May 25, 2008

146: Banding Together

From May to September, leg-banding of songbirds is conducted every Friday morning where I work (weather permitting). Using mist nets (much like ultra-fine badminton nets), the birds are snared in clearings between willow bluffs, carefully placed into individually-sized cloth bags – then banded, identified, aged, measured and weighed before being released. May is the best month for variety as many birds pass through while heading further north, so I staked out a spot at the table this past Friday with my camera. Small warblers like these are prized catches, though in the hour I stuck around I also photographed a bank swallow and three species of sparrow.

In the realm of professional bird photography, this is deemed 'cheating'. I make no bones about it though: I am no professional, and these warblers were all hand-held while I shot. Even still, there is much difficulty in "keeping my eye on the birdie" through the lens. The birds can sense impending freedom at this point of the procedure, flighty and anxious to flee the scene (many outtakes reflected this). Selective cropping eliminated the human presence, then a quick run through Photoshop (primarily dodging and blurring of backgrounds) helped to create further focus.

Respectfully then, I submit this for Photo Friday's current theme of difficult shot. Pictured are (from top to bottom) a magnolia warbler, blackpoll warbler and Wilson's warbler (click on the species names for closer looks at their feather detail).

May 16, 2008

145: The (Purple) Thinker

There's not a whole helluva lot to this one. Kerry and I went to the local Safeway, bought our regular stuff – plus this eggplant, which looks like one of those Easter Island
Rapa Nui stones. Ever since a certain homemade pizza went awry I have trepidations for eggplant, despite successfully growing an adorable pair in the garden last summer. But I'm a sucker for an anthropomorphic vegetable, so this fellow came home with us. We had a little photo shoot using Kerry's purple yoga mat, then he had a date with a ratatouille recipe. Turns out, these things can be tasty. Eggplant, I forgive you (and click here for a closer look).

May 10, 2008

Hire A Student

It was ten years ago, almost to the day now, that I handed out these little state-of-the-art jobbies to interested and prospective gawkers at the 1998 Advertising Art Open House. Imagine, my entire portfolio of college work on a 1.44MB diskette, complete with self-contained slideshow software. A technological marvel, and about as practical today as a Beta tape.

I was the prototypical student then; I had a dive apartment with a hand-me-down spider plant and stalactites of gunk hanging from a leaky ceiling. That sport jacket in my diskette design here, I nabbed from a box of free clothes at CoreFest, the long-defunct alternative music festival at Garbage Hill. Those shoes were ten-dollar loafers from lord-knows-where. I ate macaroni. I had a firm grip on frugality.

My portfolio today is markedly improved over the one you’d see if you cracked this floppy open. That should be a given. I was quite high on my college portfolio at the time, but now find it embarassingly bad. The one standard I work by is whether, as a whole, my output as a designer each year is better than the last. I’m a harsh critic on myself – and that extends especially to creative output – so I may be thrilled with any one thing I make at any given point in time, and be blasé about it weeks (or even days) later. I must continuously remind myself this attitude is healthy.

May 03, 2008

144: Portupanoramarama

The vacation, today, is officially one month old – and I am finally prepared to stash my photos in a folder, designated henceforth as memory-inducing. My final vacation-related activity was piecing together a generous handful of multi-photo panoramics I took on the trip. These shots are a combination of Photoshop's Photomerge feature and hand-and-eye stitching work.

Above: morning fog lifts from the Rio Guadiana, as viewed from the balcony of our hotel room in Mértola. Still quite early in the trip, this photo was taken on our self-guided bike tour. The previous two days featured constant threats of rain, and I woke up very early on this morning to check the weather from the window – expecting ominous, overcast skies but witnessing this beautiful scene instead. Four-photo stitched panorama (click here for a larger view).

Above: a seven-photo panorama of Alcoutim, one day later, as viewed from the village's castle ruins. That's the Guadiana again, much larger at this point, where it forms the border between Portugal and Spain. Click here for a larger view.

Above: a five-photo panorama of morning bustle in Praça 8 de Maio, Coimbra. There are flaws in this piece if you look close enough, but I absolutely had to have this shot. I did some initial seaming using Photomerge and went to work on the rest by hand, adjusting architecture, tones, angles and even a couple of people. Click here for a larger view, where some of the flaws become more apparent.