Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bird on a Wire

"Bird on a Wire..." 
curiosity about this idiom led me to a google search for meaning. I found references to the 1968 Leonard Cohen song, but this didn't not match my graphic interpretation of the phrase. To me, a "bird on a wire" is a service animal employed by some Southeast Asian cultures when fishing. Quite literally, the bird on a wire is a hungry cormorant forced into indentured servitude. The captor places a noose around the servant's neck, and sends it into a lake to hunt. Instinct and hunger motivate the cormorant, and success is a fleeting experience. Once a fish has been trapped in the gullet of the bird, the fisherman reels in the servant, tightens the noose, and expels reward. Hunger motivates the servant, instinct drives the behavior, and success, normally adaptive, now lacks the positive reinforcement.

"Bird on a Wire..." a male and female cherrie's tanager (Ramphocelus costaricensis) perched on a support line at Hacienda Baru. Also known as the orange-rumped tanager, this relatively common bird can be found from the coastal plains to an altitude of 1700m. Though ubiquitous wherever there are ecological edges, gardens, and pastures this species continues to be an elusive subject for me to capture. Seven trips to Costa Rica, and this is the best tanager image that I've managed to produce. I comically call this species my nemesis, and have spent many morning hours chasing it around the gardens and edges of ecolodges. To produce this image, I mounted my 300 f2.8IS to a 7D, set the camera to aperture priority (AV mode), and set my exposure compensation to -2/3 stops. After much flittering about, the pair settled on the wire for about a second and I managed to catch this moment. I would have preferred an image on foliage, but the lines and out of focus background work for me. 

These birds on a wire are a metaphor for me. Much like the cormorant, hunger and instinct motivate my behavior. I cannot help but chase the moment. I am driven to produce images, and with each success, I am also met with failure. I have made the shot... it looks good, but it is not perfect... 
The fish is in my gullet, but I am not allowed to eat!
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