We've got a busy one here today folks... We need to take a good look at a feather off the right wing of a crow. (In doing so, we also need to revisit Gerry's questions about cameras.)
But before all that... Don't forget that the contest
is winding down!!!
Now then, let's start with a continuation of Gerry's question about optimizing photos for the Web... There is one tiny little issue I failed to mention... Namely the camera lens! (Ok, so
I'm an idiot... We all know that by now.) Here's the skinny... Small lenses work well at short distances (or focal lengths). Large lenses are happier at longer distances. (Just
think of the lens of a microscope vs. that of a telescope.) The pictures you're about to see were shot with the Vivitar Vivicam 8600s - an 8MP (Megapixel) camera with a
small lens. Our Olympus 2100 with a large lens just can't compete when it comes to making close-up macro photos like these. However, when it comes to distance shots,
the lowly 2.1 MP Olympus rules the day! Moral of the story? Different lenses for different jobs.
Below is a typical feather weighted down by two quarters. (Whether you live in the city, or in the country, you probably pass by a feather or two every day... So they're not all
Alrighty then... What's in a feather? Well... It turns out that there's a lot in a feather... (Did I hear a yawn?!? Just wait...) Anyway, let's take a look at a typical feather... The
parts are as follows... (Now you know why I don't have an MFA degree.)
Rachis: The central spine of the feather.
Calamus: Base of the hollow quill.
Outer Vane: The small leading edge of the feather.
Inner Vane: The largest portion of the feather... It trails behind the outer vane and is attached to the rachis.
Barb: The individual "strands" that come off the quill.
Afterfeather: The downy fluff near the calamus.
Man oh man, that's hot stuff! (I was going to make a "Viagra-truck-crash-in-Las-Vegas" joke here - but I knew my boss would take an extremely dim view of the gaff.)
Onward yet again... Let's look at the parts above... We'll cover the first three in this post, and the last three in the next.
- First up... The rachis or quill... More boring than a clutch of librarians holding a door-knob convention in a flour factory, right? Not so fast bucko! Take a gander at the
photo below... Things get a little more interesting when you get up close and personal!
But that's not the truly interesting part... Check out the rachis on the underside of the wing.
That last photo ain't chump change. In fact, for an engineer, it's stunning. It's not an "I-Beam", but it serves the same type of function. I'm going to have a buddy of mine
who's a mechanical engineer look at this one.
- Next is the calamus or base of the rachis... Hmmm... The image below is roughly the size of a dime. Small wonder that quills were used as pens.
- Finally (for this post anyway), is the outer vane... This is a simply stunning (and wildly symmetrical) collection of "barbs" that radiate from the rachis... It also is the
leading edge on an airfoil.
If you can, take a look at the colors in the leading edge... It's an amazing array of blacks, purples, yellows, and greens. That's what gives the wing of crows (and their ilk)
their phenomenal sheen... Finally, consider the following poem by Gerard Manly Hopkins (written in 1877) when he tried to describe that brilliance... Wow...
The Windhover: To Christ our Lord
I caught this morning morningâ€™s minion, king-
dom of daylightâ€™s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skateâ€™s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, â€” the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: shÃ©er plÃ³d makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.
Time to wrap this one up... Next time, the Inner Vane, the Barb, and the Afterfeather.
Once again, thanks to the following: