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News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

Picture of the Day

Wikimedia Commons photographer profile: Airwolf

Frecce Tricolori RIAT 2011

If you’ve seen a great aviation photo on Wikimedia Commons, odds are good it was taken by Łukasz Golowanow (User:Airwolf).

A book translator professionally, Golowanow’s passion is aviation and he documents his hobby with remarkable skill. Every winter and spring, he travels across Europe to as many airshows as possible, taking photos and contributing them to his website,, and Wikimedia Commons, the free knowledge repository behind Wikipedia.

“I am what you might call a proselytizer,” said Golowanow. “ I deeply believe in the all-around beauty of aviation and want to share my passion with as many people as possible, and in order to do this, I share my photographs.”

Golowanow came across Wikipedia in late 2005 while looking up something for his homework, and he uploaded his first image July 2006. Back then, he said, good aviation photos were sparse, inspiring him to fill a niche.

When it comes to photography, Golowanow likes shooting multiple subjects at once. “I prefer taking photos of aerobatic teams in formation rather than individual aircraft. I think the perspective, the overlapping, the different angles and position of aircraft in relation to one another, provide some great opportunities for a unique shot.”

Golowanow took the photo above of the Frecce Tricolori, the aerobatic team of the Italian Air Force, in July 2010 at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT). It was selected by his peers on Wikimedia Commons as the Picture of the Day for 6 August 2013, indicating that it is one of the finest images on the site.


Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day: Plant cell types

A cross section of a leaf showing the phloem, xylem, sclerenchyma, collenchyma and mesophyll.

In 2012 Wikimedia Commons contributor Kelvinsong created and contributed election-return diagrams during the United States elections to the freely licensed database. Kelvinsong credits encouragement at the time from another user, LadyofHats, for inspiring him to donate his talents and for making him one of the only scientific illustrators on Commons.

“My first science picture was a large diagram of the animal cell cycle, which somehow managed to make Featured Picture,” said Kelvinsong, who has also been surprised to find his pictures on T-shirts and coffee mugs being sold online. “Who would buy a lunchbox with the centrosome cycle on it?”

And while some illustrators might be bothered by this, Kelvinsong has a different outlook. “The concept of copyright has never really made much sense to me, and Commons is a great place to get your stuff out into the world. Not only is it awesome to be able to add your pictures to Wikipedia articles that are seen by thousands of people per day, it’s cool to see other websites pick up your pictures and use them. In my experience, 60-80 percent of them will give you credit for your work.”

Viewing himself as an amateur illustrator who also does photography, Kelvinsong has created vector illustrations since he was 13. He specializes in microscope photos and plant cell biology, though he has trouble identifying individual plants.

“Commons is severely lacking in plant microscopy photos, but I managed to find representatives of each cell type,” he said. “I take scientific accuracy very seriously, so I usually do a ton of research on the topic, and I wound up combing through a lot of plant science papers to figure out exactly what each cell looks like and to get the scale somewhat right.”

He said Plant Physiology and The Plant Cell are his two favorite journals due to their large collections and open-access policies.

To illustrate the image above, which was selected Wikimedia Commons Picture of The Day for July 27, Kelvinsong first made a wireframe render with Blender, then traced that in Inkscape. After the picture was complete, he wrote the captions and manually line broke the text, which he says is a big part of making these diagrams. Lastly, he did some grid aligning to make the image appear sharper at certain resolutions, then outlined the text so it looks good after the rendering process on Commons.


Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day: Birds on stick

Birds on stick, Shanghai, Qibao

Qibao is an ancient “water town” on the outskirts of Shanghai, China, and it’s where Wikimedia Commons photographer Jakub Hałun (User: Jakubhal) discovered the subject matter for his photo “Birds on Sticks,” a display in one of many food stalls along a crowded market street.

“I was sent to Shanghai for a few months because of my work, and I treated this as an opportunity to see as much of China as I could,” said Hałun. “I traveled every weekend, sometimes to very remote places, but on this particular day, I didn’t want to travel far.”

The Qibao suburb of Shanghai is located in the Minhang District and was built during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1126). Qibao translates to “seven treasures,” referring to the lore of the town once housing historical treasures, of which a Gold Lotus Scripture and a Big Bell remain.

Qibao has not lost its ancient fascination with crickets and cricket fighting, with two of the fiercest cricket species found in the wild nearby. The town is home to a special cricket museum, with live cricket fighting shows, and a festival of cricket culture occurs annually, in May and October.

Most of Hałun’s pictures on Commons feature historic monuments and architecture, but he especially likes to take pictures of special events and people on the street.


Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day: Stockholm quay

Sickla kaj, Södra Hammarbyhamnen, Stockholm.

Many people have seen Arild Vågen’s (ArildV) photography and may not have known it. Vågen is a regular contributor to Wikimedia Commons and his photos have been used by newspapers, websites, authors and even the Svea Court of Appeal, all because he freely licenses the images and donates them to the database.

The photo above of the Sickla kaj is one of those beautiful images and has been selected as the Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day for July 22, 2013. The image, Vågen explains, was taken as a storm passed his home in Stockholm. “It was a rainy day, but in the late evening the rain had stopped. I saw this beautiful light from my apartment, and went for a short walk with my camera to capture it,” he says.

Vågen’s photos have been featured numerous times on the Wikimedia Commons home page (and on the Wikimedia blog). They are the result of his good eye and talent, but some of Vågen’s favorite contributions to Commons have also been facilitated by Wikimedia Sweden’s Technology Pool.

In January 2013, the Swedish Wikimedia chapter created a collective “Technology Pool” to improve article quality and overall participation on the Wikimedia projects. The pool operates much like a public library, where users are able to check out pieces of equipment ranging from DSLRs, to video cameras, and sound equipment, completely free of charge. The only requirement is that the results are uploaded to Commons.

Vågen says that the Technology Pool is a major asset to Wikimedia Sweden. “Some technology might be too expensive for the regular person,” he notes, which can hinder participation in Commons. “Before, I just used simple compact cameras,” he says.

The Technology Pool has had a significant impact on the number of quality photographs, videos, and audio files uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, and subsequently, Wikipedia. It has facilitated coverage of important events, including interviews with Nobel Laureates, and the popular 2013 Eurovision Song Contest.


Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day: Service

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Mondial Ping - Men's Doubles - Semifinals - 34.jpg

French Wikimedia Commons contributor Pierre-Yves Beaudouin captures a beautiful portrait of one of the world’s greatest ping pong player’s during the 2013 World Table Tennis Championship.

This photograph, the Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day for 19 July 2013, was taken during the men’s doubles semifinals of the 52nd championship at the Palais Omnisport de Paris-Bercy, in France. It features Ma Lin about to serve. Representing China, Lin and his partner, Hao Shuai, lost the game to players Seiya Kishikawa and Jun Mizutani, but still won the silver medal.

Beaudouin, a Commons contributor since 2005, explains that since ping pong is a fast-paced sport with very brief exchanges, he photographed the players during their serve, when they move at the slowest speed. “During doubles, I wasn’t sure what to shoot. It’s not easy to find the right position when there are four players around the tables, two referees, TV reporters and a dozen photographers,” the Frenchman recalls about the context of this shot.

Beaudouin, got into amateur photography about three years ago, and sports photography in December 2012. In the last 7 months, he has covered 16 events, nine of which have been sporting events.

“There aren’t many quality sport photos on Wikimedia Commons and there are plenty of Wikipedia articles that need to be illustrated with images,” he says of his motivations to take and share photographs of sporting events.

Beaudouin got started on Commons by importing freely licensed images from Flickr. He’s now quite active in the wiki-community: he launched a photo group in Paris that covers events, such as sports, music, or exhibits, and he takes high quality images of objects for Wikimedia projects. He also organizes outings, such as Wikipedia Takes Your City and encourages Wikimedia France, the French Wikimedia Chapter, to invest in photographic material, which he notes is quite expensive. So he’s happy that chapters are helping in this regard and he hopes that investments in this domain will increase.


Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day: Smoo Cave

The second chamber of the Smoo Cave near Durness, Scotland.

Florian Fuchs has been an avid contributor to Wikimedia Commons for over 5 years. The amateur photographer is from Carinthia, Austria, and is the Chief Technical Officer at the rescue coordination center for the Austrian Red Cross,

On a recent trip to the majestic Scottish Highlands, he shot this photo above of Smoo Cave, a salt and freshwater cave near Durness. As he explained, the photo would be useful for expanding the Smoo Cave article on English Wikipedia, which he had been interested in for some time.

The photo would also impress his peers on the free knowledge Commons database and become the Picture of the Day for July 17, 2013.

“My wife and I went on a trip to Scotland at the end of May. We stayed at Tongue for two nights; the village is very small and remote, without any tourist attractions beside the beautiful landscape,” Fuchs explained. “When we checked out our travel guide for interesting points in the vicinity we found Smoo Cave. Immediately, I wanted to try and take the shot myself and donate it to the Commons community.”

