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IVORY-BILLS  LiVE???!  ...

=> THE blog devoted to news and commentary on the most iconic bird in American ornithology, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBWO)... and... sometimes other schtuff.
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Monday, August 24, 2009

 

-- Just to Clarify --

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Thanks to Mike B., Pat C., and Julie Z. for all forwarding along the (virtually identical) responses they got from BirdLife on the controversial IBWO image commented upon in the prior post. I assume it will be ok to quote a bit of the response (from BirdLife) for clarity to everyone:

"...this is a painting, done in photoshop... it’s certainly not our intention to mislead people with this illustration. When printed or at a reasonable size this is obviously a painting. Perhaps the small size on the web site is less clear!"

I hope this satisfies everyone that there was no ill or surreptitious intent on the part of BirdLife in using the image to accompany their news release; at worst, just an unintentional lapse in judgment (and I'm not sure it was even that). I'm bettin' the BirdLife editor was a bit surprised by the mini-flurry of inquiries. Methinkest we're all a bit hyper (in different ways and directions) on the subject of the Ivory-bill ;-)
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Comments:
The question is why did they decide to commission (or use) such a poor rendition when there are the Tanner and Allen photos available, including Sutton's color paintings based on those photos such as the one that illustrates the cover of Tanner's monograph reprinted by Dover press.

Dalcio
 
As I understand it Dalcio, it was not "commissioned" but rather donated by "Tomasz Cofta" who has done work for them before (and is an excellent illustrator). I suspect they wanted a pose that would capture how the bird might likely be seen by an actual searcher, i.e. passing by in flight. Or maybe they just wanted a fresh pic, that hadn't already been utilized dozens of times over.
 
Well, it's all getting interesting. I'm now in touch with Photoshop artist Tomasz Cofta, and have expressed my admiration for his work (which was based on one of his own photos of a flying black woodpecker in his native Poland). I've also pointed out that if I was fooled by this illustration, even for a few seconds, there's a likelihood that a lot of other people will be fooled.

In response to the mini-flurry of objections (which I was not aware of before reading this post), BirdLife appears to have added a zoom feature to the image. Unfortunately, zooming it does nothing to dispel the impression that it's a fabulous, recent digital photo of an IBWO. And when you zoom it, you get a cutline that all but identifies it as a photograph!
Whoops.

If this was indeed an honest gaffe, I don't understand why BirdLife persists in allowing this photoillustration to remain unidentified for what it is. We'll see what Mr. Cofta has to say. He's a gifted artist, and his work should be identified as art, not passed off as a photograph. Especially when the world is hanging in wait of The Photograph Everyone Hopes Somebody's Going to Get.
 
Frankly, I suppose most birders outside the US are less emotional by far about the Ivory-billed Woodpecker and will immediately (or after a few seconds of astonishment) realize that it simply can't be a real photo. So it's no big deal. When things are this obvious, why should BirdLife react in any way?
I really don't think there's any meaning to this except for including a nice piece of visual artwork to an online article.
 
Again, I suspect this sort of thing is much more common to journalism these days (and especially Web 'journalism') than people realize, and maybe even more common to the European press, where I suspect rules aren't quite as stringent as in the US.
I assume the phrase "painting, done in photoshop" means it originated as a photograph that was digitized/'painted' in photoshop, not that it was ever an actual physical painting in the normal sense...?
Maybe because you're a professional artist and also involved in publication Julie you find all this more troubling than I (or Jochen) do, but if anything I'm more troubled by the 2nd photo I've now alluded to (Tue 8/25 post).
 
p.s... congratulations to "Cotinis" for successfully sleuthing that the image was actually based on the European Black Woodpecker.
 
I gotta say here... I don't see that taking a photo of a Black Woodpecker (genus Dryocopus, same as Pileated and Lineated) and tarting it up to match the coloration of an Ivorybill is actually such a great example of wildlife art, all other concerns aside. The two genera are not very closely related and beyond being large and crested they are not that structurally similar. It's quite clear if you compare the Cofta image to a Zickefoose painting that the former did not at all capture the more elongate, sleeker build of an Ivorybill in the way the later does. These structural differences have indubitably been one of the main things that gave people the impression of it being an especially large, powerful, and swift bird. Not that I am necessarily advocating the production of completely accurate photo-real Ivorybill pictures to be used on news stories, mind you! But even just aesthetically, the result had a large and jarring dose of "hmm, that's just not right."
 
Just to follow up on Bill's comments, an IBWO is not just a PIWO with a lot more white on the wings, black throat etc. So that illustration is erroneous in more ways than just apparently trying to pass an illustration for a photo. The most obvious being the aspect ratio
of the wing and excessively hunched-up posture.

Dalcio
 
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