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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 event, wakakusa yamayaki, Japan,

The 2014 Wakakusa Yamayaki Festival (若草山焼き) Takes Place in Nara, Japan

To see more photos and videos of Wakakusa Yamayaki, browse the #山焼き hashtag and explore the 奈良公園 (Nara Park), 若草山 山頂 and 若草山 location pages.

On the fourth Saturday of January, the annual Wakakusa Yamayaki (若草山焼き), or “Roasting of Wakakusa Mountain” festival, takes place in Nara, Japan. As the name suggests, the festival is celebrated by setting fire to the dry grass of Wakakusa Mountain, creating a hill of fire. The event begins with a dazzling fireworks show, immediately followed by a lighting ceremony held at the foot of the mountain by Shinto priests. The spectacle of fire emitted from the top of the 342-meter (1,122-foot) mountain can be viewed throughout the city of Nara and from parts of neighboring cities. Many local and visiting Instagrammers gather to capture the fireworks and blazing hillside as the fire spreads throughout the mountain.

The tradition of Wakakusa Yamayaki is thought to have evolved over hundreds of years since it began before the Edo period (1603-1867 CE). Though the exact origin of the event is unclear, several theories exist. According to one theory, Todaiji (東大寺), Kofukuji (興福寺) and Kasuga Taisha (春日大社), the three great temples of Nara, started the hill burning as an act to calm the spirit of an ancient burial mound on the peak of the mountain. Another theory claims that the mountain was burned due to a boundary dispute between Todaiji and Kofukuji.

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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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current event, deep freeze, polar vortex, chiberia,

A Look into the United States Deep Freeze

For more photos and videos from the freeze, explore the #chiberia and #deepfreeze hashtags.

Earlier this week, arctic winds from the North Pole descended unusually far southward, bringing record freezing temperatures and a deep freeze to many states throughout the midwestern and eastern United States. A result of a distortion in the northern wind patterns known as the polar vortex, the sudden change caused temperatures to drop as much as 50 degrees during a single day in some locations. Cities such as Minneapolis, Minnesota, have seen heavy snowfall and temperatures nearing -40ºF (-40ºC). Chicago, Illinois, has been especially impacted by the deep freeze, leading to the creation of the #chiberia hashtag to document the cold conditions.

Though officials have cautioned residents in these states to minimize outdoor exposure, many have taken the time to explore the frigid conditions and share their experiences through photos and videos on Instagram.

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lussekatter, St. Lucia, current event,

Scandinavia Celebrates the Feast of St. Lucia

To see more festive photos and videos, browse the #santalucia, #lussekatter and #lucia hashtags.

In Scandinavia, you are guaranteed three things each winter: long nights, crisp snowy days and the feast of St. Lucia. Every December 13, children in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark celebrate the gift of light, the coming of Christmas and the ancient Norse tradition of the Winter Solstice. St. Lucia’s traditions include a luciatåg—a candle procession symbolizing the gift of light—and eating saffron buns with raisins called lussekatter.

Foodies Ida Skivenes (@idafrosk) and Linda Lomelino (@linda_lomelino) look forward to the yearly celebration as a time for gathering together with loved ones and baking lussekatter. “For me, St. Lucia Day means Christmas is coming near. It’s a warm and cozy celebration, perfectly timed for the usually cold and dark winter,” says Skivenes. “As a child, I would take part in the candle processions, dressed in a white robe, holding a lit candle, and handing out freshly baked saffron buns while singing the Lucia song. As an adult, I simply enjoy eating the pastries and drinking hot chocolate or mulled wine (gløgg) with friends or family.”

Ina Johnsen (@matpaabordet), enjoys the luciatåg. “If you are lucky enough to have kids in kindergarten you’ll have adorable boys and girls dressed in angelic white nightgowns with silver wreaths around their heads to send off to school.” The children mirror the actions of St. Lucia, a third century martyr who is said to have secretly delivered food to persecuted Christians in the catacombs of Rome by bringing candlelight and lussekatter to friends and family.

Stories differ on where and when lussekatter, which translates to “cat eyes,” entered into the feast day tradition, but people of all ages eagerly look forward to eating the special S-shaped pastries spiced with saffron to intensify the flavor and color of ordinary yeast buns. “I always eat at least one lussekatt,” says Lomelino. “But preferably more!” Amid of the cold, dark winter, you’ll find those celebrating St. Lucia Day sharing scenes on Instagram of these special pastries and drinks in the warm company of friends and family.

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Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe, current event, photo feature,

Mexico Celebrates Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe (Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

To see more photos from the Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, visit the Basílica de Santa María de Guadalupe location page.

