Texas Here I Come

Thursday, April 06, 2017 0 Comments A+ a-

A week from this morning at about the same time I am writing this post, I'll be standing along the banks of the Rio Grande at Salineño scanning up and down river for Muscovy, Red-billed Pigeon, White-collared Seedeater, and Audubon's Oriole on my first venture to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. All 4 birds I've seen outside of our borders, but never in the U.S.A.

A White-collared Seedeater--in Costa Rica

Along with 4 friends, we'll have about 90 hours to make our way through the hot spots and rack up as many lifers and new ABA species as possible. For me, that means 15-20 life bird and potentially 35-45 new ABA species. South Texas, along with south Florida, and Alaska are the 3 big holes I still haven't filled for North America.

A Clay-colored Thrush--in Panama

For years I always wanted to go Brownsville and McAllen for birds--but after having traveled to a number of destinations south of the border, my fascination with southern birding in the states dwindled. I am not an ABA lister, and the only reason I know my tally is because of eBird. After my first trip internationally, I realized how much more there was out there to see than what was within a set of borders defined via war, purchase, treaties, and downright theft.

A Ringed Kingfisher--in Costa Rica

Political borders are an innocuous thing--especially when it comes to wildlife. Birds and other animals have natural borders. Lakes, river, mountains, valleys, oceans, forests, etc. What defines where a bird goes and doesn't is far more complex than a line drawn in the sand and a proverbial money pit border wall that won't solve the issue of illegal immigration. South Texas is a mecca of sorts for birders who care about ABA listing. You have to go here to see a chunk of birds you won't get anywhere else in America. For birders who aren't so quick to worry about seeing 700 in the ABA, it's affordable, relatively safe, and a close to home option to see things with a flair of the tropics.

I fall into that latter category. If I only saw 650 birds in the ABA area before I died that would be okay with me, especially if I saw 6,500 species in the world. But, it's not all about the lifers, and the lists. Birding the LRGV from what I've heard from others is an experience in itself. It's as much about the journey as it is about the birds. And this trek will involve a group of friends that have experienced a lot of birds together. From Salineño we'll follow the course of the river southeast to places like Bentsen State Park, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Estero Llano Grande, South Padre Island, Laguna Atascosa, and the famed King Ranch.

A Plain Chachalaca--from the Yucatan, Mexico

These places evoke strong feelings amongst birders when you mention them. They are sites that have seen some of the rarest finds in North America--birds from 100's of miles south popping up on this side of the Rio Grande and flocked to by birders for a glimpse within this political border. Things like: Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Crane Hawk, Mottled Owl, Amazon Kingfisher, Collared Forest-Falcon, Variegated Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, Blue Mockingbird, Gray Silky-flycatcher, and Red-legged Honeycreeper.

A Red-legged Honeycreeper from Panama

They are also the best places in America to see birds typical of northeast Mexico where their range limits. Green Jay, Olive Sparrow, Plain Chachalaca, Altamira Oriole, Ringed Kingfisher, White-tipped Dove, and Common Pauraque are all common here. Then there are birds like the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, which can currently only be seen on King Ranch on this side of the border.

A White-tipped Dove--from Costa Rica

These are the things that draw birders here. And despite my desire fading in the last decade, this trip has sparked an interest for me again. As my departure and arrival approach, I'm excited for the opportunity to photograph some birds I haven't, see a few I've missed over the years, and experience the LRGV the way so many other birders have. Hopefully, I'll have a story to share here in the aftermath!

Papyrus Must Die

Tuesday, April 04, 2017 0 Comments A+ a-

For the love of everything holy, please do me a favor. If you use the font, Papyrus, go into your fonts folder right now, and send that bad boy to the recycle bin. Give it an honorable death. A quick death. And then promptly forget it ever existed. It is a font that never should have been but instead has become the go-to for anyone--from your grandmother to your brother--when they get the urge to "create" something with an "earthy" feel. It is for lack of a better word, an abomination. And for designers like myself it has become a joke, often referenced when clients send their idea of what an "earthy", "natural", or "wild" font looks like. It is lazy. If you are a bird or wildlife photographer that uses it for your watermark, you are perpetuating the idea that this font "matches" your photographs. Maybe it does in some cases. But if you think your work deserves better, read on.



For those maybe not aware of what I am talking about, here is a little background. Papyrus is a widely available typeface designed by artist Chris Costello in 1982. Chris spent 6 months designing the font, by hand using a calligraphy pen on textured paper. The distinct font is adorned with "rough edges, irregular curves, and high horizontal strokes in the capitals" (from Wikipedia). The concept for the font is that it should represent what English writing would look like 2,000 years ago on papyrus paper.

The popularity of the font is in part due to its inclusion in many versions of Windows and iOs in the standard font set. Readily available and with a unique look it has become so popular and overused, that even it's own designer has gone on record criticizing the overuse. The design community generally frown upon its use. We mock, point, curl our noses in disgust, and occasionally become visibly ill when confronted with it in the real world.

I follow a lot of photographers of all things wild on Facebook, Instagram, and Flickr and am part of groups where photographers--professional and amateur post with regularity. On any given day I am accosted by no less than a handful of photos so willfully shellacked with this font so that its owners may "copyright" its usage, that I recoil and scroll on shaking my head and asking, "why why why?".

As a side note, your photos are already copyrighted. You don’t need to submit a form, and you don’t have to use that “©” symbol or a watermark — those are just customary ways of identifying the copyright owner. But alas, if you must, you don't have to be one of "those" photographers. You can be unique (somewhat). You can be original (more so than most). You can use another font! That's right there are a whole slew of fonts out there you can use for your fancy little "©" watermark you insist on plastering on every single image you share.

To help you get started here are 5 fonts with that "earthy", "natural", or "wild" feel you seem to love with Papyrus.

Cabin Sketch



IM Fell English


Octin Vintage


Sketchetik


Xenophone


And here are 5 fonts that are clean, easy to read, and will give you that professional look you want and need.

Aleo


Caviar Dreams


Montserrat


Quicksand


Raleway


And as my gift to you, here are all 10 of these fonts available zipped and ready to use. Just tap the very ironic download button below! Please use them, please share this. Please help us do the right thing, and put Papyrus to death in the genera of bird and wildlife photography!



Thanks for listening to me rant, I hope you enjoyed!