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Tuesday, 28 October 2014


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Over on duckrabbit, John Macpherson has posted When Worlds Collide.


A beautiful picture with a hopefully happy ending.

It would be interesting to see also how DDB has interpreted the same scene. When I see many taking photographs in the same context, I often wonder how different can be the reaction of different people to the same "input".

I've found several similar images, the result of birds that mistook the sky reflected in my patio or door window for the flight path and I have yet to find any that resulted in the death of the bird who made the impression.
My guess is they lived to tell the tale. On the other hand, they did make a beautiful 'impression' and you made a beautiful photograph!

Kind of reminded me of the memory of this one from Arthur Fellig "WeeGee":

Correction: I thought the suicide pix was WeeGee's, given the usual nature of his work, but it actually was taken by Robert Wiles, a photography student who just happened to be across the street at the time.

Ah, the wonderful skyways of Minneapolis and St Paul. For the uninitiated, the skyway system consists of enclosed paths that connect the closely spaced buildings within each downtown area. In January, the average low temperature is 7 degrees F (-14 C) so the skyway system enables the public to comfortably move between buildings without going outside. Skyway traffic is high during the day when it is packed with employees who work downtown, but there is still some nighttime activity for the theater and bar crowd.
Fun fact: You can always tell who works downtown and who doesn't, because the latter is always wearing a coat in the skyway while the former is unencumbered by any cold weather gear.

To make you feel better, I live in a house with the big doors open most of the time. Woodpeckers and mourning doves fly in often and steal the cat food. When startled they fly out and often attempt to go through a closed window. Most of the time, they just fly away, often they are stunned and I revive them, but it is very rare for them to meet their demise.

Be of good cheer Ctein, the pigeon almost certainly survived. From the spread of the wing it looks as if the bird was slowing, possibly trying to land, when it struck the glass. Fatal window-strikes generally happen head-on and at full speed.

Pigeons are a tough bunch — they bounce.

Like the photographs in Sally Mann's body of work called "What Remains", this is a disturbing photograph that brings thoughts about death and beauty, but not one that many people may want to hang on their wall. It will be interesting to see the response.

For what it’s worth, I have experienced this kind of bird-collides-with-window event twice. The first time was in the mid-90s, when I was at work one day. I heard a thump and looked up to see the dusty impression of a pigeon on a nearby window. If I pressed my face to the glass and looked down I could see the pigeon there, alive but stunned. After a while it flew away, apparently unharmed. (Yay!)

(I did get a photo, but unfortunately I only had a point-and-shoot film camera with me, so the result is not great. Not focused on the impression: http://www.blork.org/mondaymorning/index.php?showimage=30)

The second time was a few years ago at home. My sweetie heard a thump on a second-floor patio door. We looked and saw a dazed, possibly dead, mourning dove on the balcony. Then a kestrel (I think) swooped down, picked up the mourning dove, and flew to a pole about 100 metres away. The kestrel pecked at the dove for a minute, then took flight again, flying straight towards us with the dove in its claws. As in “Yikes! He’s going to crash into the window!” towards us. At the last second the kestrel pulled up and flew over the house and away with its dinner.

I’m pretty sure the kestrel had actually forced the dove into our window (I read somewhere that this is a hunting tactic, to chase prey until it tires or crashes into something). But I have no idea why we got the spectacular post-mortem flyover.

Unfortunately the mourning dove left no appreciable impression on the glass.

This one survived:


Many Thanks Ctein. You've answered a question about an image I have that's been driving me crazy for over two years. Everyone who's seen it loves it but it still leaves me conflicted. Now I know why.



David Miller beat me to it, as my thoughts were similar. Had it not become aware of the impending collision, it would've looked more like this one (that I also linked to in the original article):

And had it become aware earlier, or being going slower, you might have just had the likes of this:

Just because I can, this should be Google Street View looking at the skyway segment Ctein's photo was taken in (the print was on the glass you see in Street View, so the background in his photo is mostly behind us). They do apparently clean those windows occasionally, because I don't see any signs of bird prints on the glass in the Street View.

Marco, sorry, I don't seem to have any of my shots posted at my site.

Dear Marco,

It might make an interesting topic for some future column, but this particular situation wouldn't be that interesting. DDB and I were highly constrained by the physical circumstances. If I decided to do a column like this, I'd go through our many joint photo trips with him and find better examples of our different visions.

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

I agree with David Miller. I have bird feeders in my side yard and birds frequently hit a window on that side of the house if something startles them and they attempt a sudden escape. It can happen several times a day. A couple of times a bird has fallen to the ground stunned but then flies off seconds later. Most simply bounce off, resume flying (albeit in a different direction) but over the years none have died as a result of colliding with my windows. I do occasionally see dead birds along the road when I am walking but that is the result of combined impact from both the speed of the bird and the car. Robins in particular have an unfortunate habit of swooping low in front of cars although they generally manage to avoid collisions at the last second.

I think I'd rather fly into a window than be a barnacle goose gosling. Check it out at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/10/28/barnacle-gosling-s-death-defying-cliff-dive.html

Pigeons are not only a tough bunch, they are in fact flying survival systems.....check the pigeons at a railwaystation. They don't need to be pampered with consumer freindly walkways in -14 degrees, they will flock at a heated railway slip...and loose some toes or whole feet when they get cought when a train has to change track....and survive, breed 3 to 4 nests a year. Remember pigeons can track their pedigree to velociraptors and tyrannosaury and not to impertinants apes like us....

Greets, Ed.

Dear Ed,

Heh. Oh, I know, I know! If you ever watched Elmo stalk prey (in his case, a soft drink can) you'd never doubt his reptilian origins–– there is the slow smooth approach and then the sudden lunge. And, the way he systematically deconstructs a chicken bone and scoops out the marrow argues against a placid vegetarian heritage.

Still, I'd feel awfully bad if I saw a velociraptor injured or killed, assuming (a) that I wasn't struck dumb with awe and (b) it wasn't attempting to make me its lunch.

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

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