birds

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Art

A Socially Anxious Character Disguises Itself As Owls, Pigeons, and Other Birds in Textured Sculptures by Calvin Ma

November 4, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Comfort Zone,” ceramic with glaze, 12.5 x 7 x 7 inches. All images © Calvin Ma, courtesy of Foster/White Gallery, shared with permission

In his ongoing series titled Blend In: Making Home, artist Calvin Ma (previously) conveys an incessant need to belong through a quirky character camouflaging itself as different birds. From owls to pigeons to Mandarin ducks, the precisely hued costumes envelop the figure in a mass of feathers and scaled footwear. The artist textures the ceramic sculptures by hand, etching countless lines into every plume.

Each species represents an emotion or experience tied to social anxiety, which Ma bolsters with corresponding environments, like a birch cage or flower-lined nest. “Being shy, timid, and a bit socially awkward is something that will always be a part of me. The goal is to come to terms with it and grow from it,” the artist says of his own experience.

If you’re in Seattle, head to Foster/White Gallery where Ma’s anthropomorphic pieces are on view through November 21. To see the works-in-progress, check out the artist’s Instagram.

 

“In The Wind,” ceramic with glaze, 13 x 11 x 8 inches

“Break Free,” ceramic with glaze, 13 x 9 x 9 inches

Left: “Making Home,” ceramic with glaze, 17 x 12 x 9 inches. Right: “Out of the Woods,” ceramic with glaze, 11 x 6 x 6 inches

“First Step,” ceramic with glaze, 14 x 7 x 6 inches

“Hover,” ceramic with glaze, 14 x 10 x 8 inches

Left: “Nesting,” ceramic with glaze, 10 x 7 x 6 inches. Right: “Time And Again,” ceramic with glaze, 12 x 11 x 8 inches

“Fleeting,” ceramic with glaze, 16 x 29 x 8 inches

 

 



Design History Photography

Watch the Birdie: A Restored Brass Gadget Dating Back 140 Years Reveals a Historic Photography Trick

October 29, 2020

Grace Ebert

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)

 

 

 



Photography

Vivid Portraits by Photographer Tim Flach Frame the Unique Features of Vulnerable Birds

October 27, 2020

Grace Ebert

Peruvian Inca tern. All images © Tim Flach, shared with permission

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.

 

Cockatoo

Vultrurine guineafowl

Toco toucan

Egyptian vulture

Long-tailed broadbill

Blue Throated Macaw

 

 



Photography

In Flight: Dramatic Photographs by Mark Harvey Capture Acrobatic Birds Mid-Air

October 17, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Mark Harvey, shared with permission

Throughout lockdown in the United Kingdom, Mark Harvey, who is known for his striking equine and canine photography, shifted his focus to the avian creatures gliding above his home in the Norfolk Broads. Now part of a series titled In Flight, the exquisitely detailed shots frame common birds —including magpies, blue tits, starlings, goldfinches, great tits, coal tits, long-tailed tits, and green finches—in otherwise unseen poses: some splay out an entire wingspan, while others wrap their feathers around the front of their torsos.

Hearkening back to the methods of famed birdwatcher Victor Hasselblad, Harvey employed similar techniques to capture the dramatic shots. He used a slow, medium format with the same camera Hasselblad manufactured for the outdoor endeavor, taking just one image at a time.

Harvey just released limited edition prints of the In Flight series, which are available in a run of 15 per subject in his shop, and shares more of his striking horse and pup portraits on Instagram. (via Creative Boom)

 

 

 



Animation Music

Who Dat: A Suave Pigeon Struts Down the Sidewalk and Shows Off its Groove Thang in a New Music Video

October 8, 2020

Grace Ebert

The swaggering pigeon in Emmit Fenn’s new music video might upend the notion that peacocks are the proudest avians. Animated and directed by Patrick Jean, “Who Dat” opens on a quiet street corner before zooming in on the lone bird. As the bass drops, the pigeon begins a subtle strut down the street while it grooves to the beat. Soon, the bird reveals in its dancing skills after a shake of its tail feather. To see more of the Los Angeles-based director’s humorous animations, head to Vimeo.

