Close Feathers

These are close-ups of a feather we have had around the house for many years, found on a beach or in a forest a decade or more ago. We don’t know what species it is from, but assume a large hawk as the feather is 14 inches long. It is showing its age now, rubbed here and there and full of dust. You don’t get to see the whole feather, just some details taken with my 100mm takumar macro lens. The second to last shot is taken with the addition of extension tubes.

I have to thank David Williams (a frequent commentator on this blog) for the inspiration to take some macros indoors. I was motivated by the pictures in his recently launched Macro Abberation blog, which has pictures of a quality I can only aspire to. His general photography blog is well worth a visit as well. He is a Canadian, living in Washington State. I have done that too, and, like him, enjoyed it. I remember infruriating my nationalistic brother by saying at the time that as a west coaster I felt more affinity with Washingtonians and Oregonians than with Torontonians. I still think eastern Canadians are rather foreign specimens, but that will probably get me in trouble.

Anyway, this is a terrific feather, up close or in the hand. Surely it is when on the bird too, if only I knew which one. Maybe someone will take pity on me that knows their bird feathers. If you are that person, it most likely comes from around southern Vancouver Island, but possibly Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) or maybe the north Okanagan.

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23 thoughts on “Close Feathers

  1. Amazing details. I love the first one the most. Great work.
    Feathers amaze me too. I recently did a similar post for a peacock feather. 🙂

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  2. Wow, thank you so much for the plug, it’s greatly appreciated!

    I love taking macro’s, there’s just something magical about being able to “enlarge” an everyday item and showing folks a new view of something they see day to day. It constantly amazes me just how much we, as people, tend to walk around and miss SO much beauty which is all around us.

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    • I hope you have some success. These are very simple shots – no fancy lighting or anything, and they worked out ok. Sometime it would be interesting to see what could be made of this feather with some artificial lighting, but that is an area of photography I don’t know anything about.

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    • Hi syncopated, I like that one too – it the last one I took, well after the others because I wanted more of a angled view than a vertical one, so set the camera up again to take one last view. Right away it was my favourite of the series, with that graphite stripe breaking the view and the colours too. I think the light is reflecting differently above the rachis (that is what the internet says the stem is called) than below it, where there is more downward curve to the surface of the feather.

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    • Hi danita – we thought owl too, but it is not a good match for the patterns on owl feathers from this area, and more importantly owls have a serrated fringe on the leading edge of their feathers that allows them to fly silently, which is absent from this feather.

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  3. Wow, these are great! Nothing like taking a closer look to see things in a new way. The patterns remind me of Native American woven baskets. Love the soft color blend. Now I will have to pull out my macro lens from the closet 🙂

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    • Hi composer – macro really brings a different view on things. I love the idea that feathers like this might have informed basket weavers too – totally possible I would think. I personally can’t believe anyone has a macro sitting unused in a closet, but I am a detail guy and you might perhaps be a big picture person. You wil likely want to get out a tripod to go with it. I have been doing some macro photos with natural light next to a window, like these feathers, and to get depth of field my exposures are several seconds long.

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      • I know, embarrassing about the unused macro. But, although a good one, it is hard to see through it and definitely requires the tripod for enough depth of field. For a long time, I used only a macro on my old Pentax SLR, it forced me to shoot in new ways, so maybe I will try that trick. BTW, it looks like turkey feathers to me too- we have lots of them here in W PA and I have quite a few collected – they are big & beautiful, just like the birds.

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      • Oh dear, I did not mean to embarrass you ;). Why is it hard to see through? I find that when I don’t have the macro on the camera I am frequently straining at the nearest focal length wanting to be just a bit closer. But then, I would have liked even more magnification on these feathers, so maybe I am inclined that way. As a kid I grew up around microscopes, including electron microscopes, so maybe I just have a tendency to get so close I am looking around inside the cells.

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      • I love the image of looking through a microscope. I think it is the Nikon thing; great lenses but very dark. I find it much harder to use the Nikon lenses than the Pentax lenses that I learned to shoot with. But the Nikons have the edge for quality and clarity, but only if you actually USE them 🙂 So maybe I will pull the lens out of the box and give it a try. Here’s to getting close to reality!

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  4. I’m not sure what species this came from, you may be right about the hawk. If it was found in my neighborhood I would guess a wild turkey, since they are plentiful in this area and the haws are generally small, too small for a 14 in ch feather I would think. In any event, the photos are really nice. i have some photos of feathers myself, but none as nice as these.

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    • ken – you may have hit the nail on the head. We did have some wild turkey feathers from San Juan Island in Washington State. They had wild turkeys introduced from somewhere, until someone introduced foxes to deal with the introduced rabbits which killed the turkeys as well (and who knows what indigenous fauna). Anyway, we visit there nearly every year and did pick up some feathers. I thought we had given them all to a person we know researching wild turkey DNA, but perhaps one has lingered. Still, I can’t be sure, but I have a better idea who to ask now!

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