Monday, April 30, 2012

Wildlife on the Walls of the Glen Vista Gallery

Just recently I received a Kalamazoo Artistic Development Initiative (KADI) grant from the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo to exhibit my photography at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. Thank you to the Arts Council and thank you to the greater powers-that-be for aligning the stars. Things are coming together beautifully.

This will be my first exhibit of large scale work in a gallery setting. My only other show so far has been a small and intimate exhibit at the downtown Water St. Coffee Joint. The Glen Vista, in contrast, will feature some work as large as 2 x 4 feet and will be printed on canvas. The larger work will really allow the viewer to enter into the photo, and in some cases see an animal life-size.

In addition to my wildlife photography, I'll be unveiling some new portraits of people and their spirit animal, or animal that represents them in some way. It's a body of work that I've been working on for some time and that's finally matured enough to exhibit.

So mark you calendars for Saturday, June 9th, 12-2pm for the opening reception. The animals and I will be eagerly awaiting your arrival.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

In Broad Daylight

Timberdoodle, bogsucker, night partridge, brush snipe, hokumpoke. 

Most commonly known as the American Woodcock.

A funky little bird with some funky aliases. 

A black-sheep member of the Sandpiper family of shore-birds, for some reason the Woodcock long ago strayed away from the water and found a niche for itself in the woods and timber of the world. That formidable beak turned out to be a perfect utensil for earthworms and insects. 

For the most part, woodcocks fly under the radar of most peoples avian awareness, even though the male's Spring courtship flights can be pretty conspicuous and colorful - if you know what to look for. It's a weak frequency for the attention of the eye since the bird in flight appears small, and the birdsong--although unmistakable--can be faint. Once you tune in to them though, they start appearing everywhere in Spring. In fact, they're back in the open fields right behind my house. What makes them particularly difficult to see though is the fact they perform all their courtship at dusk as the light is quickly fading.

All this makes them particularly difficult to photograph. They've become somewhat of a personal holy-grail for me as a photographer. Every Spring I hear their "peents" and whistling, aerial song, but surrender to the impossibility of a photo.

Well, during my recent trip up to Sleeping Bear Dunes (I had to pick up some photos from an exhibit up in Petoskey) I was driving along a road just off M-22, in an area with open fields and patches of woodland, and right in the middle of the road was this guy strutting across the road. He was doing the strangest, funniest kind of bobbing as he walked. Contrary to what one might think, it's not about attracting the ladies but rather it's how they usually walk for stirring the earth and triggering earthworms to move. It's all about hunting.

What contributes to their funky appearance is the way the eyes are situated really close to the top of the head, perhaps an adaptation for detecting predators as it hunkers down in the grass during the day or when nesting. And you can see how the beautiful patterning makes for superb camouflage.

The only reason I was able to snap this second photo was because I watched it walk into the grass off the road and freeze, the whole time keeping my eyes on it. Every time it flew away and landed, beyond my sight, and I went looking for it, I only saw the thing when it flushed and flew away. Then I'd go looking for it, only to have the same thing happen all over again. That could go on for ever. 

It's possible I may never photograph another Woodcock like this again in my lifetime. Time to count my blessings.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Osprey BLOG

In case you haven't seen my new blog on the Kalamazoo River Osprey, check it out. It's been stealing time away from my blog entries for Little Piece of the Wild. Click HERE to see it.

So much wildlife, so little time.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lotteries & Grants

Last Saturday I was tempted by the sheer insanity of the half-billion lottery that was seducing the nation. That's enough money to launch you into Forbes magazine. Not that I have any desire to be in Forbes Magazine, but I  couldn't resist the fantasy of all that economic freedom - so I bought a ticket. It was my very first mega-lottery ticket ever.

In case you hadn't heard, I didn't win.

However, that very same day I received a letter in the mail from the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo. A letter I was eargerly anticipating because I was waiting to hear whether I was awarded a Kalamazoo Artist Development Initiative (or KADI) grant.

This is the kind of letter where you only have to read the first sentence to know exactly where it's going. If it's a rejection letter, they always start by saying "This year the competition and number of applicants was particularly high..." and by the end of the first paragraph they incorporate a "however, we regret to inform you...". This is all to console the rejected.

If it's an acceptance letter, they cut right to the chase with an emphatic exclamation or affirmation.

After "Congratulations!" I just stopped reading. That's all I needed to know. Well, I did read on to see if I was awarded the grant in full. And yes, I was!

You can also tell if it's a yes or no by the thickness of the letter. If it's a rejection notice, it's a one page letter. Nuf said. If it's an acceptance letter, it's usually a little thicker because of a contract or some kind of formal business that comes with being awarded the monies.

The grant is to fund the printing and framing of an upcoming exhibition at the Glen Vista Gallery in the Kalamazoo Nature Center in June/July. I'll be featuring my wildlife photography and some fresh new digital collages that I'm terribly excited about. They're photographic portraits of people and their spirit animal, or animal that represents them. This body of work has never been exhibited and is getting some great feedback from friends.

The grant and the show is also an opportunity to exhibit my work in a large format. Some of my wildlife and landscapes will be 3x4 feet and larger, which is an exhilirating concept for a photographer. To be able to gaze at a life-size whitetail buck, with incredible detail, will be incredibly moving.

Big thanks to the Arts Council and the review panel for deeming my work as worthy. Although one might see granting as a form of lottery, they're really quite different. Lotteries are all about luck. The winner doesn't have to do or prove a thing. Grants are all about merit and are actually a contract. I'm really looking forward to delivering the goods on this deal.