The Blue Jay
No brigadier throughout the year
So civic as the jay.
A neighbor and a warrior too,
With shrill felicity
Pursuing winds that censure us
A February day,
The brother of the universe
Was never blown away.
The snow and he are intimate;
I ‘ve often seen them play
When heaven looked upon us all
With such severity,
I felt apology were due
To an insulted sky,
Whose pompous frown was nutriment
To their temerity.
The pillow of this daring head
Is pungent evergreens;
His larder — terse and militant —
Unknown, refreshing things;
His character a tonic,
His future a dispute;
Unfair an immortality
That leaves this neighbor out.
– Emily Dickinson
Today I took to one of my favorite neighborhoods for a camera walk. Ashland’s Railroad District is an eclectic mix of businesses and older homes. There are always interesting things to photograph in shop windows and on front porches. There are textures of old wood and rusty metal, flowers blooming, gracious tree lined streets. But today I was only half a block into it when this fellow showed up and perched in a tree where I was contemplating whether the dead leaves were autumnal enough. I knew immediately I had the days image, but I took the walk anyway and came home with many other treasured shots: The hood ornament of an old car shot through a chain link fence, dahlias, zinnias, and crepe myrtle, maple leaves, a glass pear, an old gas pump, a cut out of humpty dumpty, a garden gnome, and a statue of Buddha holding a seashell and, of course, I can never walk by the Coca-Cola sign on the side of the Peerless Hotel without taking at least one picture.
I have been systematically working my way through old photo files to find opportunities to create new art. Found this one from a trip to the Albuquerque zoo in 2009. I added a background paper from Anna Aspnes that perfectly complemented the color and did some brush work using water color brushes.
I went to California looking for wildflowers, which I found, but it was so windy it was hard to get any closeups and it was cloudy so the landscapes were dull. I finally retreated to the wildlife refuge where I found birds aplenty including a pair of American Avocets. Sadly I did not realize until I got home that my depth of field was too shallow to get them both in focus at the same time. So I settled on this individual portrait.
This one started out as an exercise to force myself to use my Wacom Tablet and pen instead of a mouse. It worked very well for masking out many extraneous branches. I had put it on a watercolor wash background but when I tried to blend the eagle it was too blue. So then I tried a warm toned overlay and started through the blending modes. When I hit Color Burn this popped up and I said “Oh, yeah!”
Finally had a break in the weather so I could get outside and do some photography. Lots of birds at North Mountain Park but the Scrub Jays were the most colorful.
I cropped this one a fair amount even though it was shot at 600mm. Detail, saturation, denoising and sharpening.
The weather hasn’t really been conducive to outdoor photography and I’ve been busy working on my album of photos from 2016. I’ve also been thinking alot about photo composites and digital art so I decided to play around with some ideas I had about using my wood duck pictures in a composite. For the background I used a closeup of a colorful glass plate from a macro workshop a few years ago. Then I added some clipping masks from Anna Aspnes designs. And then I started bringing in the photos. Overall I would say its OK but I’m not 100% happy with it. I would like to see the images blend into the background a little more. I think I like the ones that didn’t quite fit the clipping mask and I added color around the edges the best so that may be something to think about for future. Would I hang it on my wall. Probably. I see it as a metal print.
I’ve been working on a book of my favorite images from 2016 (of which only one will be printed). I already have 16 pages and I’m only on February. Yikes! Anyway, I came across this one this morning and went Wow. I guess I had passed over it previously because I was intent on capturing Wood Ducks but this Mallard turned out beautifully. I love the soft colors of the reflections in the pond and the perfect mirror image of the duck. I also love the drops of water on the duck and the detail in his feathers. Just Wow.
In post processing I gave it come clarity and vibrance and just a touch of saturation. Also a little sharpening and I boosted the exposure a little.
Rarely do I get this close to a Hawk without it flying away. This one seemed more curious than scared. I could wish it had been sitting on a fence post or tree but you take what you can get. At first glance I thought this was not a Red tail but after looking more closely I could see that though its chest is not as light as some it does have the distinctive darker vest and a look at my bird books confirmed that this has to be a Red tail.
I did some heavy cropping and converted from horizontal to vertical. I may have gone a little too close on the turn wheel and its shadow. I tried shooting vertical from the car blind but it just didn’t work too well and with wildlife you don’t have the luxury to mess around. I can’t tell you how many “Gone birds” I have photographed in my life. Anyway, just a little vibrance and saturation and some sharpening for the final image.
I was working on culling the files this week and came across this one from my June trip to the coast that I had processed in Topaz Impression. It just made me go Oh, Wow, I really like that so I thought I would make it the image of the week since I have mostly been working on learning new tricks in Photoshop but do not yet have a lot to show for it.
Here’s another one from the coast. I used a texture effect to give it a different look.