Plume Shadows


 Great Blue Heron - Plume Shadow_4844-c-tex-level


As someone  would say…dabbling along in monochrome again!!  🙂  Going lighter with this one to let the textures show with a very monotone display. The regal Great Blue Heron does look wonderful in color, but the plume shadows across the face made it irresistibly interesting to work on in black and white.  The Great Blue Heron was shot against a bright baby blue sky with no powerful clouds or particular features other than the light on the bird and its shadows and textures.  So this images tries to capitalize on the high key lighting and tonal variations in the light, shadow and natural dark and light feathers of the bird itself. Because I generally feel as if something is missing when the background is plain, I added  a bit of texture into the featureless sky to round out the portrait.  The plumes attracted me to the treatment with the geometry of the parallel shadow lines on the bird’s face. The chest plumes and dark lines along the neck add to the linear textures.


Thanks for looking and your thoughts and criticisms are always welcomed with this experimentation.


~ by Judy on August 30, 2014.

27 Responses to “Plume Shadows”

  1. Bravo! Absolutely stunning monochrome photo! It looks almost like a drawing.

    • My mother was so tickled when I read her your comment while visiting this last weekend. Her thought was that it looked like a drawing also. I reminded them that you were the writer of the wonderful book Village Teacher which I gave Dad to enjoy! I have one other bird I did a portrait of that she thought looked like a pencil drawing…and that one is here on a previous post. I so appreciate your reaction to this treatment as I felt that people would either like it right off, not be keen on it at all, or perhaps it would be a thing that would grow on a person after looking at it a time or two. Wasn’t sure!! Thanks much!!

  2. I just had the most interesting experience with this photo. When I first saw it, I thought it was nice, but it wasn’t my favorite of what you’ve shared here. Then, when I read the comment above, about the photo looking almost like a drawing, my perception changed. Looking at it again, I thought, “My goodness. That really is beautiful!”

    What I don’t know is what made the difference. Is it that I expect photos to look a certain way? Have I become accustomed to your approach over time, and this unusual rendering looked less “Judy-ish”? Or might it be that my vision again is the problem, blurring out detail I might have seen a year ago? (This surely contributed. When I enlarged the photo, the detail was much more apparent.)

    In any event, all of these questions are worth pondering. In a way, my response to this photo reminds me of the uproar when Bob Dylan went electric. Good gosh — you would have thought the world had come to an end. And yet, that’s what artists do — push the boundaries, try new things. As for us audience members, our job is to judge what is, not what we expected to see!

    Love all the thoughts your heron raised!

    • You raise great points on the issue of expectation and perception and generally why we respond to things favorably or negatively at first glance. I felt that there was a good chance this particular image might likely be one that the viewer might need to warm up to. Maybe I felt that way because I myself lean so strongly towards darker backgrounds with pleasing light on the subjects. So when I try other ideas, sometimes I have to get used to the result myself!! How’s that for a confession!! I am experimenting with avian portraiture to try get character or expression aside from the habitat context…or sometimes with that context muted down. I value reactions, even ones that aren’t overwhelmingly positive because I can’t always see beyond the investment in the work. Its kind of a bonding thing. You invest time and keep looking at it and soon you are attached to it and can no longer be an impartial judge. Perhaps it is the same in writing? Is there any level of unsureness related to investment of time vs final product? I always remember in The Little Prince that he was upset when he found out that his rose was not unique, that there were gardens of roses just like it on another planet. But, then he learned that HIS rose was unique in all the world (or universe?) because this was the rose he had invested time and care in!

      I got a chuckle with you putting Bob Dylan anywhere near me for the sake of the point!! I mean Bob Dylan…that was totally cool!! That brought to mind Ricky Nelson’s Garden Party….he sang the old songs but he looked different so they didn’t ‘see’ him…didn’t look the same. So there’s a lapse between expectation and what were great old songs being sung.

      So you gotta please yourself but you still want to please others!!

  3. The monochrome treatment works really well, transforming an otherwise colourful bird into some kind of otherworld being. Either that or it’s been caught by the silvery light of the moon.

    • I like the silvery light idea…although maybe it looks more pewter?? But, definitely a monochrome treatment is transforming. Monochrome does change the awareness from color pleasure to texture pleasure, I think. I think it is interesting that doing nothing but making it black and white and just doing lighting adjustment and that bit of texture in the background does make the textures look as if they could be drawn. So many linear lines!! Man, I would love to draw the portrait!!

