of it is cat-specific. I’m certainly no professional and I’m always learning, but I hope you can put some of the lessons I’ve learned to good use getting better shots of your own little buddies:
Let kitty forget about the camera
Cats are famously curious, and a shiny new thing must be investigated. As far as kitty is concerned, the best way to investigate is to pad right up to it, rub her cheeks against it, maybe bite the camera strap. You know, the standard stuff.
Let your cat do what she needs to do. If you don’t let her do her thing, the camera could become an item of intrigue, but let her sniff and bunt it a few times and she’ll quickly forget about it. A camera, after all, is clearly not as awesome as a cardboard box, a milk bottle cap or a treat.
When your cat decides to ignore your camera, you can start taking pictures. Which brings us to our next tip…
Distract the little ones with toys
Cats won’t pose for us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t nudge them toward particular actions or postures. Dangling a good wand toy or ball is a great way to get your cat to look at the camera or reach out. Want an action shot? Set a fast shutter speed and toss a ball or a bottle cap.
Catnip and treats, when used strategically, can also help you get the shot you want.
Use your smartphone for shots of opportunity
We’ve all been there: You’re sitting on your couch reading a book or watching a movie when you look over and realize your kitten looks adorable sleeping on his back, or your adult cat is striking a majestic pose…but you don’t have your camera.
The second you get up your cat is going to shift or get up to follow you, and the shot is gone.
For those fleeting opportunities keep your smartphone to hand and configure it so you can pull up the camera with a single button push: No passwords, no navigating to the app. Both iOS and Android can be configured to reach the camera quickly. (In most versions of iOS, for example, simply swipe from right to left on the lock screen to get the camera. In Android, double tap the power or home button.)
Below is one of my favorite photos of Buddy taken in a moment of opportunity with an iPhone. It may not be the kind of ultra-sharp image captured by a pro camera, but as one commenter put it, Buddy looks like he’s “radiating love.” I’d rather have a smartphone shot than no shot any day:
Choose the right setting
Unless they’re sprawled out in an ecstatic nip haze or curling up for a post-dinner nap, cats are usually moving. Unfortunately, your cat is not going to hold a pose for you while you fumble with the settings.
Whether you’re photographing a kitten with limitless energy or an adult who’s just doing his thing, you’re going to want a fast shutter speed — something in the neighborhood of 1/1,000 of a second to avoid blur and capture crisp images of motion.
If you’re not comfortable changing the settings manually, use the sports/motion preset on your camera.
Get up close, on the floor and use a proper zoom lens
Too many cat photos look like they could double as interior home photos that just happen to have a cat in them. If you’re shooting from eye height and your cat is a tiny smudge of fur in the center of the shot, you can do so much better.
Bring yourself down to your cat’s level and either shoot up close or use your zoom.
If you’re using a smartphone or a point-and-click, you’re going to want to get close because digital zoom is worthless: The camera doesn’t actually zoom, it simply displays the view at a larger size. You’re not capturing more detail. That’s why the quality decreases the more you “zoom” and the image becomes pixelated.
If you’re using a Canon, a Nikon or some other brand of dedicated camera, you have the advantage of a true optical zoom that does capture more detail. It can be useful for keeping your distance — and thus avoiding potentially distracting the cat — and for playing with perspective.
Shooting in ultra-HD JPG or RAW means you’re capturing more detail with each shot, giving you the option of heavily cropping photographs so your subject dominates the scene without degrading the image quality.
Here’s a raw photograph of Bud on my balcony with clutter in the background and uneaten treats on the ground that could be mistaken for turds or something, and the same image cropped close:
The cropped version puts the focus squarely on His Grace and cuts out most of the distracting junk. Along with a simple tweak to the color levels — giving definition to the shadows and creating better contrast — the photo is improved and its subject appear more vivid.