Today Mexico celebrates one of its most important holidays, Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe (Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe).

According to Roman Catholics, an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared to a peasant named Juan Diego on 12 December, 1531, and instructed him to build a church in her honor. When Juan was asked by a local Archbishop to prove his miraculous vision was real, Mary told him to gather roses from a barren hill. Upon presenting the roses to the Archbishop, the flowers turned into a piece of fabric emblazoned with the Virgin Mary’s image. The icon hangs today in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and is the most visited Marian shrine in the world.

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formula 1, current event,

Formula One Season Finale at Interlagos

To tune in to the event in real time, be sure to visit the Autódromo José Carlos Pace (Interlagos) location page

Today, 11 Formula One teams head to Brazil’s Autódromo José Carlos Pace (Interlagos) for the final round of this year’s 19-race championship. German driver Sebastian Vettel has dominated the season, winning 12 of the races and earning enough points in previous races to secure the championship for team Red Bull (@redbullracing). Although the 2013 championship won’t be determined at Interlagos, the race will be particularly significant for fans of Brazilian driver Felipe Massa (@massafelipe) who will be driving for Ferrari for the last time and doing so at his home country’s racetrack.

For a behind-the-scenes look at Interlagos, be sure to follow these drivers:

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current event, latin grammy,

The 2013 Latin Grammy Awards on Instagram

For more photos and videos from the 14th annual Latin Grammy Awards, browse the #LatinGRAMMY hashtag and explore the Mandalay Bay Events Center location page.

The evening of Thursday, November 21, marks the 14th annual Latin Grammy Awards (@latingrammys), a celebration of the best musical achievements for works recorded in Spanish or Portuguese.

Held in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay hotel, this year’s ceremony will be hosted by Mexican entertainer Lucero, making this her seventh consecutive year as host. This year’s highlights include the naming of singer Miguel Bosé as the 2013 Latin Recording Academy person of the year and the first ever shared performance between Juanes (@juanes01) and Santana.

To see more from the show, check out the accounts for these nominated performers:

Keep an eye also on the Univision Premios (@univisionpremios) account for official InstaStop content after the show.

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current event, dubai, dubai air show,

Dubai Air Show 2013 (معرض دبي للطيران)

To view more photos and videos from the fantastic sky displays check out the #DubaiAirshow2013 and #DubaiAirShow hashtags and browse the Dubai Airshow معرض دبي للطيران and Dubai Airshow location pages.

Thursday is the final day of the Dubai Air Show (معرض دبي للطيران), where $162.6 billion of aircraft has been ordered so far, shattering past records. Dynamic displays have taken over the Gulf region’s skies for the last five days, and Instagrammers were there to capture the aerial acrobatics.

The event, which started as a trade show and was first held at Dubai International Airport in 1989, took place at Dubai World Central in Jebel Ali, Dubai. It attracts some of the biggest companies in the air industry and is well established as one of the top aerospace events in the world.

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20 de noviembre, Día de la Revolución, current event, Revolucion Mexicana,

Mexico Celebrates Día de la Revolución 2013

To see more photos and videos from today’s festivities, browse the #20denoviembre, #revolucionmexicana and #diadelarevolucion hashtags and explore the Plaza de la Constitución (Zócalo) location page.

November 20 marks the date in 1910 when the movement to overthrow Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz began. The Mexican Revolution brought the end of 34 years of military rule, but came at the expense of a 10-year civil war in which various parties struggled to gain power and define social organization for the country. Finally, representatives emerged with the Mexican Constitution of 1917 and Álvaro Obregón ascended as the new president in 1920.

Now, the day is known as Día de la Revolución (Day of the Revolution) and stands as a national holiday in Mexico. Many schoolchildren dress in the historical outfits of revolutionary heroes, while parades and civic ceremonies mark the holiday throughout the country. The largest of these take place at the Plaza de la Constitución (Zócalo) in Mexico City.

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5 Pointz, current event,

Long Island City Says Goodbye to 5 Pointz

To view more photos and videos of 5 Pointz both before and after the whitewashing, be sure to visit the 5 Pointz location page.

For over 20 years, the 5 Pointz building in Long Island City, Queens, has been a hub for street artists from around the world to showcase their work. Many Instagrammers in New York have visited 5 Pointz to document the dynamic, vibrant graffiti on its exterior.

The building is privately owned by Long Island developer Jerry Wolkoff who has plans to raze 5 Pointz at the end of this year. Early Tuesday morning, the structure’s artwork was quietly painted over with white paint. In the wake of this news, locals and visitors alike are documenting the changes that herald the building’s final days.