This weekend, Catherine and I went to Victoria to spend the weekend with my family and managed to get out for photography on both Saturday and Sunday.
I suppose it is kind of odd for a bird researcher to admit that I have never really taken part in organized birding. This is because I have never really considered myself a birder as such. I admire birders, with their excellent field sense and their identification skills, but I am more of a birdwatcher than a birder. I like watching birds, so long as I am getting insight into their behaviour or appreciating them aesthetically.
Nonetheless, I have adequate ID skills, at least as far as the winter fauna of Victoria goes, so Catherine signed us up as volunteers for the annual Christmas Bird Count. These events are an old tradition of the Audubon Society, and historically have provided quite a bit of abundance and presence/absence data on a continent-wide scale.
Victoria’s count took place yesterday, on a windy and rainy Saturday, which is not really the best weather to see lots and lots of birds. Most songbirds have to eat, however, so the early morning was bound to be at least somewhat productive.
We met other volunteers at a Tim Horton’s, and were assigned a largely-residential section adjacent to Panama Flats in Saanich. The objective is to walk the area, identifying and counting birds, recording how many of each species we saw. For a full list of what we saw, click here. Check out the pictures, and follow the Victoria count results here.
2013 has been a great year for shooting as well as for getting my images out to people who are interested, via this blog! There are so many decent images to choose from, and I am a bit pressed for time right now, so I will organize the pictures that stood out for me phylogenetically.
This is to be a weekend of catchup, as I try to finish grant proposals and permit applications for work in Honduras. What no one tells you about doing a PhD is how much work it is to not only finish and defend your thesis, but to ensure you have a job or income waiting for you when you do! Defending my PhD work is really the least of my worries.
I did go out Saturday morning for a walk in Stanley Park, where I encountered the regular cast of characters for a late fall morning. Because the crows have completed their molt, I did some crow photography, experimenting with throwing bare flash onto them from behind to give them some separation from the background, and in general to add interest. I think this is something I would like to explore some more, as it does give the shots a bit of extra pop, and the crow plumage seems to tolerate the bare flash well, provided it comes from an angle. All of the following crow shots have a cloudy daylight for the fill, and just a kicker of bare flash for highlighting.
Some of my favourite photographic subjects to revisit periodically are crows. These bold black birds seem to me unusually expressive, with minor variations in posture and plumage conveying very different feelings photographically. I like to get in close, to show their eyes and plumage. In the following shots, you can see that some are molting countour plumes around the face. In another month or so, they will be at their sleekest and blackest, and I will probably go out for some more crow sessions.
My Dad was visiting this weekend from Romania, and so I thought I would take him out to find some cool stuff in Stanley Park. Now is a great time for fledgling birds, and all the summer specialties such as robber flies are abundant.
This Weekend Expedition, we set out to go to North Vancouver’s Maplewood Park. Just a short bus ride across the bridge, right? Well, if is if you manage to catch the bus! Catherine and I arrived at the bus stop just as our bus was pulling out…And it was Sunday, so the next one was in 25 minutes. No problem! Lets just walk to the next bus stop and wait there.
This bus stop was awesome, we had knitting to do and Tobey Maguire (Spiderman!) to keep us company. Except the next bus didn’t stop for us! Apparently, our special bus only stops at the first stop (not that they are labelled or anything. Thanks TransLink!). Rather than wait another 25 minutes, we decided to change plans and head to Hastings Park, a few blocks away. Have a look below to see what we found!
Many photographers struggle to find models, often paying lots of money to professional agencies or resorting to Model Mayhem to recruit on-camera talent. In Vancouver, I have found a huge selection of beautiful models who will work for peanuts. Literally.
One of my favorite activities in bird photography is to assemble a group of hungry crows in order to hone my camera technique and practice my timing Crows are photographically challenging due to their dark tones, but repeated efforts will yield nice results. These abundant city crows are used to scavenging human refuse and soliciting handouts, so feeding them does not risk altering their survival skillset.
They will approach closely, so shooting them with a 50 mm lens is definitely doable.
What I love especially about these birds is their curiosity and mannerisms that call to mind their intelligence.
In the Vancouver area, there is a high abundance of crows, who (when not rearing young) fly into the city at dawn from huge communal roost sites in Burnaby.
Because they are such willing subjects, I can experiment with different lighting styles, even overused hipster clichés.
One of the best things about working with an urban social species is that they go about most parts of their lives in front of humans, so they do not alter their behavior because of fear. So I try to catch natural behavior as well, such as calling, anting, foraging, playing, and allopreening.
All in all, I think the crow makes a worthy model for future photographic study. I keep returning to them for inspiration and practice. There are so many more behaviors, looks and moods I would like to document. When nothing else is going well, a photo session with crows can always boost my morale and stir my imagination.
What kind of familiar subjects do you return to?