June 23, 2010

237: The Tanager

So, the other day I was in the cafeteria lineup at work next to our resident naturalist (and all-around bird expert, who also leads Friday morning songbird banding, for which my camera and I are most grateful).

In typical bird-nerd fashion, I asked her where I could go in the area to improve my odds of spotting a scarlet tanager, one of the most vibrant and colourful songbirds around these parts. Since my early childhood days of bird geekdom, I've still only seen them in field guides.

She told me, essentially, what I already knew ­ tanagers like deep forest and high tree canopy, largely away from prying eyes.

But it got me to remembering my apartment-dwelling days. I spent upwards of four years in a fourth-floor suite overlooking a city park through the canopies of huge boulevard elms. And every May for a few short weeks, the treetops outside my windows would be filled with brilliant and wonderful little birds passing though during spring migration. Warblers, thrushes, kinglets and thrashers; from street level I'd have had zero idea they were even up there. Probably, much like that elusive scarlet tanager.

I created this digital illustration in homage of my search. I'm often hard-pressed not to look at a big fat tree and think of what's up there, out of sight in the leaves. But they're obviously there. The field guides say so.

This is almost an entirely digital concoction. The bird and leaves are scanned outlines, vectorized in Illustrator. The tree itself was originally a high-contrast silhouetted photo, inverted and simplified. The background is a tinkered-with scan of faux-wood panel. The leaves were repeated in an analogous array of greens, rotated and bunched for copy-and-paste sessions in Photoshop. For a closer look at the overall piece, you can click here.

June 12, 2010

236: Four Month Check-In

It's hard to believe I'm now a third of the way through my photo-a-day challenge. And this past month has been exemplary of the highs and lows while conducting such a venture. There's the obligatory days where you want nothing whatsoever to do with the project. Days where an image falls in your lap. Days where there's even too much to choose from when boiling down to a single submission. This past month in particular, saw the arrival of my new camera (and replacement macro lens a week later), spells of brilliant and terrible weather and an extremely photogenic trip away to New York City.

It's ironic then, that in choosing my favourite snap from the past 30 days, I find myself not particularly drawn to any one shot. But in selecting this portrait of a savannah sparrow, I realized one camera-friendly reason why I love this time of year – bird-banding mornings at work. And though I was told the brightly-coloured warblers, ever the stars of these sessions, overflew the area this year, capturing a wonderfully-textured bird in the hand like this chap is still worth the time and effort.

As always, check my 365 progress as the set grows and grows, here – or view it slideshow-style, here.

June 02, 2010

235: Back To The Windy Apple

The days leading to, and following our trip last week to New York City (and Philadelphia – thanks, Mel!) have been frenetic for me, so I apologize for my absence here.

And while Manhattan isn't top-of-mind on anyone's lists of most relaxing getaways, it certainly ranks high among the world's great distractions. And that's what I needed right about now.

Kerry and I traveled to New York almost
three years ago to the day, and had a fabulous time. This time around was no different, although our approach to the trip subtly seemed to be; I didn't realize myself until we got home and I began to skim through the photos. Images from our first trip together showed scope and grandeur, frame-filling snaps of the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station and the Brooklyn Bridge. We were tourists in the purest sense, and it showed.

This time around, the camera was largely aimed back at us. We have photos of each other. Photos of good food we ate. Photos of small things, quirky sights and unsuspecting people. Photos of us carving out our little niche among one of the world's most frantic places. The pictures don't lie; it was a fun, fun time.

I dressed up a select series of images as panoramic black-and-whites. You can view the set here, or as a slideshow here.