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But, I'm Not a Crow Photographer.

A few years back, when I was living in Portland, Oregon, a friend approached me about doing some photographs for him. He didn't want photographs of himself, he wanted art for his new apartment. After a few questions, we landed on crows for the subject matter.

One of his ideas was to have a lone crow looking out over the city. Which would mean I needed to be higher than the crow, a crow would have to be present and looking out over the city and not get scared away.

As we talked through more specifics, I kept thinking, I'm not even a bird photographer much less a crow photographer. I know nothing about crows.

I asked him why he wanted to hire me, and emphasized I knew nothing about crows. He said he thought I would approach the project as I had with other projects; with curiosity, collaboration and an interest in finding the authenticity and even quirkiness of a situation.

After a few more questions, I understood what he really liked about crows was their familial dynamics. Though a lone crow looking over the city would be a cool image, I had no idea how to achieve that without great cost. I even looked into renting a taxidermy crow, turns out they are really expensive and rare to find as crows are protected.

Crows travel in larger groups that often may include a mated pair and young crows from up to several breeding seasons. Young crows may help with nest building, rearing siblings, and guarding nests and feeding sites.

I suggested we start with a photographic recon mission to find out where the crows hung out and see what we could capture. I had done a little research and discovered crows typically will return to the same place every evening. There were actually a lot of crows in Portland and I started noticing where I saw them around sunset.

I rented some lenses and Matt and I drove around Portland wherever we noticed crows hanging out. I photographed them along the highway overpass, on top of apartment buildings, in the trees along the river and then we headed downtown to a hotel across from a parking garage where I had noticed they gathered the previous few nights.

At the hotel rooftop bar, I heard myself explaining to the maitre d' that we were trying to capture some crow photography and would they mind if we did it from their rooftop? Luckily the host we spoke to actually knew a lot about crows and was enthusiastic.

He shared a story about a time when some crows were poisoned in downtown Portland and it attracted a massive amount of crows, a murder of crows if you will, to the site and night after night they would gather and fly around the area mourning their lost brethren and sistren.

There were so many, that it had become a noisy nuisance. The city had made all sorts of attempts to get them to move on including hiring a falconer. They finally invited a local tribe who performed a ritual drumming ceremony to help the crows with their mourning and it worked and eventually they dispersed.

Crows are mysterious beings. They have good facial recognition and will remember if you were mean or kind to them. I was enjoying learning about them. Matt was enjoying the process too.

The maitre d' mentioned that he had seen the crows gather on the adjacent building usually around sunset.

We spent the next hour patiently waiting for the crows to show up. When they arrived, I snapped some images and then we moved from the hotel rooftop bar to the parking garage to see if we could get closer to them, keeping in mind not to bother them.

We had some french fries left over from lunch and left them along the stairwells and the top of the parking garage which we could see from the rooftop bar. I think raisins would have been a better treat, in hindsight. I've recently learned they love raisins.

The next day we went back to the hotel because we decided the view of the parking garage from the hotel bar was the winner. We waited patiently again and sure enough the crows came like clockwork around 730pm to gather together around the parking garage. Their silhouettes against the lights of the parking garage and in the trees was making interesting graphics and I snapped away.

The sun fully set and it was time to wrap up. We met the next day to go thru the images and make some decisions. Initially we had planned to frame the final image with a glossy painted baroquesque frame. Matt had an idea of superimposing the final image onto a vintage television.

After making a bunch of mockups, we decided that the image he landed on was best left simple and clean, and so we pivoted and decided to print the final image on metal. It would bring out the lightness of the yellow lines in the parking garage and embrace the silhouettes the crows and the grittiness of the parking garage.

Final image we printed onto metal

It was a great, interesting collaboration. Matt got to be a part of the process of creating new art for his apartment and I got to do my favorite thing; help someone find their creativity and express themselves through a photograph, AND do something new. I still wouldn't call myself a crow photographer, but I loved working together with Matt to create something unique and personal for him.

If you have a glimmer of an idea of something you want help expressing, book a consultation here to talk about how we can help bring it to life.


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