A Cute Mute Pt 2

It is dog show weekend and that can only mean one thing.. that’s right, plenty of time to type out a post which, by the way, completes my monthly quota.  February is always a tough month due to being ripped out of two full days.   But enough whining, I know you want to get onto the post.  Today we bring out the big guns.  The first set of the Mute Swan series (link here) brought you the pictures of Swan cygnets which are umber cute in my book.  Unfortunately, there was room for improvement on the execution of those shots for a number of reasons including distance and light topped off by I just failing to hit my marks.  Figured the cuteness factor would help compensate for the softness and the hard light in the later shots.  Truth is I put those in the first set because I had a much better offering and wanted to build on the excitement.  Going right for the jelly always dampens the experience of that tasty Mel-O-Cream Bismark doughnut.  Yum, but I digress.  Leading with my favorite and soon to be uploaded Gallery shot on the newly redesigned EddieSoft Photography site (link here):

The reduced size takes a little away from the eye.  Normally shots from the back do not work that well, but the fact he (also referred to as a Cob) was looking back at me with that smirky don’t even try to sneak up on me look provided a nice composition.  As with all the Mute Swan shots in this series, these were taken at Banner Marsh in Banner IL.  Thanks to our friends over at Wikipedia learned that this pose is known as busking and as suspected in this particular setting a display of threat.  No fear dude, just hanging out here on the banks of the marsh snapping a few shots… now my wife over there .. yeah, the one over there with that long stick trying to smack the Canada Goose she sees.. well she is dangerous – just ask the Geese that crossed her path on the golf course – the horror, the horror (just kidding, Linda was behaving herself .. or was she?)

Hit the jump to read the rest the Mute Swan series post

I will admit that a few of these took a little extra time in the digital darkroom.  These birds are brilliant white and it takes some work to get the definition popped back into the feathers  thanks to the range of contrast.  It still surprises me every time I hear that someone I know is still shooting just in JPEG.  Seems foolish beyond the need to shoot a faster series of pictures – why diminish your darkroom creativity.  These birds also reach deep into the murk to feed which causes their neck feathering to be dirty.  This is the common look in marshes so went ahead and kept that characteristic in these shots.

Now, doesn’t the rear shot of the upraised wings look more appealing than the more traditional side shot above.  Granted the front on shot would have been optimal, but short of me getting wet that wasn’t going to happen.  Not that it didn’t cross my mind, but whenever I start that trek into the water my UB reminds me she is my “voice of reason” and shames me back onto the bank.  Oddly enough that is never followed by “let me go in for you” which you would expect would be the natural response from your UB – sounds like a good dinner topic.  The next shot is my second favorite of the set.

This particular image was cropped for this blog and needs to reworked to fit our standard Gallery format (11×14) – you are seeing an advance viewing!  Normally American Coots are more of a distraction that an asset (link here) but in this rare case they help add to the overall composition.  You can also tell just how big these Mute Swans are.  Adults average in the neighborhood of 60 inches long, 85 inch wingspan and 25 pounds.  This puts them in the second largest category of waterfowl after the Trumpeter Swan which we’ve had the pleasure of photographing out in Yellowstone (link here).    The next shot could have used just a bit more tilt on the Swan head to give a better view to the eye.  It still works in my opinion with the balance of the stumps to help drive the visual to the bird .. just needed a bit more turn to really give it the wow factor.

The next shot I struggled a bit within the digital darkroom.  The overall composition if fine – if you haven’t noticed by now in the body of work on this blog, one of my preferred composition principles involves sub framing the subject with other natural objects – in the case of the one before and after, this would be the fallen wood in the marsh.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but having a strategy in the field helps in the crucial composition decision process

Oh, on the struggle part – it is more noticeable in the full sized shot, but there are water drops coming off the bill and you can see their impact on the water below.  They are sharp and tell the viewer it was just up from a feeding dive.  I went back and forth on whether they distracted or not – eventually deciding to go with the scene as experienced at the time the shot was taken.  If nothing else it shows that this particular cob finds my body of work worth spitting on (hehehe).

That brings us to a close on the Mute Swan.  Hopefully the full gallery shots will be prepped and uploaded to the EddieSoft Photography site soon.. don’t tell anyone you got to see a sneak peek, our exclusive membership customers might get upset

2 thoughts on “A Cute Mute Pt 2”

  1. Great shots! The first one may be competition-worthy if you boost the blue of the water up a bit as in the second shot. The American Coots do make the fourth photograph very cool.

    That last photo really, really bugs me–I keep thinking the small stick is hanging in the air, like a strange fish that just jumped out of the water, particularly if you scroll down so the top of the Mute Swan’s head is near the top, hiding the other detritus in the background. This wouldn’t be a problem if you shot stereo pairs, you know.

    BTW, New York has been planning to employ methods such as “oiling, puncturing, shaking, freezing, replacing or removing eggs; destruction of nests; sterilization of birds; shooting; and capture and removal of swans to be euthanized or turned over to persons licensed to keep the birds in captivity” in order to eliminate all Mute Swans in the state. Also decapitation. I first read about it in the Chicago Tribune two days ago. The blowback has been enormous:

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/21/opinion/safina-mute-swans/

    There are other indignant articles as well. “Here’s what I learned a long time ago by watching a venerable old conservation organization tear itself in half over an attempt to replace its much-loved generations-old logo: Never attack symbols unless you’re sure you are right, you know you can win and you don’t care about creating permanent enmity and resentment and alienating a lot of people.”

    The DEC’s comment period on the plan ended on Friday and with 1,500 individual comments, more than 16,000 form-letter emails and 25,000 signatures on various petitions, the department will revise the plan and will have another public comment period on the revised draft, probably in early spring.

    So there. Looks like it’s a “Mute” point now.

    Ron

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  2. I will see what I can do about the water color in the first one – I have to rework it to an 11×14 crop anyway. I can also remove that stick in the last – I debated about it myself.

    So, I just had a discussion about oiling eggs with a fellow birder at work. They are apparently doing this to the Mergansers which are taking over up in Minnesota. I’m torn on this – I understand controlling populations and some would say this might be more humane than shooting the ducks themselves (I’ll forgo a comment on pro-choice there). I try not to put human emotions on wildlife just to keep some neutrality of these type of topics .. with exception of course when it comes to Wolves on which I have a very firm position on. I appreciate the analogy of having hunters kill less ducks themselves to even out the Mute Swan impact in the first link. The Swans I photographed have always been there when we’re visiting Banner Marsh and literally keep to themselves and obviously remain pretty quite – unlike those damn Red-Winged Blackbirds which are ALWAYS squawking up a storm. I think the real message is STOP trying to control mother nature through introduction of non-native predator species or trying to introduce new species just because their cool. The Asian Beetle comes to mind here!!

    Good to see people speaking up for the Swans – at least they get to have a debate now. Thanks for the great comment!

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