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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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Instagram, Photography, Location Feature, azerbaijan, baku, Architecture, zaha hadid, heydar aliyev center,

A Sweeping Symbol of Modernity in Azerbaijan

For more photos and videos from The Heydar Aliyev Center, explore the Heydar Aliyev Center location page.

The Heydar Aliyev Center in Azerbaijan resembles a cresting wave—there are no straight lines on the structure’s curved, white surface. Constructed by British architect Zaha Hadid in 2012, the center’s unique shape is a symbol of modernity in the city of Baku, reflecting the present and the future in progress. Heydar Aliyev stands primarily as a venue for art exhibitions, and its stunning landscape is also popular backdrop for visiting and local Instagrammers alike.

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Photography, events, Japan, fireworks, fire festival 2014, Location Feature, current event, Instagram,

Igniting Handheld Fireworks at Summer Festivals in Japan

For more photos and videos of the handheld fireworks, browse the 手筒花火 hashtag.

Brave men of central Japan ignite handheld fireworks, bringing exciting showers of flames to local summer fire festivals. These cylindrical, handheld pyrotechnics called tezutsu-hanabi (手筒花火) originated in Toyohashi during the Edo Period (1603-1868) and continue in modern-day Japan with events such as the 19th annual Fire Festival (炎の祭典) this Saturday. To make these fireworks, craftsmen stuff black powder into bamboo trunks casted with thick ropes. Once lit, the cylinders spray sparks of fire until the explosives finish with a loud blast.

Shinto festivals traditionally used fireworks to protect people from evil spirits and bad fortune, and they now make up an essential summertime activity in Japan. The handheld fireworks are still crafted to present as offerings to local shrines until they are fired on festival day. Only a handful of summer events in central Japan feature this type of firework, and the thrilling displays of men inside downpours of sparks offer local and visiting Instagrammers a chance to capture some of the most spectacular moments of the summer.

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Instagram, Location Feature, festival no.6, festivalnumbersix, wales, portmeirion, clough williams-ellis, Photography, Architecture, nature,

Artists in Touch with Their Surroundings at Portmeirion’s Festival No.6

To view more photos and videos from Portmeirion’s Festival No.6, explore the Portmeirion location page, browse the #fn6 hashtag and follow @festivalnumber6 on Instagram.

Designed by architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the 1920s, Portmeirion is a tiny village built in Italianate style on the coast of North Wales, UK. In 2012, this magical setting gave birth to Festival No.6 (@festivalnumber6)—an immersive arts and culture festival paying respect to Sir Clough’s vision for development at one with nature.

“The village comes alive over the weekend,” says festival organizer Luke Bainbridge, who strives to reflect the spirit of Portmeirion in the line up. “Buildings like the Central Piazza and Portmeirion Town Hall all become weird and wonderful venues and settings, and the magical estuary of River Dwyryd is also a really popular site to Instagram.”

Impromptu performances are known to happen throughout the weekend to create an experience truly grounded in its surroundings. “Festival No.6 is about so much more than music. It still all revolves around Portmeirion.”

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photography, art, sculpture, Balazs Gardi, Jessica Rose Yurasek, Black Rock City, Burning Man, Location Feature, Nevada, Instagram,

Radical Self-Expression at the Burning Man Festival in Black Rock City

To view more photos and videos from Black Rock City, explore the Burning Man location page, browse the #BM2014 hashtag and follow @missjessrose on Instagram.

“It’s way more than you can imagine,” says Jessica Rose Yurasek (@missjessrose), describing Black Rock City, the site of the annual Burning Man festival. Each year, a global tribe of artists, makers and performers converge in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, birthing a pop-up city of more than 60,000 “Burners” and their acts of radical self-expression.

In contrast to an inhospitable physical terrain, which ranges from scorching heat to torrential rain, Jessica sees Black Rock City as an inspirational place of generosity and creativity. The weeklong gathering culminates with the burning of a towering wooden effigy known at “the Man,” and then disperses, taking care to leave no trace in the desert.

“If we as humanity can build this,” she says, “then I have hope for our future.”

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Photography, Instagram, Location Feature, landscape, ghost city, russia,

Exploring “Ghost City” (город-призрак) in Seredinkovo, Russia

For more bizarre and beautiful photos from “Ghost City” in Seredinkovo, explore the Город Призрак location page.

Old taverns, abandoned docks and ghost ships are all part of “Ghost City” (город-призрак), a park located in the small town of Seredinkovo in the Russian countryside. The park premises were originally constructed as a Russian movie set in 2010, and were designed to look like an 18th-century European city. Now open to the public, the former film set allows visitors to explore the “city” and dress up in period costumes. With replicas of prisons, gallows, hotels, cemeteries, a fort and more, the park offers opportunities to capture time-worn landscapes for visitors and Instagrammers alike.

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photography, sherlock, bbc sherlock, sherlock holmes, benedict cumberbatch, martin freeman, 221B, emmys, location feature, instagram,

A Photographic Tour of Sherlock’s London

For a deeper view into London’s most popular landmarks and buildings, check out the #londonsights hashtag on Instagram. To follow “Sherlock” at the 2014 Emmys, browse the #Emmys hashtag.

