Op Art Birds

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

Baltimore Oriole

Male Baltimore Oriole on a Gray Catbird background, collecting food (assassin bugs) for nestlings 

Baltimore Oriole

Male Baltimore Oriole on a Gray Catbird background

Baltimore Oriole

Female Baltimore Oriole on a Gray Catbird background

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole on a Gray Catbird background

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird on one of my Baltimore Oriole backgrounds

Baltimore Oriole

Male Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

Juvenile Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

Male Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

Male Baltimore Oriole collecting food (assassin bugs) for nestlings

I’ve hit a slow patch with freelance work, so I’ve had some extra time to put into several projects that have been on the back burner for a while. These photos are the result of one of those projects.

When I was in art school, I did a variety of paintings that were op art-ish.* I suppose that style of art appeals to me because it is precise. I was a big fan of Victor Vasarely, Julian Stanczak, Carlos Cruz-Diez and others. Back in 1990 I was doing stripy, taped-line paintings on two-sided, 3D, curved canvases. I thought it would be interesting to investigate those again, this time using the colors from different birds. That sounds simple enough, but here is the tricky part: I wanted to get photos of the actual birds on the art… without any Photoshop trickery.

I designed the artwork on the computer using Adobe Illustrator and Lightwave 3D. After printing each piece, I placed it in the backyard on a special feeder that I built. It’s designed to attract birds as well as to support the artwork, which is sliced into two sections and positioned in front of (below) and behind the bird. The images were taken with a 100mm f2.8 macro on a wirelessly triggered, tripod-mounted camera. Except for small adjustments like cropping and straightening, no Photoshop techniques were used to manipulate these photos!

The Baltimore Orioles were much less skittish than the Gray Catbirds. I had several background designs for each and found that although the backgrounds weren’t specifically intended to work with every bird, they all made for interesting images. The American Robin designs are coming up next.

* Op art, or optical art, is a form of abstract art that gives the illusion of movement by the precise use of pattern and color OR in which conflicting patterns emerge and overlap. 

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