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Welcome to the Instagram blog! See how Instagrammers are capturing and sharing the world's moments through photo and video features, user spotlights, tips and news from Instagram HQ.

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current events, Mavericks Invitational, surfing,

Surfing the Biggest Waves at the 2014 Mavericks Invitational

For more photos and videos from the Mavericks Invitational, explore the Mavericks Beach location page and follow Mavericks competitors @carlosburle, @donkeyshow and @jamie_sterls on Instagram for the athletes’ perspective.

On Friday, the world’s top surfers descend on Half Moon Bay, California, to compete in the Mavericks Invitational big-wave surf contest. Wave faces promise to be up to 12 meters (40 feet) tall and exceptionally powerful. “You can immediately feel the raw power of Mother Nature leaving the harbor and entering the open ocean,” says Instagrammer Matt Bauer (@mattcbauer), who is sharing photos and videos from a boat in the heart of the competition. “This legendary wave requires the right elements to align to show its fierce face. Luckily today is one of those days!”

For decades, the location has been known to host some of the biggest swells of all time—attracting surfers and spectators from across the globe. In 1999, the first surfing competition was held at Mavericks, and the competition has become one of the world’s most legendary surfing events. The exact timing of Mavericks is unpredictable, as the waves require perfect weather conditions to break at such size. Once the right conditions are detected and invitations sent out, competing surfers have just a few days to get to the event.

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googly-eyes, creatures, fun, User Feature, hashtag highlight,

Finding Googly-Eyed Creatures Everywhere with @alen4a_b

For more photos and videos of googly-eyed monsters, browse the #я_тебя_вижу hashtag and follow project contributors @alen4a_b, @gmentezi and @olasimxa on Instagram

For Ukraine Instagrammer Alena Baranova (@alen4a_b), the world is full of living creatures many people fail to notice.

She loves bringing everyday objects to life and giving them new, unexpected identities. As she lets her imagination run wild, Instagram has become her creative sketchbook for ideas. Inspired by childhood games, she bought a pack of googly-eye stickers and began to post photos of her new living creations with the hashtag #ятебявижу, which translates to “I see you.”

"The hashtag ‘I see you’ is a continuation of my favorite story from childhood," she says. "The world is full of living creatures, and adults forget about it when they grow up—so I resurrected my favorite game about pretty monsters."

Other Instagrammers welcomed the project. Alena sent a similar packet of googly-eye stickers to Ukraine Instagrammer Evgeniya Drach (@gmentezi) to take part, who also shared the eyes with her sister Olga Simxa (@olasimxa). Since then, the three Instagrammers have been finding little monsters everywhere. “Evgeniya and Olga make cooking videos and spend a lot of time in the kitchen,” explains Alena. “That’s why food, vegetables and fruits are often the subjects of the project.”

As for Alena herself, she carries a special small box with the eyes in it so she is ready to shoot at any second inspiration appears.

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Robert Smithson, spiral jetty, artthursday,

Robert Smithson’s Ever-Changing Spiral Jetty

To see more photos and videos of Spiral Jetty, explore the Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty location page.

Over the course of six days in 1970, American land artist Robert Smithson created his greatest work: Spiral Jetty. The 1,500-foot-long (460-meter) curlicue made of basalt rock juts from the shore of Utah’s rose-colored Great Salt Lake and constantly changes with the surrounding environment. Two years after Smithson finished the sculpture, rising water levels submerged the entire artwork for decades. When recent droughts lowered the height of the lake the artwork reemerged, though its appearance had changed dramatically. The once-black rocks are now whitened by salt crystals and silt. Fortunately, Instagrammers have made the trek to rural Utah to see and capture Spiral Jetty in person while it’s still visible.

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User Feature, coffee, Japan, latteart,

Exploring Cafés in Japan with @tukanana

To see more photos of Japanese coffee shops and beautiful latte art, follow @tukanana on Instagram. You can also find more photos and stories of his experiences on his blog.

