The Making of “Bird Girl”

While back I had this idea, born while cooking, that involved capturing paper cut-outs, with creamy DOF, using my iPhone. Sure, I had already played alil’ on Instagram with cut-outs…

…but nothing involving serious DOF. Or specifically, foreground and background elements and minimal Photoshop. And as quickly as the concept arrived so did a visual. “A girl feeding or handling birds.” It was the “birds” part where I imagined a opportunity for DOF. Or at least some type of motion blur treatment.

Well, at least another 2-weeks passed before I sat down and produced a sketch.

Even more time passed before I could ink it, color it and trim the characters out. Now, because the goal was to have the birds airborne around her I had to suspend them somehow. Enter my cloud training. Which reminded me I could attach “invisible thread” to each bird and then attach that to…uhm, the back panel of a discarded rotini box. …what? It was in the recycling…so I recycled it more! Not like I had the patience to construct a mini stage, topped with a loose grid, whereby allowing the positioning of each bird with precision. I actually thought of doing that. N’seriously. Okay, so back to the rotini box…

…toting the girl cut-out, birds strung from a cardboard panel, extra tape, plus my iPhone I headed to the roof. The logic here being the cityscape would go Bokeh on me and the overcast would minimize shadows -yet still provide plenty of natural light. S’let me just tell you why that idea sucked. It sucked for 3 reasons. Maybe more. Lets stick to 3 for now. First, the wind was too harsh to allow control over the cut-outs. Second, the birds were flapping around like crazy and tangled quickly. Let me jus’ say…try untangling “invisible thread” without cursing non-stop. Finally, the iPhone’s camera was actually too good to ignore the background. Meaning it literally wouldn’t let me capture an out-of-focus image. >:-|

Feeling rather defeated I decided to test the concept indoors. -Fail. Fail with the lighting, background, the shaking of the birds to generate motion blur, using the iPhone at all. Regardless, I got a proof from the effort. One that really helped stage the next attempt.

Fast forward a week or two, I’m visiting my sister’s and decide to use her yard. -Which is stunning. In fact, the image at the top of this post featuring the girl in a “polar bear” hat was shot there. So why not shoot there again, right? Sounds easy. Hell, I walked into the situation kinda cocky and thinking “I bombed this earlier, learned a lot though, and can totally capture this now.” So with my D70 in hand I was, like, “Yeah, I got this.”

Well, remember that wind problem? Turns out the wind isn’t just at my place. It’s everything. -And when wind challenges paper it wins. Every time. So between struggling to keep the girl cut-out upright I was watching my birds twist and flap all over the place. So much so I had to stop, remove the thread from each bird, unravel the (m#@*% f#%!*@) invisible thread and reattach it. Three times! In the end I pitched the cardboard, attached the threads to “rings” fashioned from twist ties thereby gaining much greater control.

Remind me to demonstrate just how tricky it is to hold a camera, puppet birds, dodge shadows while pausing between burst of wind to capture a paper cut-out attached to patio furniture. We’ll touch on that over a Leinenkugel sometime, okay?

Alright, so in the end I captured 42 images. -And that was after I reinforced the cut-out of the girls to increase stability and reattached the birds to five rings. So at this point I’m humbled, yet biting my lip in defiance, while also asking myself “Why exactly are you doing this??”

As I reflected on the situation my brother in-law asked if I could shot a quick photo of their interior for a project. Easy. I had removed my SD card already -but simply popped it back in, shot the interior and decided to process the “bird girl” shots plus his all-at-once. Easy again, right. Yeah. Not so much. All my “bird girl” images were gone. The interior shots were there. Of course. But no “bird girl.” So what happened? Well, it took awhile but I learned my SC card had gone corrupt -and no conventional method was going to retrieve the images. Sure, I could measure the amount of information on the card via the camera or OS thus proving the data was present. Only neither devices would allow access. The files were invisible. Like m#@*% f#%!*@ invisible thread. And that’s when I entered the “Oooh, Hell nah. I ain’t going out like that” mode.

Well, turns out there’s software specifically designed to deal with damaged SC cards. Imagine that, huh. So I chose “Disk Drill.” Now, should you really call your data recovery “Disk Drill?” Look, I’m jus’ say’n…ok, moving on…so here’s what the app found after scanning my card.

Stuff. Loads. And after hitting “Start Recovery” all that stuff was recovered. Which brings matters to the final image. Following recovery from oblivion, processing in LR plus alil’ PS I offer this.

Looks completely innocent, right? As if total cake to capture. Next time, and there’ll be a next time, I’m going to do something different to make the process easier. I don’t know what that “something” is quite yet. But trust I’m working on it.

© 2020 Umami Design Studio