Bing Wallpaper Gallery
Aug 26, 2018
From pirate port to nature preserve
Barataria Preserve is one of six distinct locations that make up Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in Louisiana. The wetlands and bay at Barataria are tied closely to the history of this portion of the Mississippi River Delta. In the late 1700s, Barataria Bay was where the well-dressed smuggler and occasional pirate Jean Lafitte and his brother Pierre built a port. Far from the nearest US naval base and the prying eyes of customs officials, Barataria offered the brothers a safe place to smuggle in goods they"d stolen from ships in the Caribbean, or sometimes bought on the black market. They then sold the merchandise, mainly to merchants in New Orleans. Jean Lafitte and his comrades also helped to defend New Orleans against the British in the final battle of the War of 1812. These days, he’s chiefly remembered for his heroism in the Battle of New Orleans and for the jobs and goods he provided in the region--the erstwhile pirate is a folk hero of a sort, and famous enough that a national historical park was named for him.
Aug 25, 2018
Happy trails for the 21st century
We celebrate National Park Service Founders Day today with this photo from the John Muir Trail near Mammoth Lakes in California. The 210-mile trail is so long, to hike it all would take you through three national parks: Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia. At 102 years old, the National Park Service continues to do the day-to-day work of preserving our parks ‘for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.’
Aug 24, 2018
A new park with a new mission
St. Louis’ Gateway Arch has been open to visitors since 1967 and became part of a national park on Feb 22, 2018. With that new status come new reflections on what the arch represents. Originally it symbolized a ‘gateway to the West’—marking the starting point of the Lewis and Clark expedition and celebrating the westward expansion of the US. But history has many stories to tell and the Gateway Arch, with its new national park status, includes many more perspectives on our nation’s westward growth. The arch and surrounding grounds are now literally more accessible as well, with redesigned grounds that have better integrated the park into the city’s landscape.
Aug 23, 2018
Riding the bore tide at Turnagain Arm, Cook Inlet, Alaska
When the moon tugs at the tides here in Cook Inlet, Alaska, a gravitational event known as a bore tide occurs, pushing waves up against the current and creating a watery playground for stand-up paddleboarders. The bore tide here in Turnagain Arm, near Anchorage, is one of the biggest in the world, sometimes creating waves 10 feet tall. The biggest waves occur after an extremely low tide, as that’s when the largest amount of seawater comes rushing back into the narrow bay. Surf’s up, Alaskans!
Aug 22, 2018
Summer’s in home stretch
When people talk about the ‘dog days of summer,’ they’re referring to the sultry, hot days of the season that sometimes seem to stretch on forever–just like those long legs on the star of today’s homepage. This is a maned wolf, also known as a ‘fox on stilts,’ and it’s the largest species of canid in South America. As a canid, it belongs to the same family as the domestic dog, wolf, and coyote, and we think it makes a fun spokescritter for summer’s ‘dog days.’
Aug 21, 2018
Ingenuity in action on the Santa Monica Pier
The story of the Ferris wheel, first invented for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, is a prime example of human ingenuity in urban environments, which happened to be the theme of our most recent photo contest. Congrats to contest winner Chris Fabregas, who captured this shot of human ingenuity in action on the Santa Monica Pier in California. Santa Monica debuted its Ferris wheel here in 1996 and then adapted it two years later to make it the world’s first solar-powered Ferris wheel, using clean energy for the ride that propelled about 800 passengers an hour. In 2014 it was replaced with a newer version that sports 174,000 LED lights, providing for glittering nighttime scenes just like this.
Aug 20, 2018
Looking back at Yellowstone, 30 years after the fires
Nature’s resiliency is on full display here at Yellowstone National Park, where new growth has emerged among the trees charred by the massive 1988 wildfires. More than 1 million acres in the greater Yellowstone area were affected by the blazes that summer, scarring 36 percent of the park. Today marks the 30-year anniversary of Black Saturday, a day when the park saw some of the worst damage, with smoke and ash blackening the skies. But when cool, moist weather brought an end to the devastating fires in late autumn, the ecosystem immediately began to recover. Fire has long been part of the complex ecosystem at Yellowstone and many species have even adapted to rely on fire to open up the canopy, spread seeds, and diversify the habitat.
Aug 19, 2018
Oh, the places you’ll go
Here on the runway at San Francisco International Airport, the travel possibilities are practically endless, thanks in part to early innovators in aviation, whom we honor today for National Aviation Day (three cheers for the Wright brothers!). Even if you don’t leave the runway, this airport is a destination unto itself. It’s home to its own museum, with a permanent collection on aviation history as well as rotating art, history, and video exhibits. If that’s not your thing, find your inner peace in the airport yoga room, or keep an eye out for the ‘wag brigade,’ a team of airport dogs on hand to boost the moods of travelers.
