Tag Archives: bird

Know Something Most Artists Don’t Know About Filters

This incredible capture of a local bird fishing by the side of a tranquil pond owes its drama and vision to the use of filters in photographic art.

I’m often called upon to explain what a photographic artist does to not only the everyday art lover, but often enough to painters and sculptors also. Many people, especially, other artists are often hung up with the use of photography as merely a recording tool for selfies. Slowly, those barriers of understanding break down more and more as people see the artistic results of science and art blended in perfect unison.

One of my favorite explanations  is that in photographic art the light is our paintbrush and reality is our stretched canvas. However, we need to add another line to that explanation as our work of art Water Bird in Copper this time displays.

Water Bird in Copper
Water Bird in Copper

Namely, a filter is our artist palette.

 

This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Mlaoxve
Public domain by its author, Mlaoxve

Artist palettes are stereotypically envisioned as large boards held by painters where they mix the colors of the paints they are going to use. It’s one of the oldest and most recognizable pieces of equipment in a painter’s toolbox.

 

Painters use palettes to mix their colors to achieve the perfect nuance of color that they then apply to the picture that they are painting. It allows them to lighten or darken paints to create help them create the highlight or shadow in the work according to their artistic vision.

In photography, the use of filters is nothing new. In fact, with out the use of filters color film would never have developed. Filters allow certain wavelengths of light, or colors, through to the lens while blocking others.   This is often used to stop glare and boost picture clarity. Or, in it’s artistic application; the humble filter can serve the role of the palette and dramatically enhance the drama and beauty of the picture at hand.

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What Makes The Image Of A Stretching Pelican So Powerful?

If there were ever a case about the sheer visual power of a black and white image it would have to include “Stretching Pelican”.   Color is popular in the art world; there is no denying it. After all we see in color, dress by colors, and each of our world cultures have, in their own way, given colors specific meanings.

So why then is there such artistic fascination with the unseen world of black and white? What is the draw? We are able to see an object painted black or one colored white, but we don’t visualize the world in such a way.

This lack of an ability to simply turn color in the visual world off truly belongs to the realm of the artist. Artists love to take that which cannot be seen but by definition must remain imagined and bring them into the forefront of our understanding.

Thus we have Stretching Pelican.   This is a typical brown pelican. Very much like its name, this bird really isn’t much to look at in its natural color. Its weird shape and large size draw more attention than the plain brown of the plumage.  For lack of better commentary, it’s just  a large brown bird.

Don’t misunderstand; the bird is graceful and powerful in its own right. There are plenty of fish in the sea that fear the mere presence of such a creature. Its wings spread out in the tropical sun, gliding over the surface of the water with eyes fixed upon the fish below.

But, the color! The color is a burnt brown. The wings are brown. The head is brown. Even the magnificent beak is nothing more than a shade of boring brown.   Yet, if we take this image and remove the color an incredible sight opens before us.

Stretching Pelican
Stretching Pelican

The feathers of the wings become these awesome shades of blackness slowly contrasted with brilliant peaks of white. The feathers of the tail and body almost look rigid with the white sharp contrast set against the black interior of the feather.   The feathers almost look like a metal armor.

Indeed, each feather suddenly renders a level of detail and structure previously hidden to the human eye.   Such detail brings new ideas and thoughts into focus. We see armor plating where there is none; we see rigidity where there is only softness. The bird becomes artistic and open for interpretation. The feathers, wings and even head suddenly take on a new atmosphere. It’s up to the viewer to decide the overall meaning, but that is what photographic black and white photography is all about.

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A Brief Look at Andrew Chianese’s “Painted Peacock”

Upon my latest visit to the Greenhill Campus I found inspiration in this wonderful peacock resting on a concrete wall. These magnificent birds have graced the school campus for generations and continue to provide inspirations for new works of art like “Painted Peacock

Painted Peacock
Painted Peacock

Since it was spring time our dear subject was much more interested in claiming his territory and having a friendly discourse with the nearby wandering peahens who were pretending not to notice.

The peacock required special coloring by hand to keep the red filters from diluting the bright colors of the bird. The result is a colorful bird that is of beautiful contrast to the darkening background. Enjoy.

