[Blog] Ruffled Feathers 1 – Cliff Swallow
When this project started in 2012, I was not photographing at The Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Frankly, the idea of pitching this project to an esteemed facility such as DMNS was way out of my wheelhouse. I had only barely convinced myself that this project was a good idea, how the hell was I going to convince them?!
So I started a bit smaller after a fateful networking connection I had in a video class. My first (and ignorant) approach was to call the US Fish and Wildlife Services. As I knew there were laws limiting the possession of wildlife, I figured they might need to issue me a permit of sorts. Well for any other artists reading this I’ll let you know there is no applicable permit to possess wildlife material and they will not entertain any sort of requests. I don’t blame them, but luckily there are USFW licensed facilities who might consider your ideas. Go there and ask away!
I ended up pitching this series to a collections manager at the University of Colorado Natural History Museum (a facility that has such a permit). Thanks to contact who was willing to introduce me, I was able to sit down and explain my idea. The collections manager was intrigued and willing to work with me and also educate me on their intake process and how the collection is managed (a story for another blog post).
I realize I’m rambling. And here I was on my first shoot. We started small and pulled a Cliff Swallow. First off, never heard of the species (someone didn’t do her homework) but I had a resource book for poses so I was off to the races. And the print, well that had plenty of other challenges I had not considered.
So here I am with this tiny fragile body in front of me. I am terrified to break or damage is when I pose it. So I begin, careful as can be and use my fishing line to gently pose head, wings, and feet. It works, quite well might I add, but the whole time I’m thinking “you’re screwed if so much as a feather falls out.” None do, the shoot goes on and I come out rather unscathed.
Gently tied up. That’s an accurate and wonderfully weird thing to type. Fun!
Now with specimen photos in hand, I had to figure out the rest of the print. To be honest, I didn’t even know if these birds nested in Colorado! Luckily, I did have a great resource in the form of the Colorado Birding community to ask around and sure enough, they nest throughout much of the state and primarily on bridges near water. So I waited. The specimen I photographed was borrowed in the winter and photographing freshly built nests, I had to wait until spring time.
Audubon’s prints features their alien nests. Where the hell am I to find these kind of nests?!
I should note – I waited until nests were empty. It’s not my goal to disturb nest sites. So summer came and I started scouting by driving roads that crossed rivers. Cherry Creek had a site but the lighting was awful. Downtown Golden had a site that was sadly abandoned and most of the nests crumbled. Boulder County was the winner with a variety of nests that I could stand at a usable angle. Mind you, that angle was IN THE CREEK.
Most of the nests were empty. Minus these theiving cuties.
So here I am, $3000 camera in hand with $2000 rental lens attached, in ankle deep spring runoff (translation – cold as hell) but I managed the shot (thanks to a monopod). The shot worked and the final print came together.
About the series – While collecting images for this series I have found that I have been collecting stories as well. Some of them are informational and steeped in the adventures I encounter in the museums and in nature. Most are lighthearted and a by-product of my somewhat scatterbrained habits that lead to quite a few ridiculous misadventure. They documented here for your entertainment. READ MORE HERE