To fans of the novels and the BBC series, the locations featured in the Sherlock Holmes stories are almost as iconic as the characters themselves.

The most famous of all is 221B Baker Street, the home of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Although London’s official Holmes museum now bears that number, the address was completely fictional when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published the first “Sherlock” novel in 1887—building numbers on Baker Street did not yet extend that high. The flat shown on the British television show is actually located on the much-quieter North Gower Street, near Euston station.

Next door to Sherlock’s imaginary home is Speedy’s Cafe, a frequent filming spot for actors Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) and Martin Freeman (Watson). Speedy’s is a real restaurant and a destination site for super-fans—they even have a Sherlock-themed wrap on the menu. Another notable filming location for the television series is St. Bart’s Hospital in Smithfield, the oldest hospital in Europe and backdrop for Sherlock’s final showdown with arch-nemesis Moriarty.

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Photography, Architecture, Art, history, india, hindu temple, meenakshi amman, Location Feature, Instagram,

Exploring the Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai, India

For more photos and videos from the temple, browse the #Meenakshi hashtag and explore the Meenakshi Amman Temple location page.

In the center of Madurai, the oldest city in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu, the Meenakshi Amman Temple stands as a mythological and architectural symbol of the region. Initially founded in ancient times and rebuilt to reflect urban planning methods around the 17th century, the Hindu temple is dedicated to the legendary Goddess Meenakshi and her husband Lord Sundareswara (also known as Parvati and Shiva).

The 18 hectare (45 acre) temple complex consists of 12 pyramid-shaped gopurams, or traditional gateway towers, which measure as tall as 50 meters (164 feet) in height. These towers are erected along the outer and inner walls of the temple and are decorated with thousands of carved figures from roof to the floor, each representing gods, demons, heroes and animals appearing in Hindu myths. Other attractions of the premises include shrines for Meenakshi and Sundareswarar, magnificent hallways and the Golden Lotus Temple tank. The temple is home to around 50 priests and a number of annual Hindu festivals, making it an active place of worship as well as a major tourist attraction of Southern India.

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photography, art, narni, landscape, italy, umbria, Location Feature, instagram, narnia, cs lewis, chronicles of narnia,

A World of Childhood Fantasy in Narni, Italy

For more enchanting photos and videos from Narni, Italy, explore the Narni location page and browse the #Narni hashtag.

There are stunning similarities between the real-life town of Narni and the fictional world of Narnia: blazing green hills, clear blue skies and picturesque stone structures.

In fact, the classic fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia, written by C.S. Lewis in 1950, is rumored to have been inspired by this small Italian town 50 miles north of Rome. According to biographer Walter Hooper, Lewis was fascinated by ancient history, and Narni—named “Narnia” in Roman times—was highlighted by the children’s author in his personal atlas.

Whether Lewis visited Narni has never been confirmed, but even today, its cobblestone streets and castle fortress look like they belong in a magical, medieval novel. And while there are no mythical, talking creatures roaming the land, Narni still feels like a place pulled straight out of our childhood imaginations.

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Photography, Instagram, Location Feature, ossetia, russia, itsbaat, User Feature, landscape,

Exploring North Ossetia with @itsbaaat

For more photos and videos throughout North Ossetia, follow @itsbaaat and browse #exploringossetia hashtag on Instagram.

“I do not post just beautiful photos of nature,” Russia Instagrammer Batraz Butaev (@itsbaaat) explains of his love for the inspiring natural beauty of the North Ossetia region. “I share my memories of the most important moments spent with my friends in my favorite places, such as the snow-covered mountains, deep forests, mountain roads and waterfalls.” Following Baltraz’s lead, the local Instagram community uses the #exploringossetia hashtag to share their own picturesque photos of the area. As he explains, “I wanted to have a common gallery with my friends, showing how beautiful nature is in the North Ossetia region.”

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Photography, landscape, history, Architecture, maryland, thomas point shoal lighthouse, national lighthouse day, lighthouse, chesapeake bay, Location Feature, Instagram,

Keeping Watch above the Waves at the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse

For more photos and videos from the lighthouse, explore the Thomas Point Lighthouse and Thomas Point Lighthouse, Chesapeake Bay location pages.

Off the coast of Maryland, the Thomas Point Shoal lighthouse has kept watch over the waters of Chesapeake Bay for nearly 140 years.

Unlike traditional tower lighthouses, the Thomas Point beacon stands a mile and a half (2.4 kilometers) off the shore atop a stilt-like series of metal rods, or screwpiles, that anchor directly into the sandbank. While all other screwpile lighthouses in the nation have either fallen to winter ice floes or been relocated, the Thomas Point lighthouse has survived in its original location, earning it the designation of a National Historic Landmark.

Up until 1986, a succession of men lived in and kept watch from the small six-sided Victorian cottage above the waves, lighting the oil lamp behind the crystal lens and hand-winding the fog bell. Nowadays, the Baltimore Coast Guard maintains the lighthouse from afar, and an automated foghorn and solar-powered lens have taken the place of their human-powered predecessors.