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The Ugly Side of Holly Berries

Sitting in the early morning sunshine, this young mockingbird sits and sings on a branch of holly on a cold winter morning. The holly bush has started showing the famous red berries that are the cause for the snipping of so many branches for holiday decorations.

Take care when handling holly though. Not only do the thick waxy green leaves have spines that will easily puncture your skin, but the berries themselves are toxic to humans. Of course, the berries are not really berries. They actually are a small stone fruit.

An adult ingesting those small red fruits could expect a severe stomach-ache and possibly some very fast, uncontrollable and really unpleasant trips to the bathroom. However, if a small child gets a hold of these fruits, then as little as 20 of them can cause an unintended trip to the emergency room or possibly death.

Some pets will become ill by eating the fruit or chewing on the leaves also. Further, if your pet can reach it, odds our your child will too. So it is a wise policy to keep both children and pets out of reach of these bright-colored fruits. Interestingly, the fruits do not have the same effect on birds.

In fact, seeing this bird on the holly reminds me of the Christmas Mockingbirdinteresting side effect that these little fruits have. In late winter after the fruits have ripened and begin to fall of the holly bushes, small birds, like our friend here, will gather around the bush and feast on the fallen fruit.

The birds will then happily spread the seeds wherever they go. This is assuming they can still fly. The overripe fruit that falls on the ground will ferment. This fermentation causes our little feather friends to get a little tipsy after eating the fruit.

I’ve watched a mockingbird try to fly while only using one wing. Try as it might, it couldn’t get both wings to flap at the same time. The result was a frenzied ballet of feathers as the poor bird could only go in circles until it got dizzy, I’m guessing from the alcohol, and fall sideways on to the ground. It would rest for a minute, get up and try the other wing with the same results.

Hopefully this young mockingbird won’t experience any hangovers in it’s promising future.

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I Didn’t know that!: Photographing a White Pelican

I love to take pictures of animals. It doesn’t matter what type of animal or how big they are. They are natural subjects that the art of photography can take full advantage of in both a scientifically curious way and an artistic way. Naturally, when I got the chance to photograph a group of white pelicans while they were swimming in a small holding tank, I went for it.

This pelican is truly an incredible bird. The white pelican is larger than it’s well known Louisiana cousin the brown pelican. They may look similar but truly, this 14 pound 9 foot monster of the aviary world belongs in a class all of it’s own.

As with most of my natural subjects, it’s amazing to do a little research and discover little known facts about them. While I was already aware that they catch fish with their large beaks by skimming the waters, I was unaware that they migrate.Pelican

I grew up thinking that pelicans were mainly seabirds that you would have to go to the ocean to see. I didn’t realize they could be found as far north as South Dakota and Minnesota during the summer months. When the weather begins to cool, they start their southerly migration like many other birds.   They use lakes and rivers and marshlands for brief stops along the way.

Their winter destination is usually the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coasts. But they also travel to areas as far south as Tabasco and Veracruz, Mexico.

Seeing these birds in flight is amazing. They are so big that they rarely like to flap their wings and prefer to coast by soaring on the air currents. In the air they remind me of some type of feathered pterodactyl with their bent wings and huge misshapen heads.

Our recent work Pelican, gives you some idea of the size of those wings. This beautiful bird was swimming around a small fishing dock looking for fish and chasing other pelicans for an opportunity to steal a catch. Its large wing is wet and you can easily see the water glistening on its edge. Also, this magnificent bird is sporting a growth on his bill that advertises his maturity and availability to mate to member of the opposite sex.

The one thing that always strikes me about this image though, is the crystal cold ice blue eyes that it has. I often have an artistic habit of looking for areas of deciding contrast in my subjects.  I feel that it brings the artistic nature of the natural world into view.

It’s that simple love of the contrast between the blue of the eye and the orange of this bill and shaded white of his feather that really caught my attention. It truly is a beautiful bird that deserves a portrait of its own and a place to hang in your home or office. Enjoy!

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Sources:

Hall, Kristin. “American White Pelican Tracking Map: Migration 2012-2013.” AecGis American White Pelican Tracking Map: Migration 2012-2013. Audubon Minnesota Conservation and GIS, 21 July 2014. Web. 06 Nov. 2014. <http://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?webmap=da25d277bfbc42d0946f4b6b953a60b8>.