Don’t sweat imperfections
You may have noticed Buddy almost always has gunk in the corner of his eyes. (Just like humans, some cats produce more of it. It’s not a threat to his health.) He’s not fond of me trying to remove it. Early on I attempted to Photoshop the eye gunk out of his shots. Not only was it a lot of work, but it was very difficult to remove it without the photo looking wrong.
I decided to just let it go, thinking people would see it right away, but I’ve never even gotten a single question or comment about it. Nobody’s perfect, not even the Budster. (Shocking, I know.)
Avoid the temptation to go all Instagram-y with filters
There isn’t a camera app these days that doesn’t come loaded with Instagram-style filters to “improve” your photos. I strongly recommend resisting the urge to use them and instead take the time to learn how to filter your photos manually with Photoshop or a free alternative like the browser-based Photoshop clone, Pixlr.
The vast majority of Instagram-style filters are simply presets of the most extreme color, contrast and saturation sliders available. They degrade the image, stripping it of detail and making it look like every other photo on that platform, like autotune for images.
That’s all for now. Next time we’ll take a look at how to apply some basic filters to your photos to emphasize shadow and light, and make colors pop the way they should. Check back for part two in the weeks ahead, and thanks for reading!
Buddy has been declared the handsomest cat ever after winning the KingPet cat contest!
Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t enter him in the contest. Didn’t upload his photo, didn’t make a profile for him. I’m merely declaring him the winner because the people behind KingPet wasted 2.5 minutes of my life by enticing me with a Youtube ad to visit their “pet contest” site.
What is KingPet? Here’s how the site’s owners describe it:
KingPet is a Free Photo Competition for dogs, cats and all sorts of other animals! Participate and vote to win up many gifts each month!
You mean we can win up many gifts each month?!? Why haven’t I been told about this before? Many gifts! I’m in!
That bit of mangled English is just the first indication that something shady’s going on here. On the front page I saw a photo of an adorable kitten with zero votes, so I upvoted the little one and was immediately taken to a page that gave up the goods.
My first vote was free, according to the generous people who run KingPet, but if I wanted to keep voting past a certain point I’d have to buy vote packages ranging from $3.99 for 150 votes all the way up to $189.99 for 20,000 votes.
Now you can see where this is going:
Join the site and enter Fluffy in the contest.
Get upset because no one’s voting for Fluffy, without realizing that because you haven’t paid any money, Fluffy’s photo is just sitting on the KingPet server, not being displayed to anyone.
Indignant that lesser pets (!) are coasting to the grand prize of “winning up many gifts,” you exhaust your free supply of votes on Fluffy, reasoning that everyone else probably upvotes their own cats and dogs. (Of course they do.)
That failed to move the needle! Okay, let’s make a purchase — just a small one! — to get Fluffy moving up the charts. You can by 150 votes for $3.99, but 2,000 votes for only $12.99! Who wouldn’t do that? You’re saving money!
Now things are moving! Fluffy’s up from 2,612nd to 579th! Now you’re trading votes with other people who have been sucked into the competition, making IOUs until your next vote purchase and running up the charges on your credit card.
OH SHIT. Look at how adorable Little Princess is! She’s ranked 4th, her profile says she was found crying in a gutter, and she’s probably going to die soon because she needs risky veterinary surgery to fix a condition you’ve never heard of, but are totally sure exists. How are you going to compete with this sob story? Might as well give up now, which is a shame because you’ve already purchased $92 worth of votes this month.
Wait a second. Mr. Socks was also found in the gutter as a crying kitten and needs life-saving veterinary surgery? And Oreo just wants to win this contest until he’s put down? If you didn’t know better, you’d swear there was a trend: All the top pets are suffering from dangerous or untreatable conditions, have been photographed professionally, and belong to heartbroken humans who just want to win to have a great memory of their pet before it’s time to lead them to the Rainbow Bridge. Pass the tissues!
