Watch the Birdie: A Restored Brass Gadget Dating Back 140 Years Reveals a Historic Photography Trick
Prior to asking subjects to grin and “say cheese,” photographers would entreat those awaiting a portrait to “watch the birdie.” Now generally out of use, the phrase dates back to 1879 and references a technique to capture both kids’ and adults’ attention at just the right moment: Photographers would attach a little brass bird to the top of their lens—the 1950s film Watch the Birdie erroneously positions a songbird on the main character’s hat rather than his camera—and squeeze a pneumatic bulb, making the creature chirp and flap its wings as they snapped an image.
Austria-based Markus Hofstätter recently restored one of the historic gadgets, a process he demonstrates in a new video. He begins by degreasing the 140-year-old pieces, 3D printing a new base, and finally attaching the water-filled device to his wet plate camera. After removing the lens cap and blowing into a tube, he reveals the bird’s whistles.
For more tutorials and explorations into historic photography techniques, check out Hofstätter’s YouTube and Instagram. You also might enjoy these similarly chirping antique boxes that feature singing bird automata. (via PetaPixel)
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Set Against Lavishly Patterned Backdrops, Photographer Cecilia Paredes Disguises Herself in Stunning Self-Portraits
Whether immersing herself in swathes of ornamental textiles or against paisley-style backdrops, Cecilia Paredes is adept at camouflaging herself in the most elaborate settings. The Peruvian artist disguises her figure by painting her exposed skin and draping her torso in lavishly patterned clothing, leaving just her hair and eyes untouched as she snaps a photograph. The meticulously composed self-portraits, which are part of an ongoing body of work, blur the boundaries between subject and surrounding environment as they consider themes of nature, origin, and transformation.
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Enhance! Explore the Orion Constellation in Astounding Detail with This 2.5 Gigapixel Image That Took Five Years to Complete
For the past five years, Chattanooga-based astrophotographer Matt Harbison has poured more than 500 hours into capturing the minute details of the Orion constellation, an immense undertaking that’s culminated in a stunning 2.5 gigapixel image. In its entirety, “Project Orion” is composed of 2,508 individual shots meticulously stitched together into a fiery, star-studded mosaic.
In a statement about the monumental project, Harbison writes that his fascination with the neblua began in childhood during camping trips and Boy Scout excursions and later, as he drove to high school and college. Orion “was always there, seemingly inconspicuous. I have always felt a connection to this cosmic way-finder. Big decisions and events in my life came and went, yet those stars seemed to always find their way into my consciousness,” he says.
Harbison began by photographing Andromeda in 2011 before shifting his focus to Orion in 2013. He traveled from Tennessee to Texas to capture the nebula at various points and often camped out with a group of astrophotographers in ice fishing tents. He explains the lengthy process:
The image posed many problems from the start—balancing differing sky conditions per night, aligning to the same star position each and every night, and meticulously returning to a position just a few thousand pixels North, South, East, or West. Aside from the challenge of software, there were also the continual hardware problems and challenging weather conditions in East Tennessee. Sure, there are some good nights, but there are some not so good nights as well.
After gathering hundreds of individual shots, Harbison realized he needed to update his equipment as the scope of the image grew—for specifics on the telescopes, cameras, and software used, check out this statement. “The project amasses a total of 44 TB across 21 hard drives, 7 laptops, and 3 desktops, with my 4th and final desktop recently completed,” he says.
Now finished, the composite image is available for exploration on Harbison’s site. Follow him on Instagram and YouTube, where he shares his space-centric findings, and check out this video to dive deeper into his process. (via PetaPixel)
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From an Egyptian vulture with wispy feathers to a cockatoo with a vibrant fanned crest, Tim Flach’s expressive portraits convey the subtleties and bold features of birds around the globe. The London-based photographer (previously) focuses on endangered and vulnerable species throughout his work, which includes a range of animal portraiture. “I am also interested in the perceptual divide between sentient beings. There is a sense of awe and wonderment and there is always an uncertainty about what will reveal itself on set. I like to encourage thoughts about how we see each other,” he says in a statement.
Flach’s avian portraits, in particular, are shot to reveal human-like qualities, collapsing the differences between species. He compares the black-feathered head of the long-tailed broadbill to a fighter pilot’s helmet and the mustachioed Peruvian Inca tern to an iconic artist. “This for me, is the Salvador Dali of the bird world,” he writes on Instagram, noting that the longer mustache indicates a stronger immune system, making the bird more attractive as a mate.
To explore more of Flach’s striking photographs, check out the five books he’s published, in addition to his Instagram, where he shares his portraits and idiosyncratic details about the avian subjects.
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Rotterdam-based photographer Robert Peek creates ghostly photographic stills of botanical forms that wouldn’t look out of place on Miss Havisham’s festering dining room table. On first inspection, Peek’s work resembles paintings with smoke dripping from the flowers’ petals and leaves. Colors are drawn out and enhanced, while other hues are shrouded in the white veil. With his perception-bending methodology, close-ups of lavender and thistle heads are transformed into mythical creations that peek out from the hazy background.
Having trained at the Royal College of Art, Peek developed an interest in using light as a tool to change the composition and texture of his pieces, turning photographs into painting-like artworks. Many of his projects, which he shares on Behance, are inspired by an interest in loneliness and isolation, and his photographs capture a melancholic rawness of natural blossoms frozen in time.
To create his eerie works, Peek submerges his chosen flowery forms in a fish glass before adding white ink to the water, then employs two Profoto lamps to manipulate the lighting, sometimes using a high speed to freeze the image in time. The results reveal bold, still forms steeped in mystery. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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Jamestown, New York-based photographer Catherine Panebianco compresses the space between family memories and her life at present through her series, No Memory Is Ever Alone. The moving collection features vast landscapes and unoccupied rooms with Panebianco’s continued intervention: in each shot, she holds up a photographic slide of her family in a similar location, juxtaposing the decades-old visual against a current-day backdrop.
Beyond capturing loved ones in moments of joy—many feature her mother, who died in recent years—the film reminds Panebianco of a holiday tradition. Her dad “used to bring out a box of slides that he photographed in his late teens and early 20s every Christmas and made us view them on an old projector on our living room wall telling the same stories every year,” she writes in a statement. “It was a consistent memory from a childhood where we moved a lot and I never felt like I had a steady “place” to live and create memories.” Imbued with nostalgia, the new images bind the threads of family memory and tradition with the histories of her parent’s lives and now, her own.
Panebianco chose to recreate each shot manually rather than using Photoshop to place one on top of the other. “Part of the process that was necessary for me was to find the right location and feel my dad’s slides united with how I live today—a place within a place, a memory within a memory,” she says.
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