      • Ditto. I used to have the skill – until I bought my first computer. If you don’t use it, you lose it. It’s so true. Even my ability to take decent photos has waned – though there I think it’s using the digi-camera on the phone. Just hasn’t got the same feel.

  4. (This is a stupid comment, but anyhow . . .) After seeing these last two pictures, and reading the comments above, I’m tempted to go back and look at some old black-and-white TV programs. (End tasteless, barely relevant comment. My apologies.)

    • No need for apologies!! Irrelevance is quite possibly good for the brain!! But, sending you out to watch black and white TV shows or movies in response to my bird is totally relevant. In our color saturated Kodachrome world, we forget about the qualities black and white so its sort of a reminder of that other!! So which movie did you go watch!!

      • I’m still recuperating from this last month, so I haven’t yet; however, I did go look through my collection of DVDs to see what I had in black and white. The answer was: not much: “The Birth of a Nation” (great cinematography, hideous storyline), “The Bride of Frankenstein” (great sci-fi technology, hideous monster), and “Captain Blood” (great swashbuckling action hideous sexism). Decisions, decisions . . .

  5. Judy I could look at this all day, the detail in the feathers is exquisite. Your work is so beautiful and unique.

    • Coming from such a fine artist, I greatly appreciate that you enjoyed the portrait. When I visit my parents, one of my favourite things is to show them my latest pictures and also share the work of my WordPress friends with them. Especially my mother who is a painter, preferring to paint on china plates these days. So I shared your beautiful art with Mom. Here’s our new favourite Kath Unsworth picture! So we had great fun visiting down under this weekend!! 🙂

      • Judy thanks I am glad your Mum liked my work I am about to share it all with a local gallery. Finally I am brave enough to put a price on my art. I still love giving my art away and the Honey eater I gave to the woman who inspired me to apply for a place in the gallery. Your Mum must be so proud of you. My Mum is my biggest fan.

      • Absolutely!! And, I know your work will sell well. I love your drawings…especially the birds!! When the gallery has your pictures us the wall!! As they say in MahJong..hope you win!!

  6. This is outstanding! Well done!

    • Hi Phil!! Thanks stopping by on your return home from the Carolina marsh!! I appreciate your kind input on my new Great Blue Heron effort in avian portraiture!!

  7. Right now, stop what you’re doing and beat it over to this post about Audubon’s study of a blue heron. You’ll understand why I thought of you as I read it.

    • I agree wholeheartedly with the writer as well. His images breathe life in a way no other bird painter has really accomplished in my view. I wonder if the writer was aware that some of the poses, as full of life as they are, were selected in order to fit the life – sized drawing onto the double elephant portfolio paper. He could not have had the bird standing up with neck outstretched. Gosh I can’t even imagine seeing one of those full sized heron prints in person. When I take pictures, I like to try and watch and capture the unusual sinuous movement of the birds for the portraits. They are beautiful just being what they are. My fullest appreciation for Audubon actually happened after I started taking bird pictures, because looking I then realized how perfectly accurate and perfectly in tune with his subject he really was. And, I think his style is so modern or maybe just timeless!!

      Thanks for pointing me to the lovely article!! A kindred I’d say!! 🙂

  8. …. Well, you certainly don’t need me to heap praise on your head – your followers speak for me: another “mind boggling good job” from Judy. You know I’m not all that artistic, but this latest gem of yours has me really stunned. At first glance, there’s NO WAY that could be a photograph. It has to be a drawn image to show such dramatic detail and nuance. But then, no sane portraitist could ever come up with the shadows on the face, so it must be a photograph. But no photographer could possibly get the exposures so perfect, the edges so crisp, the textures so -er- textured. But … But … oh, b’golly it’s Judy all over the place! You are a national treasure. Thank you! from an ole ground pounder.

    • I love your reasoning process…yeah probably an artist might not have drawn those particular shadows…except perhaps if they photographed then drew, they might then have liked it enough to include in an actual drawing!

      Hey, one can never get enough praise you know; it is validating!! I continue to work on my black and white series and hope I have several that will make interesting prints.

      Sorry for my belated response to such a fun comment!

  9. Outstanding photo, Judy – just about the best GBH photo I have seen. You have a very fine eye for detail, and your execution of your process in this photo is superb.

  10. What a gorgeous portrait! I adore his coloring — what you did. It’s such a sensitive image / composition to me, and these colors emphasize that aspect. It’s just perfect.

    • Thanks for checking in and the lovely comment!! It is kind of different for me and I am thrilled that it is being found interesting and even beautiful!! The textures and shadows did it for me working on it.

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