I recently hung my show Plight of the Condor at Flagstaff’s High Country Conference Center. It’s an honor being recognized as so talented, egocentric and stupid that I’d dump hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to fill an entire gallery with just my work. As this is my last, er, I mean first, one-artist show, of course I want to make a gargantuan impression. My subject is the California Condor, the largest bird in North America and with a population of only 425, one of the most critically endangered species in the world.
At first glance this seems like a simple shot of a condor hanging out on a bridge girder 460 feet above the Colorado River, but there’s a catch – this came from a file 24000 pixels wide.
Until you’ve seen a condor up close, it’s impossible to fathom how huge they really are. As they are so rare and most people have never seen one, I figured a great way to introduce folks to the bird would be to create a life-sized print of one. As these birds have a nine-and-a-half foot wingspan, that’s going to be an enormous print. I didn’t want some fuzzy blow up, but a print with excruciating detail down to every speck of bird dandruff. A print that would make viewers feel like there was an actual condor right next to them.
Fortunately for my wallet, my subject was at a bit of an angle to me and had some natural curl in its wings, so my final print came out to be five by eight feet. As it would hang in a corridor, viewers would not be able to step back to a “normal viewing distance” hence I couldn’t get away with a low-resolution print. It needed to be very sharp and in-your-face.
Before I created this image I did a lot of thinking. How could I shoot this live animal in the wild and create the big print I had in mind? A print with detail this fine.
How would you do it? I shared this challenge with the PL Team a couple weeks ago and got some very interesting answers. My favorite was Nasim musing that perhaps I had access to a secret camera he didn’t know about. In less time than an iPhone shutter lag, our fearless leader shook off that notion as ridiculous. Please put forth your strategies for this shot – gear used, exposure settings, techniques applied, and so forth – in the comments below and I’ll reveal how I did it in a few days.
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