Aug 18, 2018
Is that a buzzing sound?
Why are dozens of colorful boxes stacked in this field? To provide homes inside their walls for millions of honey bees, those hardworking pollinators, producers of honey, and tormenters of Winnie-the-Pooh. Wild honey bee colonies build their nests in trees and caves, but manmade boxes also do the trick, and humans have been building their own beehives since antiquity. The modern beehive boxes shown here contain frames to hold honeycombs that bees produce to store their honey, pollen, and young. When the bees have produced plenty of honey, the beekeeper can simply remove the frames to extract some of it, leaving the rest to nourish the hive.
Aug 17, 2018
Illuminations on the Gulf of Poets
Each year on Aug 17, the northern Italian fishing village of Porto Venere is illuminated with more than 2,000 torches for the festival of the White Madonna, a tribute to the town’s patron saint. The lights extend onto this rocky spur, which juts into the Gulf of La Spezia, also known as the Gulf of Poets. With views like this, we can easily see how it inspired poets and artists throughout history–including Lord Byron, who is said to have swum across this body of water to visit fellow poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Aug 16, 2018
Keep your hands inside the ride at all times…
This roller coaster at Skyline Park in Bad Wörishofen, Germany, like all other modern coasters, can trace its lineage back to the engineering work of Russian refugees living in 17th-century Portugal. To recreate the fun of sledding down snow-covered hills, the Russians built ice-bearing wooden platforms and ramps similar to very large playground slides. As the concept of the ‘Russian Mountain’ ride caught on across Europe, mechanical parts came into play, including sled-like vehicles to ride in, and rails to keep the carts on track. Over the centuries, these coaster-like rides grew to resemble the extreme, gravity-challenging thrill rides we see at modern theme parks. Where is your favorite roller coaster?
Aug 15, 2018
Best. Holiday. Ever.
On this most wonderful day—National Relaxation Day—we journey to a rocky, kelp-covered shore in the Shetland Islands of Scotland, where a snoozing Eurasian otter gives an inspiring demonstration of how to properly observe this holiday. Relaxation Day seems to have originated from National Slacker Day, which Britons are celebrating today. There, celebrants are encouraged to ignore the phone and other devices, and simply take it easy. The idea caught on here in the US and, really, who are we to say ‘no’ to a chance to kick back, maybe catch a nap, and just take it easy for one day. Join us, won’t you?
Aug 14, 2018
Combating extinction with citizen science
Just as every human has a unique set of fingerprints, each zebra has a subtly different pattern of stripes–and that trait is proving valuable in a new conservation effort. A nonprofit conservation project called Wildbook utilizes crowdsourced photos to identify and track individual animals that belong to threatened species. But it doesn’t just identify zebras. The effort extends to whale sharks, manta rays, giraffes and more. This new technology provides a non-invasive way to study the species over time. We’re fans of the project, especially since it helps friends like our Grévy"s zebra, which is endangered.
Aug 13, 2018
Look to the north sky tonight for the Perseids
We can’t all gather on the southern Black Sea coast of Bulgaria to watch the Perseids meteor shower tonight, but perhaps this amazing photo from that location will inspire you to head outside for a look at your own skies. Every August, Earth passes through the trail of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. When Swift-Tuttle’s ‘dirty snowballs’ of dust, ice, rock, and other material hit Earth’s atmosphere, they burn up as the ‘shooting stars’ of the Perseids. If you can, get away from city lights any time between now and Aug 24, find a safe spot outside, and let your eyes adjust to the dark for about 30 minutes. Look to the northern portion of the sky, or find the Perseus constellation, and you’ll start seeing streaks of light tumbling through the sky.
Aug 12, 2018
Join the parade for World Elephant Day
Today is World Elephant Day, an observance created to raise awareness of the plight of elephants around the world and prompt action on their behalf. Poaching and habitat loss have affected elephant populations, but places such as Kruger National Park in South Africa have deployed a suite of solutions to counter their decline. With technology, stronger laws, and training, Kruger National Park’s rangers and park staff work hard to defend elephants from poachers every day. Like Kruger Park, we all have a part to play in protecting elephants. Let’s keep up the good work.
Aug 11, 2018
Lace up your hiking boots for Mountain Day
Here in Japan, Mountain Day began just two years ago as a way to encourage residents to get out and explore Japan’s beautiful mountains. Mount Fuji’s Yoshida Trail, seen in this photo, is open only a short time every year, so it might be busy today. If Fuji, or any mountain, is beyond your reach, consider the seasonally appropriate ‘forest bath’ as an alternative. In Japan, a forest bath is a form of nature therapy, with no undressing, soap, or water required. Simply go to a wooded area and relax, soaking in the clean air and natural sounds as you calm your thoughts. (Is it working yet?)
