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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, graduation, south korea,

Capturing Graduation Season in South Korea

To see more photos and videos of graduation celebrations in South Korea, browse the #졸업식 (graduation ceremony), #졸업 (graduation), #졸업축하 (congratulating graduation) and #학사모 (mortar board) hashtags on Instagram.

This week, students across South Korea celebrate their graduation as many schools reach the end of their school year. During this season, streets in and around school campuses turn festive with numerous pop-up shops lining sidewalks with flower bouquets, food and party favors to add to the excitement of the joyous day.

With one of the world’s highest high-school-graduation and college-enrollment rates in the world, the schooling environment in the country is extremely competitive, making graduation an especially important milestone in South Korean life. Classmates, family members and extended relatives gather for the celebration, and Instagrammers attending graduation ceremonies are sharing their special moments with the world.

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current event, Sapporo Snow Festival, Japan,

The 2014 Sapporo Snow Festival Begins in Sapporo, Japan

To see more photos and videos of this year’s snow festival, explore the さっぽろ雪まつり SAPPORO SNOW FESTIVAL, 大通公園 (Odori Park), つどーむ and すすきの (Susukino) location pages.

The 65th Sapporo Snow Festival (さっぽろ雪まつり) began yesterday in the northern city of Sapporo, Japan. The week-long festival is one of the biggest winter events in the country, displaying hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures in three venues across the city. Millions of visitors from around the world gather to marvel at the towering snow art and the elegantly shaped figures made of ice.

The Japan Self-Defense Forces, local construction companies, guest teams from abroad and local volunteers spend up to one month completing their projects. In addition to featuring trends and icons from the previous year, this year’s snow sculptures also showcase famous architectural structures such as the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula in India and Malaysia’s Sultan Abdul Samad building.

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Super Bowl XLVIII, denver broncos, seattle seahawks, current event,

Inside Super Bowl XLVIII on Instagram

To see photos and videos from those at the game, explore the MetLife Stadium location page.

Today Super Bowl XLVIII kicks off at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The game starts at 6:30PM EST / 3:30PM PST, but activities are already underway. For live photos and videos from the sidelines, check out the following accounts:

Watching the big game from home? Share photos and videos from your Super Bowl party with the #superbowl and #SB48 hashtags.

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current event, seollal, Lunar New Year, south korea,

Celebrating the Lunar New Year in South Korea

To see more photos and videos of Seollal traditions, browse the #설날 (Seollal), #떡국 (teokguk), #세배 (sebae) and #세뱃돈 (sebae-don) hashtags.

This week, many East Asian countries celebrate the Lunar New Year, which marks the first day of the lunar calendar. In most years, the holiday falls on the day of the second new moon after winter solstice, which this year is January 31. Many know this holiday as “Chinese New Year” with its dragon dancers, red packets and lanterns, but the holiday also has strong importance and rich traditions in South Korea as well.

In South Korea, the holiday is called Seollal (설날) and is celebrated over a course of three days. The event is one of the most important celebrations of the year for many families who often come together and pay respect to their ancestors. Many Instagrammers in South Korea are sharing the festivities taking place this week.

Traditionally, Seollal celebrations include wearing a formal dress called a hanbok (한복) and performing an act of sebae (세배)—a ceremonial deep bow to the spirits of deceased ancestors or to the eldest members of the household. Many children look forward to this day as they receive a gift of money called sebae don (세뱃돈) after the bowing, which comes enclosed in colorful envelopes. Festive meals are also a big part of Seollal, consisting of a dish called tteokguk (떡국)—a soup with thinly sliced rice cakes and dumplings. The rice cake is a symbol of new beginnings, and eating the rice cake signifies growing a year older with the new year.

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torah bright, user feature, current event, sochi2014, Who I follow,

#WhoIFollow: Along for the Ride at the Winter Olympics with @torahbright

In the #WhoIFollow series, we ask Instagrammers to share their favorite people to follow. For more photos and videos from Torah (@torahbright) and her favorite fellow Olympians on Instagram, follow US alpine ski racer Julia Mancuso (@juliamancuso), US snowboarder Danny Davis (@travelindan), Canada snowboarder Mark McMorris (@markmcmorris) and US alpine ski racer Steven Nyman (@believeinsteven).

Next week, the world’s best winter athletes will descend upon Sochi (@sochi2014) in southwestern Russia for the Winter Olympic Games (@olympics). Australian snowboarder Torah Bright (@torahbright), the defending gold medalist in the women’s halfpipe, is returning for her third Winter Olympics and plans to share her experience at the games on Instagram. “Snowboarding has given me a life I never could have dreamed of. I love snowboarding. My motivation to bring people along for the ride in Sochi is to share our sport’s rather unique culture,” she explains.

Torah also hopes to share moments beyond what you might see televised. “Some parts of competing at the Olympics are glamorous and some are not. I hope to share and paint a realistic picture of an athlete’s experience at the games.” In particular, Torah’s looking forward to meeting and spending time with other Olympians. “For a lot of the winter sports, the Olympics is the only time that all of our paths cross. The food hall in the athlete village is the best place for meeting people. I personally can’t wait to meet some ski jumpers—those guys literally fly!”

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current event, up helly aa, scotland,

Scotland Celebrates Up Helly Aa 2014

For more photos and videos from the celebrations in Scotland, browse the #uphellyaa hashtag.

In Scotland, on the last Tuesday of each January, towns throughout Shetland mark the end of the Yule Season with the Up Helly Aa fire festival. In preparation for the festival, each town’s men organize into squads, with the chief squad led by the Jarl, an elected leader for the entire festival.

On the evening of the festival, the men dress in Viking costume and parade through the town carrying lit torches. In larger towns such as Lerwick, the processions can number nearly 1,000 celebrants. As night falls, the men follow the Jarl to the coastline where they throw their torches into a replica Viking longship and sing while it burns.

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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.