Over the past few years, cafés have become a place of craftsmanship and artistry in Japan. New coffee shops that roast their own beans and serve them in their own brewing styles are emerging across the country. Many locals have embraced the coffee culture, including Tokyo Instagrammer @tukanana. A fan of Japanese cafés for nearly ten years, he goes to as many as four coffee shops daily to enjoy various types of coffee and the different atmosphere of the shops.

"Japanese cafés are great because each of the shops has their own personality which reflects the seasons as well as the area of their location," he says. "Also, there is a good selection of cafés to choose from to find the one that best matches your taste."

@tukanana makes his selection of cafés based on a holistic evaluation of location, appearance, interior and menu. While many of his photos focus on just the coffee, he always likes to share at least one photo that captures the total atmosphere of the shop. “I look at many magazines and works of other good photographers, which makes it easier for me to picture the kind of shot I want,” he says.

To see more photos and videos from coffee shops in Japan, explore the following location pages:

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x games, tips, user feature, current event,

Tips from the X Games: Taking the Perfect Action Shot with @wilhelmvisualworks

For more photos and videos from the X Games, explore the Snowmass Mountain and Aspen Mountain location pages and follow @aspensnowmass on Instagram. You can also follow Canada snowboarder Mark McMorris (@markmcmorris), US snowboarder Shaun White (@shaunwhite), US Snowcross World Champion Tucker Hibbert (@tuckerhibbert) and US snowboarder Hannah Teter (@hannahteter).

The Winter X Games (@xgames) is officially underway in Aspen! The X Games are annual sports competitions put on by ESPN (@espn), which focus on extreme sports. The winter edition happens at the beginning of every year and hosts snow sports, including skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling.

Whether you’re attending the Winter X Games or simply hitting the slopes with friends, keep these photo tips from X Games photographer Brett Wilhelm (@wilhelmvisualworks) in mind:

  • Know your equipment. If it’s a smartphone, learn the basic ways to control focus and exposure, especially when trying to compensate for very bright snowfields or nighttime compositions under a black sky. These scenarios will often fool your camera’s automatic exposure attempts. Know if your phone/camera has a burst mode, allowing a number of photos in quick succession. Burst will give you a better chance at nabbing the peak action in a shot.
  • Take care of your gear. Try to keep your camera warm until it’s time to shoot—the cold wreaks havoc on battery life. If your smartphone is your main camera, get a decent waterproof case or a simple Ziploc bag. Nothing ruins electronics and optics faster than moving from freezing cold to warm humid conditions and back again. The bag helps shield your phone from that condensation.
  • You’re responsible for the entire frame. Great photographic composition is about learning to anticipate the action. In most competition environments, you know where the athlete’s going to be, so line up in a position that guarantees a nice, clean, non-distracting background. The goal is to isolate your subject against a clean snowfield, a bright blue sky, a soft dark background of trees—anything that assures they jump out from the background. At the same time, watch your foreground. Make sure there aren’t distracting elements popping out from the corner of your frame that you didn’t intend. Finally, try to avoid putting the action smack dab in the middle of the image. Moving it off center allows your eye to drift around the frame and generates a better visual complexity.
  • Know your sport. Most action sports are judged on height, difficulty and stylistic mastery. Include the take off or landing to give the viewer a sense of how big the subject is going, not just a guy-in-the-sky without context. Capture them at peak height, but give the viewer a reference point. If they’re getting inverted, show them while they’re inverted. Most of the grabs in skiing and snowboarding reflect a certain mastery of the trick, showing the athlete locking in their balance and control.
  • Have fun. Photography today is easier than it’s ever been. Immediate review allows us to quickly learn from our mistakes and social media allows us to share our images with the world in an instant. Learn these and the many other lessons of photography, then learn to break them as you play with your own style. In the end it’s art, and art has no right or wrong.

