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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Eight: Light and shadow shape meaning > Sunburst, Death Valley National Park, California, 2007
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Sunburst, Death Valley National Park, California, 2007

Wherever visitors go in Death Valley, ravens are sure to follow. I found this backlighted raven waiting for handouts in a parking area near Artistís Palette. With a setting sun just behind it, the raven seemed to be enjoying his moment in the limelight. When we shoot directly into such light as this, we will usually get an image full of distracting reflections, known as lens flare. I minimized the distraction of lens flare by lowering the top edge of my frame as far as possible to cut the sun out of the picture. I took off my cap and tried to block the sun with it as well. I wanted the effect of a sunburst without all those little round distracting reflections that usually come along with it. And that is what happened here. The sunburst is there, but the distractions of lens flare are not.

Leica V-Lux 1
1/250s f/5.6 at 29.7mm iso100 full exif

other sizes: small medium large original auto
Phil Douglis02-May-2007 19:08
Glad to hear from a friend of the ravens, Ceci. All scavengers get a bad rap from those with little understanding of how nature works. I am glad you feel this shot helps redeem their reputation. By crowning a raven in the nature's golden light, we give it its due. Thanks for seeing that here. And thanks, too, for emailing the article on raven behavior from the ravenlogist you mention. As he points out, ravens are smart, flexible, gentle, communicative, cunning, and tough. They have to be. They are in a tough business.
Guest 02-May-2007 18:40
This is a gorgeous, almost reverential shot of an immensely important bird, maligned (as Tim says) for being black, and for being a scavenger. I've heard so many people complain about the blackness of crows and ravens (thus exposing their own problems with race and hangups with religion), the same way they complain about other human beings and their shades. No one stops to realize what the landscape would be like without the services of creatures that "scavenge." We would be awash in noxious odors, disease-bearing carcasses, gore of all kinds. It's hard to understand how we can disparage one of the most intelligent (on par with the wolf) and useful creatures in the animal kingdo, mostly because of its color, while we "scavenge" dead meat at the supermarket after torturing it to death in myriad ways. The raven is not a bird of prey, it doesn't kill things large things. It merely helps clean up nature taking its course. For which it ought to be a hero, not a symbol of death, or a bearer of "bad tidings", which is merely human superstition. For those who might be interested in reading more about these remarkable birds, they can check out one of the many books by Bernd Heinrich, like MIND OF THE RAVEN. He is a US ravenologist who lives and works in Vermont.
Phil Douglis03-Mar-2007 20:40
Good point. The raven is often thought of a scavenger and a bearer of bad tidings. In this case, nature puts its blessing on a raven, and I've been able to express it in a moment of beauty.
Tim May03-Mar-2007 19:05
I like the way the rays of the sun seem to give the sense that nature loves all its creatures - that even the often maligned raven is a beautiful creation.
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