So, Fuchs became an amateur spelunker. But there’s hardly anything amateur about his efforts. Initially, it was difficult to even get the shot. The only way inside the cave’s second chamber was via a narrow, wooden platform. Once upon it, he set up the shot using his travel tripod and his camera, a Nikon D7000.

“At a lucky moment where no one was on the runway, I took a few shots with an exposure time of one minute. During the exposure, I did not dare to move at all because the runway was quite shaky.”

Fuchs’ brilliant photo is a nice illustration for the caverns’ Wikipedia page, but it can also be used for nearly any purpose beyond the Wikimedia projects, given its free license.

Fuchs said it made him happy when people enjoy his photos and he hoped it would encourage them to visit themselves. people enjoy them. “Sometimes, people tell me that the pictures are ‘stunning’ or just ‘wow’ and those are the moments when I feel really rewarded for taking all the time and effort to get a really good picture,” he said.


Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day: Surinam Horned Frog

Surinam Horned Frog, Ceratophrys cornuta , Leptodactylidae.

The Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day for July 16, 2013 is a vibrant green Surinam Horned Frog (Ceratophrys cornuta). Its photographer, German native and biology enthusiast Herbert Zell, captured the image while on one of several visits to the State Museum of Natural History, in Karlsruhe, a city in Southwest Germany.

That day, Zell said, the bright green frog was in the perfect position, “sitting immobile in a nearly dark terrarium, half embedded in the ground, only the back side was visible.” Zell took three photos and merged them into an HDR image.

The Surinam Horned Frog, alternatively known as the Amazonian Horned Frog, as it is found in South America, is recognized for its wide mouth and horns protruding over its eyes.

For Zell, the interest in photography arose through his work with homeopathy. Because he needed photos of animals, plants and minerals to present during seminars, he started visiting botanical gardens, zoos and museums and gathered quite a collection of images over the years.

Zell also began to photograph his own collection of shells and started sharing his images of plants, shells and landscapes on Wikimedia Commons over three and a half years ago. “I like to make them available to others and illustrate Wikipedia,” he explained. He said that many species he had photographed weren’t on Wikimedia Commons or Wikipedia previously.

By contributing to Commons, Zell said he benefited from meeting like-minded people, with similar interest in photography, biology and paleontology. Some of them helped him identify species with which he was unfamiliar.

“It is always an honor to be featured on Commons, for it is much more than a featured picture. It is an appreciation of the photographer’s work,” he said.

You can see more of Zell’s shell images on his user page here and see his images of plants here.

Alice Debois-Frogé
Wikimedia Foundation Communications volunteer

Chicoreus aculeatus (Lamarck, 1822), Pendant Murex

Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day: Mõdriku Obelisk

Commemorative Obelisk in Mõdriku, Estonia

Ivar Leidus has long been an admirer of the natural environment and the cultural monuments in his homeland, Estonia. Leidus, 37, is a railway engineer from Keila, a town of 10,000 people in Harju County in the north-west part of the country.

Leidus was riding his bike, taking photos in Mõdriku, a village nearby, when he came across the commemorative obelisk in the park of the Modriku Estate pictured above. The monument was erected in the nineteenth century by the owner of the Modriku Estate in commemoration of the French invasion of Russia in 1812.

“The whole composition: the sun, the clouds, the oak tree and the monument all looked good together when I got there,” Leidus said of the day in June 2012 when he shot the beautiful image, which has been selected as the Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day for July 11, 2013.

This bucolic photo captures his dual interest in nature and culture. In the foreground, is a magnificent English oak tree (Quercus Robur), which he carefully noted in the picture. Leidus said he first contributed to Wikimedia projects by uploading maps showing the distribution of conifers in Estonia to help illustrate articles on Estonian Wikipedia. He felt contributing the illustrations was as important as editing.

In September 2011, Leidus saw banners on Estonian Wikipedia announcing Wiki Loves Monuments, the largest photo contest in the world, and he decided to participate. The contest motivated him to commit to photography and to donate his photos to Wikimedia Commons, the database of freely licensed images used on Wikipedia and many other projects.

Over the past two years, Leidus has uploaded 1848 photos of natural and cultural heritage in Estonia, photos that have been used more than 5,000 times on 14 different Wikipedias.

“It’s a good feeling to give good quality images away for free,” he said.

(To see more of his photos, visit his userpage on Wikimedia Commons.)

Alice Debois-Frogé, Wikimedia Foundation Communications volunteer

Kuremaa manor windmill, Estonia

Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day: Seceda cable car

A cable car on Mount Seceda, Dolomites, Italy

Wolfgang Moroder was skiing on December 11, 2011, near his hometown in the Dolomites when he took the photo above of a Seceda cable car with a lovely view of the Alps over a blanket of golden clouds. In the photo, which was chosen as the Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day for 9 July 2013, Moroder framed the cable car in the foreground as it descended back into the shadows of the valley below.