 

 

 



Photography

Iridescent Glass Worms, Fruiting Slime Molds, and a Glowing Eel Larvae Top Close-Up Photography Contest

October 7, 2020

Grace Ebert

Image © Andrei Savitsky, cupoty.com. Winner: Micro. “Glass worms can vary in length from about half an inch to two inches. On the right side of this image you can see the large tracheal bubbles that serve as hydrostatic organs (or swim bladders). These bubbles allow the larva to keep its horizontal position in the water column, while also helping to regulate the depth of its immersion. The bubbles are covered with dark pigment cells that can resize – if the cells expand due to absorption of light, the tracheal bubbles heat up and increase in volume, reducing the weight of the larva and causing it to float up. To create the picture here I made a panorama of eight frames, each of which was focus stacked. To make the image as detailed (and aesthetically pleasing) as I possible I used darkfield and polarisation techniques.” All images shared with permission

Captured around the globe, the winning shots in the 2020 Close-Up Photographer Of The Year glimpse some of nature’s most fascinating details, from the organs inside a shimmering glass worm to slime molds bursting with fruit. Dr. Galice Hoarau, an evolutionary biologist living in Bodø, Norway, took the top prize for his image (shown below) of a serpentine eel larva spotted during a blackwater dive.

In its second year, the annual contest garnered more than 6,500 entries from 52 countries. Photojournalists Tracy and Dan Calder, a wife and husband duo based in the United Kingdom, launched the competition in 2018 to “encourage photographers to slow down, enjoy their craft, and make long-lasting connections with the world around them.” Explore some of Colossal’s favorite close-up, micro, and macro shots below, and dive into the top 100 images on CUPOTY’s site. (via Design You Trust)

 

Image © Galice Hoarau, cupoty.com. Animals and Overall Winner of Close-up Photographer of the Year. “I spotted this eel larva off the island of Lembeh (Indonesia) during a blackwater dive. Blackwater diving is essentially diving at night in the open ocean, usually over deep or very deep water. Divers are surrounded by darkness, with only a lit downline as a visual reference. Peering through the darkness with your torch can be quite stressful the first time you do it, but it gets fascinating quickly. What makes blackwater diving so magical is the abundance of rarely seen planktonic creatures you spot as they take part in one of the largest daily migrations of any animal on Earth. After sunset, small pelagic animals (like this larva) rise close to the surface to feed where the sunlight has allowed planktonic algae to grow. At sunrise, they dive into the depths and stay down there during the day to escape predators.”

 

Image © Barry Webb, cupoty.com. 2nd Place: Plants & Fungi. “This image is a stack of 34 focus bracketed images. It was taken in February 2020 in a mixed woodland in Buckinghamshire, UK. It shows a line of 2.5mm high, fruiting bodies of the slime mold Metatrichia floriformis growing on a decaying beech trunk. I always use a x10 loupe with built-in LEDs to examine slime molds and to help me pick out the optimal composition. Initially, I liked this group because it showed different stages in their development. But when I looked through the magnifier, I noticed that the fruiting bodies resembled people standing in a line – the holes in the stems looked like little legs!”

 

Image © Juan Jesús González Ahumada, cupoty.com. 2nd Place: Insects. “When night falls, water scorpions rise to the surface of the pond and begin to interact with fellow water-dwelling creatures. While they might have a sinister appearance, these insects belong to the genus of bed bugs and aren’t actually dangerous. The caudal tube that helps them to breathe (and resembles a tail) is harmless. The pincers, however, help them to grab their prey, which they then kill with their beak. To show their wonderful outlines, and reduce them to silhouettes, I placed two flashlights under two water scorpions in the pond.”