Okay, screw this! You’ve purchased the $189.99 vote package, you’re locked and loaded, and you need a new profile for Fluffy to compete in the sympathy vote category: “I found Fluffy when he was four weeks old. His fur was matted, he was covered with fleas, and he was crying as dogs bullied him and a bigger cat took away the only morsel of food he could find. The doctors tell me Fluffy has only weeks to live after he was diagnosed with COVAIDS-19. Fluffy told me his dying wish is to be declared King Pet. Vote for Fluffy to make his dying wish come true!”
What happens from there? A review on SiteJabber fills us in on the endgame, courtesy of a user named Rozina B:
“I shared the link on social media and to my family and friends, i told them to keep voting 10 times a day. My brother bought votes for my kitten and she ended up in 1st place. Everything went down hill after that. The second place person bought votes and became 1st again. They were trying to get money for their poorly pet but they were using their own money to buy votes so it made no sense, plus i dont like people trying to get sympathy votes there is a vast amount of people with luxury cats that they apparently found and was about to die etc all for votes basically. I then bought votes and we both ended up in this race to win, i bought votes they bought votes and it continued to the last minute of the competition till they gave up. I just wanted to be 1st for once as the 2nd place person had already won 1st place with their other cat. It was unfair. I must have spent a good £500 or more and they must have too.”
Five hundred pounds is the equivalent of $615 USD at the moment, for my fellow ‘Mericans reading at home.
So KingPet has the top five or 10 vote-getters, who have already opened their wallets, in a credit card arms race to boost their cats to the top of the list, along with an indeterminate number of other users spending lesser amounts to climb the charts. (It’s also possible that the “2nd place person” in the SiteJabber review was an account operated by the site’s owners, leapfrogging the others in the votes so they’d feel compelled to spend even more money.)
And that’s just for the cats. The same thing is happening simultaneously with dog owners determined to win a meaningless contest.
For what it’s worth, KingPet’s Facebook page is followed by almost 800,000 people, and a thread promoting the contest has 21,000+ auto-generated comments from people who entered the contest via Facebook.
The site’s About page says it’s part of a New York-based company called Playground Inc that runs half a dozen online contest sites with a combined 2 million users.
Not fair.People have to buy 10,000 votes to put their pet at the top, seriously? What’s the matter you don’t have enough confidence in your pets beauty that’s real nice. You have to buy votes or trade votes with people?can’t this contest just be one on sheer honesty and your pets beauty?
total scam on King Pet contests … im in the cat contest was leading all along and someone who won the prior contest come out of NOWHERE and buys up 30,000 votes every time a freind would buy more the 1st place cat suddenly buys 10000 more … either they are very rich or this is a total scam and rigged you decide ive spent more than enough !!!!
You people are running a scam. My mother is an elderly lady that is spending her lifes savings on your scam website. I have reported you to the Department of Justice for elder abuse. I have documents to back up my claims.
Notice also that many reviews complain that KingPet allegedly failed to reward prizes or cash to contest winners.
To be clear, I’m not saying KingPet is illegal, and I’m not saying it’s a scam. The FTC and courts would make that determination if enough people complain to trigger an investigation. (And from the site’s reputation scores and reviews on external sites, it certainly looks like there are lots of complaints.)
What I am saying, however, is that KingPet is a waste of time and money that employs a strategy of pitting users against each other to generate revenue. KingPet isn’t providing any value by selling meaningless votes for a contest that allegedly hands out prizes only sometimes. It exists to enrich its owners, preying on the insecurities and obsessions of the people who get caught up in it.
The good news is there’s a great way to feel good about your pet, it doesn’t cost any money, and it will mean a great deal more to your kitten or cat than an email saying he/she won an online contest: Spend time with the little one! Set aside time to play, surprise them with a random treat or a bit of catnip, and give them a little extra affection.
If you still feel you need recognition, print out a certificate declaring your cat or dog the winner of a pet contest. It’ll be just as “official” as KingPet and you’ll save yourself at least $500.
And so, in the spirit of all things Buddy, I once again declare Buddy the King of all Pets, or the King Pet, if you will. And it cost me nothing!