Moroder  hails from Urtijëi, in South Tyrol, Italy, a town nestled in the Val Gardena, a region famous for mountaineering, skiing, biking and hiking. Moroder said that the cable car is part of a ski area connected to the “Dolmiti Superski,” a network of interconnected resorts with 450 ski lifts and over 1200 kilometers of runs, what he described as “the greatest skiing circuit in the world.” The cable car starts around 1300 meters and ascends to the top of Mount Seceda, at 2519 meters.

“I broke through the clouds on the tram and I thought this is gonna be the best picture of my life,” Moroder said. He said he hoped those who saw the picture could feel the same wonder and awe he did at the moment he took it, when he had a clear view of “the mountains as far as Switzerland and Austria.”

Moroder, who is 65, was born and raised in the Dolomites and feels a strong connection to the mountain range. He spent a few years in Tuscany and one year studying at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, in the United States, before returning to the mountains of northern Italy.

In his work, he is a physician specializing in prenatal care and he has raised two daughters, one who works for an online magazine and another who works as a textile designer. Though he is an avowed amateur photographer, he noted that he regularly takes pictures during prenatal ultrasounds, so in that way, he could be considered a “professional” photographer.

In Moroder’s family, photography has long been a passion. His father was involved in nature photography and maintained a darkroom in their house, where he printed his work. His grandfather was a painter who started taking pictures later in life, documenting old farmhouses in the Val Gardena. Moroder, who has been contributing photos to Wikimedia Commons since 2007, said he likes to take pictures of buildings, especially those that are historically significant, as well as artwork, landscapes and imagery related to pregnancy and medical practices. The images he takes of historical monuments are particularly important to him, given that he is the president of the local heritage museum in Urtijëi.

When asked what motivates him to donate his images to Wikimedia Commons, he said it makes him feel connected to the world around him and to an important source of free knowledge. “I feel to be part of a great global community which likes to to share visual contributions in every way for the construction of Wikipedia.”

You can see more of Moroder’s images on his user page here.

Matthew Roth

Global Communications Manager, Wikimedia Foundation

St. Jacob church in Urtijëi, Val Gardena, with the Sassolungo (Langkofel) and the summits of the Sella towers.

Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day: Kolob Canyons

Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park, Utah

In the Gäbler family, religion, photography and love for travel have passed from father to son for generations.

Like his grandfather and father before him, Michael Gabler is a pastor and he has the same passion for travel and photography that they did. He was born and raised in Tamil Nadu, in South India, and lived there until the age of 7, when his family returned to Germany. Together with his wife of 38 years, he has traveled through Europe, Asia and North America, pursuing his passion for capturing his travels through the lens of a camera.

In August 1997, Gäbler traveled with his wife to the U.S. and visited the Kolob Canyons. This part of Zion National Park is accessed by a park road about 20 miles south of Cedar City, Utah, off Interstate 15. The Kolob Canyons are part of the Colorado Plateau region of the Zion National Park and are well-known for their colorful beauty and diverse landscape.

While driving through the canyons, he stopped at a vista point, his Olympus OM-4 in hand. There, he “stood before a vast green valley with towering red mountains.” In the foreground he saw a dead silver-colored tree beside flowering bushes, “with millions of year-old indestructible crimson formation and wildlife.”

Among various photos Gäbler took of the deep-red Navajo Formation, the image above would become the Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day for July 4th, 2013.

“In my profession as a Lutheran pastor, I often experience the simultaneity of life and death,” said Gäbler. “It is my professional duty to help others, to endure this juxtaposition of life and death and accept it in faith. The simultaneity of the present and past lives in this picture fascinates me.”

After his retirement, Gäbler decided to freely share his images on Wikimedia Commons and his knowledge on Wikipedia, where he started editing in 2004. His photo of the Kolob Canyons is the 77th of his images to be recognized by the Wikimedia community as a Featured picture, a designation given to the finest images in the database.

Though Gäbler shoots with a Nikon D300 now, he has kept his slides in dark boxes in an archive room in his house, where he is digitizing them with a scanner. He is pleased that the colors of his slides, like those in the Kolob Canyons photo here, have not changed in decades.

You can view more of his photos here.

Alice Debois-Frogé, Wikimedia Foundation Communications volunteer

Oxbow Bend outlook in Grand Teton National Park. Another Featured Picture by Michael Gäbler