 

Image © Chien Lee, cupoty.com. 3rd Place: Insects. “Bioluminescence is abundant in the Bornean rainforest at night, a feature that becomes evident as soon as you turn off your headlamp, but few organisms emit a light as strong as Lamprigera beetles. Close relatives of fireflies, Lamprigera differ in that the females are wingless and produce a bright and steady greenish light from the tip of their abdomen. During a night walk in the mountains of southern Sarawak, I found this large specimen crawling through low vegetation, presumably on the hunt for snails, their preferred prey. To capture the bright continuous trail of light from its abdomen, I used a long exposure as it made its way along a stick, coupled with a single rear-sync flash.”

 

Image © Csaba Daroczi, cupoty.com. 2nd Place: Animals. “I was preparing to take pictures of bogbean (Menyanthes) at the Turjanos nature conservation area near Kisőrös, Hungary, when I glimpsed this composition in the marshland. I carefully set up my tripod, and prayed for the spider not to move. It allowed me a few pictures before disappearing into the foliage.”

 

Image © Giacomo Redaelli, cupoty.com. 2nd Place: Young Close-up Photographer of the Year. “I had already photographed great crested tits close to home, but this time I wanted a picture of one against a blurred white background to make the red-eye of the bird stand out. To create the picture I had in my mind’s eye I had to travel four hours to a wood in Switzerland. It was very cold and the snow-covered almost everything. When I arrived, I saw many birds in the wood, but no crested tits. I walked for almost an hour in this beautiful landscape before I heard a familiar call. I stopped, took my camera out of the bag and waited, without moving. I couldn’t tell where the call was coming from. After a while, a crested tit flew on to a branch right in front of me. I moved as slowly as possible, trying not to scare it away, and brought my camera up to my face. I was so happy to see the bird in the viewfinder. I focused on the eye and got a few nice shots.”

 

Image © Heather Angel, cupoty.com. 3rd Place: Micro. “This time-lapse shows how green hydras (Hydra viridissima), although sessile (fixed in one place), can move around. A hydra moves by looping over and over, attaching the tentacles, then detaching the disc before reattaching it. They can also move by floating upside down. This particular hydra was attached to a petri dish raised up from a black background so it could be lit from below using darkfield illumination (DFI) and a microscope. The paler margins of the hydra’s body are a result of DFI. The green color is caused by symbiotic algae that live inside the hydra. In return, the algae provide nutrients to the hydra via photosynthesis. Hydras feed on small crustaceans, including water fleas.”

 

Image © Mathieu Foulquié, cupoty.com. 3rd Place Animals. “This common toad (Bufo bufo) took a liking to me, probably because I looked like a frogman myself. He didn’t stop following me during my two-hour dive in the Buèges karst spring (Hérault, Occitanie, France), so he became the perfect model.”

 

Image © Mike Curry, cupoty.com. Winner: Insects. “I was visiting Goole, the town where I was born in East Yorkshire, in 2018 as my dad was very ill in hospital. To take my mind off things I went for a walk with my wife Justine. There had been no time to pack really so all I had with me was my iPhone XS. We were walking towards the docks when I saw some beautiful peeling paint on an abandoned building site. I went over to photograph it when Justine asked if I had noticed the butterfly too. I hadn’t as I was miles away, but I had already captured this image serendipitously. It felt a surreal moment as my dad particularly liked butterflies and always commented that they represented relatives who had passed away, making it even more poignant. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly after, so this is a special photograph for me.”

 

Image © Tamás Koncz-Bisztricz, cupoty.com. Winner: Young Close-up Photographer of the Year. “I regularly visit a meadow near my hometown of Csongrád-Bokros, Hungary, observing the site in all seasons. The meadow is grazed by Hungarian grey cattle, which keeps the place in relatively good condition. One frosty winter’s morning I headed out to take some extreme macro shots at the surface of some frozen water that had pooled in the tracks left by a tractor. Crouching down, I spotted some yellow globular springtails (Sminthurus maculatus) which feed in the sunrays reflected from the ice. I used LED torches to illuminate one of them, and came away with a picture that celebrates this tiny creature.”

 

 

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