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“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

Updated: Oct 16, 2018

That, of course is an Al Pacino line from the movie The Godfather Part III.

Well, here I am, experiencing the same thing. I thought I was done with the pigeon pictures, thought I had a nice portfolio put together -- but no, somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind an idea shoots out like a runaway eight ball struck too hard with too much English, and is now skipping happily over the table, onto the floor, and out the door.

I went back last night—still trying to capture the sense of movement using slow shutter speeds and a strobe to freeze the blur a bit (much harder than it sounds with birds flying at 120 feet). I had to completely change my way of working. The flash takes 2-5 seconds to re-cycle to full power, so I had to force myself to see the moment when the birds, by some manner only they can comprehend, formed a fluent and vibrant form that strikes a resonant chord, transforming the image into a musical and magical moment.

The birds now number close to 800, nearly double what they were last week. My eyes had adjusted to absorbing that much movement, and then the number doubles, sending me back to square one. They describe a sort of three-dimensional figure eight in the sky -- their movement is fluid and precisely timed. There are multi-dimensional boundary markers that they observe in each loop (X, Y, and Z axis points) – done without a single leader calling the shots, so it is way beyond my pay grade to understand what or who triggers each turn and swoop.

Yet they move in unison, as a single bird, with a cadence that would not feel out of place to Beethoven or a Bach. I have progressed to the point that I easily recognize the moments in their movement that yield the best images – when their bellies are exposed and lit by either the rising or setting sun.

I thought the pool hose series was the design of a madman, nearly 150 photos over a period of six months of the same object, but the birds are quickly approaching that level of lunacy. I have 90 photos of them (from about 960 exposures completed in three weeks), 28 in my portfolio (with four more awaiting entry). I was trying to limit the book to the best 20, but that may not be feasible, given this new fever that has engulfed me.

Really, in love with pigeons? Is that something to raise in polite conversation? I’ve already been thrown out of the local dive bars for suggesting such a thing, what’s going to happen when I attend the season opening party at the CODA Gallery in a couple of weeks if I broach the issue?

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