Because we never miss an opportunity to do spectacularly stupid things here in good old ‘Merica, we’ve politicized the act of wearing a mask, the simplest and most effective way to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
Since mask-wearing has become a meme as well, a historical photo that apparently shows a cat wearing a mask has been making the rounds. It shows a California family — mom, dad, two boys, two girls and a cat — standing together for a group photo, with each of them wearing a facial covering.
It’s become something of a go-to on social media, used in response to those who believe the virus is a hoax, a minor threat overblown by the US media, or an invention of evil Big Pharma who infected the world — while cackling evilly, presumably — in order to rake in enormous profits from selling the vaccine. (How “Big Pharma” is making billions off a vaccine that doesn’t exist is never explained by the conspiracy theorists.)
The photo was archived by the Dublin (CA) Heritage Park and Museum, and it’s dated from 1920, the third and last year the Spanish Flu spread to every corner of the globe. Between 50 and 100 million people lost their lives to that virus, historians estimate, and it wasn’t until several decades later that scientists understood what they were dealing with.
Snopes spoke to Tyler Phillips, who coordinates the archival material for the Dublin Heritage Park and Museum. Unfortunately, Phillips said, not much is known about the photograph other than that it was taken around 1920.
“The fun thing about this photo is that it does appear that even the cat is wearing a mask, but unfortunately we cannot prove that. The staff here at our museum go back and forth on that same question,” Phillips said. “My personal belief is that it is an optical illusion. I cant imagine any cat staying that calm with a tight fitting mask on their face. Also if you zoom in real close you can start to see the faint features of the cats face (nose and mouth). Since the original photo is pretty small and very old its not much easier to tell looking at it.”
So Snopes says the claim that the cat is wearing a mask is “unproven,” and Phillips thinks it’s an optical illusion.
We here at PITB think it’s a legit mask: We don’t see whiskers or even visual artifacts that would result from pixelated or blurred whiskers at the low resolution of the photo. In addition, it’s perfectly normal for a mask to follow the contours of a face, so that doesn’t rule out a mask. A coat pattern that happens to look exactly like a cloth mask, however, isn’t common.
Lastly, cats are individuals. Some will tolerate masks, some won’t. Buddy would probably try to claw me to death if I made him wear a mask, but your average Maine Coon would probably think, “Yeah whatever is cool, bro!”
One thing’s for sure, though: You won’t see any cats confusing the small inconvenience of wearing a mask with “tyranny” or “oppression,” and you won’t see Kitty Karens pulling the snowflake card in grocery stores, insisting the rules don’t apply to them. Those are uniquely human behaviors.
One photo shows a melanistic leopard — better known as a black panther — cautiously but curiously poking its head out from behind a tree. Another shows the same cat, tail raised and ready to spring as it stalks prey in the jungle mists.
The photos went viral this week, accumulating millions of views as people hailed the leopard as the second coming of Rudyard Kipling’s Bagheera, the beloved leopard from The Jungle Book.
Both photos come from the lens of Shaaz Jung, known as the “Leopard Man of India” for his astonishing shots of the majestic cats taken deep in the country’s jungles and forests.
“When people see these pictures, they think there are several leopards, but actually there’s just one black panther where we are — one melanistic leopard in the dense forest of Nagerhole. So it was like finding a needle in a haystack,” Jung told BusinessInsider.
The leopard has been named Saya by local wildlife enthusiasts, and he’s a bit out of his element in the deciduous Kabini forest, which is also home to a tiger preserve. Normally, leopards like Saya live in dense jungle, where the thick canopy and lack of light play to their advantage.
Jung patiently followed Saya, snapping photos of the big cat hunting, fighting and courting potential mates.
“He’s not just surviving, he is thriving,” Jung said.
Jung is a wildlife photographer, NatGeo’s director of photography for films and a big cat specialist in his own right. He also photographs India’s tigers, and his shots reveal a connection to — and a deep appreciation of — these regal apex predators who have been pushed back by human development and the resulting habitat loss.
Chronicling the adventures of Buddy the Cat and his various criminal enterprises.