Aug 10, 2018
Assembling the Smithsonian
Today’s photo–taken in 1953–depicts the dedication required to keep the Smithsonian Institution going and growing. This national treasure is made up of 19 museums and galleries and the National Zoo, as well as several research facilities. Admission to all Smithsonian museums in Washington is free, so that anyone can visit to learn about the US, and the world beyond it. It was this day in 1846 that President James K. Polk signed the legislation establishing the Smithsonian. Getting there took some doing, as Englishman James Smithson had donated the funds for an educational institution to the US in his will 20 years earlier. After the deaths of Smithson and his last surviving relative, Congress inherited 104,960 gold sovereigns as start-up money for the museum that would later bear Smithson’s name.
Aug 9, 2018
Ruins of Inca temples and terraces on Huayna Picchu, Peru
Today is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, an observance created by the United Nations to draw attention to the distinct cultures of indigenous peoples and to support measures that protect their rights. This year’s theme is indigenous peoples’ migration and movement, highlighting questions of indigenous identity and rights, particularly as people migrate within and between countries.
Aug 8, 2018
In celebration of cats
Not that anyone needs an excuse to feature a cat on the internet–but today is both World Cat Day and Scottish Wildcat Day, and that calls for a picture of this rare breed. The Scottish wildcat may resemble an ordinary tabby, but it’s twice the size and said to be virtually untamable. Unfortunately, that means we probably can’t snuggle with one anytime soon. But you can still get your feline fix by browsing cat videos on the web. In fact, we’ll be right back…
Aug 7, 2018
Guiding ships to safety
National Lighthouse Day brings us to Port Clyde, Maine, where Marshall Point Lighthouse keeps watch over the Atlantic. Lighthouses have long played an important role in seafaring, and for many, they symbolize a simpler, more romantic way of life. Many lighthouses offer tours and some even let guests stay overnight, so they can get a feel for the life of lighthouse keepers who once tended the lights in the days of oil lamps.
Aug 6, 2018
Jamaica celebrates its independence
It’s a big day in Jamaica today, as the island country commemorates the anniversary of its independence in 1962. Here in picturesque Port Antonio, they’re likely enjoying the Caribbean beaches and tropical rainforest climate that the island is famous for. You can get into the spirit of the holiday, no matter where you are. Try a recipe for Jamaican jerk chicken, play some music from the island, and pour a glass of Jamaican rum or coconut water. With views like this, every day must feel like a holiday in Jamaica.
Aug 5, 2018
Friendship Day in the City of Brotherly Love
What better place to celebrate Friendship Day than in the heart of Philadelphia–specifically, Love Park (aka John F. Kennedy Plaza), home of Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE sculpture. If you’re thinking to yourself that you’ve seen this sculpture before–but in New York or maybe Chicago?--you’re not wrong. It’s a popular piece that’s been reproduced dozens of times, even in different languages. In fact, you’ll find an AMOR sculpture not far from here, just outside of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Aug 4, 2018
‘Fringe’ takes center stage as Edinburgh celebrates the arts
It"s festival season in Edinburgh, and Scotland’s capital is bursting with creativity. Through Aug 27, the city is hosting a staggering number of music, theater, opera, dance, and other types of performances as part of the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe–the world’s largest arts festival. The Edinburgh International Festival features world-class performers invited from around the world, while the Festival Fringe is open to everyone and artists are welcome to perform just about anything they dream up.
Aug 3, 2018
Taking the scenic route to Sturgis
South Dakota’s scenic highways roar to life this week as hundreds of thousands of bikers from around the world arrive for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The small town of Sturgis, population roughly 7,000, swells to a gathering of half a million for this event, which includes 10 days of races, concerts, and revelry. The Sturgis rally was founded in 1938 by the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club and Sturgis resident Clarence ‘Pappy’ Hoel–a legend in these parts. What started as a modest gathering of just nine riders is now one of the largest rallies in the world.
Aug 2, 2018
The Aomori Nebuta Festival parade, Japan
From now until Aug 7, the northern Japanese city of Aomori is celebrating Aomori Nebuta, a festival (‘matsuri’) that features bright, colorful floats like the one seen in our photo. The history of how the festival began depends on who you ask and what you read. But the way to celebrate is to join or watch the parade that is the centerpiece of the observance. The floats depict mythic warriors and creatures, and they move through Aomori accompanied by musicians, often playing flutes and pounding on loud taiko drums. The goal? To ‘awaken sleepy souls.’