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Location Feature, hallasan, south korea,

Winter Hiking on Hallasan (한라산), South Korea’s Tallest Peak

To see more photos and videos of Hallasan and its crater on the peak, explore the 한라산 (漢拏山, Hallasan) and 백록담 / Baengnokdam / 白鹿潭 location pages.

Located in the center of Jeju Island, Hallasan (한라산) is South Korea’s highest peak, reaching 1,950 meters (6,398 feet) above sea level. Flowing lava shaped the mountain when a volcanic eruption first created the island.

For many hikers, winter is considered the best season to explore Hallasan. The trails are usually covered with a thick layer of snow making the journey especially beautiful. Hikers gear up with strapped-on spiked boots and trekking poles to enjoy the hike through the snow covered landscape.

In total, Hallasan has five hiking trails. Donnaeko (돈내코) is the only open trail that starts from the southern half of the island, which leads to a point near the peak called Witse Oreum (윗세오름). Eorimok (어리목) and Yeongsil (영실) are shorter trails that also terminate at Witse Oreum. Gwaneumsa (관음사) and Seongpanak (성판악) take much longer to hike, but lead to Baengnokdam (백록담), a magnificent volcanic crater lake at the peak of the mountain.

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the making of, lighting, woodwork, Allied Maker, craft, design,

The Making Of: @alliedmaker’s Handcrafted Lighting

To see more photos and videos showing how Allied Maker designs and builds handcrafted lighting, follow @alliedmaker on Instagram.

While attending art school, the founder of lighting design firm Allied Maker (@alliedmaker), Ryden Rizzo, quickly realized that spending hours in front of the computer was not for him. “I always worked a lot of freelance jobs doing web design, photography and video,” says Ryden. However, he found it frustrating working for clients that didn’t share his minimal design sense. “School became a way to experiment with new mediums.”

Ryden became fascinated with the intersection of design and music. He taught himself basic woodworking from watching videos on YouTube. “I then knew I wanted a more traditional education, so I found a small school in Vermont where I was taught how to build my own classical guitar. We spent a month in near isolation crafting our guitars from scratch using traditional hand tools under the guidance of our master craftsman.

"When I returned home," says Ryden, "I instantly cleaned out my garage and set up a basic woodworking studio."

A year later, Allied Maker has grown into a three-person team making beautiful handcrafted lighting from Ryden’s garage and sharing the process on Instagram.

"I joined Instagram because I needed a way to document the work I was doing," Ryden says. "I was instantly captivated and inspired by the work of other people—Instagram has given me the ability to receive instant feedback from a community who shares my passion for design and craftsmanship."

Ryden values the feedback he receives from others, but also uses Instagram to better understand his own artistic process. “From inspiration to finished product, sharing and documenting my design practice has made me more observant of my own artistic flow.”

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instameet, lisbon, portugal, instagram, behind the instameet,

Behind the InstaMeet: @sejkko, Lisbon

In a new series highlighting cities where InstaMeets happen across the world, we speak to the Instagrammers behind the scenes of organizing. To view more photos and videos from the recent Lisbon InstaMeet, browse the #TwinBridgesMeet hashtag and follow @sejkko on Instagram.

For Portugal Instagrammer Manuel Pita (@sejkko), Instagram is about more than just posting beautiful content—it’s about connecting with people.

The desire to bring together Instagrammers across Europe in the picturesque city of Lisbon led to an InstaMeet of great scale for the eighth Worldwide InstaMeet.

Inspiration

"There is a special brand of creativity in Instagram that carries an European signature, both in terms of aesthetics and concept," says Manuel. "With all this came the desire to explore the connections between Europe and other strong Instagram communities in the US, Asia and Latin America."

Manuel’s idea was to host simultaneous events at Lisbon’s Ponte 25 de Abril and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in the US to symbolize the European community’s connection with the rest of the world. He got in touch with San Francisco community organizers Brock Sanders (@mrbrock21) and Jim Barcelona (@barce) via Instagram Direct and set “a beautiful project” in motion.

