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Monday, 27 October 2014


Re: "Ctein came across this remarkable find in St. Paul, Minnesota, last year, and made of it a photograph like none you've ever seen before."


I'm certainly not trying to be contrary, but this image hit a nerve, I guess. First of all, the "find" is, sadly, not remarkable at all. An estimated 300 million to 1 billion birds die each year from collisions with glass on buildings; this estimate includes everything from downtown skyscrapers to residential sliding-glass doors (http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/collisions/index.html). Birds can’t distinguish reflections from reality (recall Jim Hughes’s photos of the Song Sparrow combating its reflection in a car mirror -- http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2014/06/the-besotted-bird-love-is-in-the-air.html). Even when a bird flies away after striking a window, it often dies elsewhere as a result of the injuries sustained. While migratory songbirds are most at risk from collisions with glass, nearly 300 species have been reported as collision victims, including hummingbirds, woodpeckers, kingfishers, woodcock, and birds of prey. (The estimates, by the way, came from detailed studies in several cities, during one spring migration, where dead birds were collected and counted from the sidewalks below skyscrapers. The numbers were then "multiplied" by the total number of cities, scaled for size, within the migration corridors. If anything, the numbers are low.)

And not only have I seen many photographs like this before, I've personally shot a few dozen very similar photos.

The results of this study, combined with recent hard evidence of the number of birds (and other wildlife) killed annually by cats -- especially feral cats -- adds up to some sobering totals. A billion killed each year by window collisions, another two billion killed each year by cats (http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/cats/pdf/Loss_et_al_2013.pdf), when combined with habitat destruction both here and on their wintering grounds, leads to some sobering population reductions, and very likely to extinctions. As a passionate naturalist, I have personally witnessed many of these declines over the last 30 years. (And now add the effects of global warming to the other stresses on populations, and ... well, that's a topic for another time and place.)

If you'd like to help with the problem, see http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/collisions/glass.html.

Sorry, I'm not trying to diminish Ctein's photograph in any way. It was well-seen and well-executed. And and as an owner of several of Ctein's prints, I'm sure it will be remarkably well-printed, at a level I can only aspire to. Perhaps his photo can be used to increase awareness of these issues, and result in a "win" for everyone.


Electric wind farms and cars take a huge toll on birds too. If I had a choice between the bird impact photo and the smiling monkey selfie--I would prefer the monkey selfie at its original tilted angle as shown here once.

All I can think of is bam! Numerous times my large front windows were host to flying objects of large dimension,
including birds and an owl which did the large reading room window grevious damage, killed the owl as well.
Hence don't really want this particular image.

Ah yes. Progress. Big shiny buildings. Tar sands exposed. We humans are a terrible lot. I too have noticed a huge decline in bird numbers here at our acreage just outside of Edmonton Alberta over the last 30 years. As Joni once sang " they paved paridise and put up a parking lot". We still get large numbers of the bigger species, but the little ones are now quite rare.

'Bird impression by Ctein' just brings to mind all kinds of images ... especially after his budgie posts.

The limning of wing feathers and downy breast evokes an angel.

A haunting photograph.

Dear Richard,

I think that's a very good question. I'm not fanatical about this, vis:

It Doesn't Matter How You Get There If You Don't Know Where You're Going

So, keeping in mind that the JPEG in the web browser is a poor imitation of the print, and attempting subtle analyses of tone and color placement from it would be a fool's errand...

The coloration in the physical print is pretty subtle. It's a lot closer to monochrome than you'd think from looking at the screen images. The web browsers kick up the saturation in ways I don't understand and can't entirely compensate for.

Still, in the print, the background tones run towards the warm-yellow side, while the feather impressions are neutral to very slightly bluish. This helps provide some visual separation between the bird imprint and the background. It's a tricky thing to draw out in the print-- there's that bright/dark vertical fuzzy bar in the background just to the right of the bird's body. It almost overpowers the subject… but not quite. Part of what keeps it on the okay side of the line, compositionally, is the slight color differential. It's just a little bit of a kick to help the I separate the subject from the background, but it's important. In a black-and-white conversion, where that goes away, that bar gains too much strength, relative to the dust impressions.

With some very careful adjustment, one can make the picture work almost as well in black and white as color. The key word being “almost.”

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

How strange! I posted the same thing yesterday too! http://www.duckrabbit.info/2014/10/when-worlds-collide/

think I posted my version of this phenomena last time, but I think Elsa point out what lift this shot above the ordinary (my version!)

On a side note, birds running into our windows happens enough that our dogs know exactly what the 'thud' means and get very excited about an easy catch!

Ha! Pale Fire was the first thing I thought of when I saw that photo too!

Looks like a rock dove (urban pigeon) but how could such avian impact leave an image on plate glass? Just curious.

Ctein's image can strike either a sublime or horror chord with a viewer. Perhaps, as with me, both.

Living atop a high-rise building for a very long time, as I have, bird strikes are very familiar to me. I recall well a twilight moment walking through my current home the day after closing on its purchase many years ago. Standing in the bare space that would become my living room I was enjoying my first glimpse of the wonderful view when the tranquility was shattered by a very loud BUMP on a window to my right. A bird had slammed into the glass. But instead of leaving a ghostly full-body outline there was only a wet red splatter at the point of an apparent head-on collision. Unlike Ctein's bird, mine apparently had no chance to put on the brakes. My heart sunk, as if I had somehow killed this bird. Of course I hadn't.

In the many years I've lived in the apartment since that moment I can only recall seeing one other bird collision. Nevertheless, high-rise bird collisions do occur, especially at this time of year when migrating flocks pass through town. (Locals seem to have radar-mapping navigation.) But plenty of low-rise collisions also occur. Our city has made an effort to reduce the attractiveness and confusing profiles of tall buildings for many years. It has reportedly helped somewhat but collisions still occur. Whaddayagonnado?

So this image can serve to be a freestanding observation of a type of beauty. It can also serve as an educational reminder of the horrors that can confront birds in a glass-loaded urban environment. Either way, it's a well-seen image.

Dear John,

Most of the impression left in the glass is from powder (fine scales, actually) knocked off of the bird's feathers and feet. Assuming that pigeons generate this sort of powder (I don't know anything about pigeons)-- it varies from species to species. Some, like cockatoos, generate huge amounts of powder. African grays are also pretty powdery; the white circles around Elmo's eyes are powder. If you wipe away the powder, you see bare pink skin.

The powder helps protect against dust and dirt, to keep the bird dry, and deter parasites. It also acts as a bit of a sunscreen.

People who are allergic to birds, mostly, are allergic to the powder. Much the same way that airborne cat and dog allergies are primarily about the dander, not about the hair.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

When you do these please highlight when the sale period ends. Easy to miss as it is now.

a follow-up of our 'kamikaze' birds. Had one hit our sliding glass door tonight and the dogs set after it. My wife opened the door to hold the dogs back and it flew inside. Great, now to catch it. It flew off, straight into another window, knocking itself silly again. She picked it up and it just sat in her hand. I thought of TOP and said, hold it there, I need a photo. My son grabbed the p&s off the bench and snapped a pic. The bird was released in a area the dogs can't get at and seems to be ok as it's now gone :)

click the link for the photo..


If it's not too hard logistically, would you mind giving a little more notice before the next print sale? I was a little behind on my reading, and I just barely missed it. This is a fascinating photograph.

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