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Culture

Web photos capture tsunami's impact

Digital cameras and Web technology allow people to quickly share images of the devastation around the world. Photos: Tsunami's devastating force

    Last month's devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean dramatically highlighted the powerful combination of digital photography and the Web.

    Before most news photographers had a chance to scramble, amateur shutterbugs in the affected areas were capturing the turmoil of huge waves racing ashore--and people running for their lives. Not long after that, those images made their way onto the Internet, providing the rest of the world with its first look at the cataclysm.

    The images appeared on a long list of online venues, including photo-sharing sites such as Yahoo Photos, Ofoto, Snapfish and Webshots (Webshots is owned by CNET Networks, the publisher of News.com), along with the homemade Web pages of many ordinary folk.

    The burst of photographic intensity underscores the growing sense of confidence consumers now have with diverse technologies, ranging from digital cameras and imaging software to blogs and broadband connections.

    The Web almost instantly captured the moment in words as well as in images. In the early hours and days after the waves struck on Dec. 26, people were turning to blogs, chat rooms and message boards to seek information on loved ones in the areas hit or to post notices about the survivors and the lost. Donations to help with the recovery efforts also traveled quickly online.

    Still, the most vivid link between the Internet and the tsunami came through in the photos. Personal possessions wash ashore, for instance, and beaches lie stripped of the brightly colored accoutrements of oceanside resorts.