"During several discussions with other Instagrammers—also enabled by Instagram Direct—I became aware of how important it is for the evolution of our communities to meet in person, to be inspired by the multiple dimensions of those we follow and admire. We also spoke about the importance of encouraging people to truly own the way they interact on Instagram."

Organization

Here are Manuel’s tips for organizing an InstaMeet in your city:

  1. "Make your passion for supporting a heterogeneous community of people, united by their expression through Instagram posts, be your first and foremost motivation. This does not exclude the participation of sponsors and brands. But the main goal, and the main idea of your meeting is to bring people who share their love and curiosity for Instagram together. This will ensure that anybody who wants to take part of your initiative will feel included and indeed find a meaningful place in the meeting you organize."
  2. "Find the right balance between giving structure (planning) and allowing self-organization by the people participating in the InstaMeet. The idea of such a meeting is not that there is a fixed itinerary, where everything on a list is done in order. But equally, it is not about people gathering in one place and getting confused about what is going on. There has to be a fair degree of planning of the key elements of your meeting, along with the wonder of discovering the shape it takes when it actually happens."
  3. "Pick a special feature of your city, the people in it or a theme to be highlighted in the InstaMeet. This will allow you all to tell the world a message about something unique. For the #TwinBridgesMeet, we used our bridge and the link it provided with the US community in San Francisco, but it could have been one of many other things about Portugal.”
  4. "One important thing the team in Lisbon—José Lourenço (@joselourenco) Gabirela Mateus (@gmateus) and myself—discussed in our post InstaMeet review was that, for a next event, we would encourage people to wear a name tag. This will make it easy for Instagrammers to interact.”

Reflection

The result was the #TwinBridgesMeet: two large groups of Instagrammers gathering to take photos and videos on Instagram more than 9,109 kilometers (5,660 miles) apart.

"The experience of reviewing the hashtag for our event is something I will never forget," Manuel reflects. "Many people were in Lisbon and San Francisco creating and capturing such a diversity of magical moments. Families with children, school friends, grandmas and grandpas, people on their bicycles, people with their pets, sunrise and sunset gazers, picnics and masqueraders. I found out about so many beautiful things that happened by carefully looking at what people had been adding."

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Fort Point National Historic Site, surf spot, Location Feature,

Surfing underneath the Golden Gate Bridge

For more photos and videos of the surf at Fort Point, explore the Fort Point National Historic Site location page.

On the south end of San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge lies Fort Point National Historic Site, home to one of the most picturesque surf spots on the planet. Under ideal conditions, waves break right under the bridge and wrap around the point into a protected, calm cove. Beautiful though it may be, beware: the outgoing tide is strong, white sharks often visit the waters and the fickle left break is short, narrow and crowded. Surfers can catch the waves at only one takeoff point, which makes the lineup contentious and has earned Fort Point a reputation for territorial surfers.

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current events, martin luther king jr, mlk, news, mlkday2014,

Celebrating the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

To see more from Instagrammers celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and volunteering across the United States, browse the #dayofservice, #MLK and #martinlutherkingday hashtags. For more photos and videos from landmarks remembering MLK, explore the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site location pages.

On Monday, citizens across the United States celebrate the memory and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a key leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement throughout the 1950s and 60s. King fought against racial segregation in the United States and encouraged the practice of non-violent protest and free speech as means to change. King was an instrumental organizer of the 1963 March on Washington where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech to an audience of nearly 300,000 people.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was officially established as a US federal holiday in 1986. It is celebrated on the third Monday of January, which falls around the time of King’s birthday on January 15. Many now take this holiday as a day of service, dedicating time to work with volunteer organizations throughout the country.

Looking for inspiration for how you can make a difference? Check out the good deeds done by Instagrammers around the world over the past weekend for #WHPhelpinghand.