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Photo of the month 

January 2004 




EUROPEAN STARLING in "bone-formation" - B020

(Sturnus vulgaris)

Rome, Italy - December

2.8/70-200mm ISO 400

Digital Capture - Color removed



A persistent loud noise in the air captured my attention while I was leaving from a subway station in Rome during late December.

After a second of wondering I realized where it was coming from: the sky above me.

Thousands, maybe millions of starlings were all over the evening sky repeating a ritual, which takes place every night during the winter in Rome. The birds, which feed in the countryside during the day, come back to the city for a warm and safe place to overnight. Before landing in the trees, the birds cluster in huge cloud-like formations, their contours continuously changing, sometimes assuming shapes, which we instantly associate with objects or images in our mind --like the bone in the picture above.


Completely caught by this unbelievable natural wonder I instantly knew what to do the next evening at sunset: take my camera and wait for the huge bird formations to take place in front of a beautiful orange sky. Quite obviously (as Murphy's law dictates) no colorful  sunset took place the next evening. Instead, just a flat light-blue/grayish background was dominating the pictures I was taking, but the bird formations were spectacular as always and I noticed that the strength of such images is just their graphical character. Thereby I decided to remove the color from the pictures via PS, obtaining pure graphical B&W illustrations.


The dramatic tension of such images is extremely increased when peregrine falcons appear on the scene, looking for dinner. In the "bone-formation" picture you might recognize one of those hunters in the top left area of the picture nearby the flock of starling.

When the falcons bomb-dive into the flock, the starlings escape in every direction trying to distract the hunter. The use of a lower shutter results in wing blurs rendering the idea of frantic action.