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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Two: Travel Incongruities > Birdstorm, Callao, Peru, 2003
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Birdstorm, Callao, Peru, 2003

As our cruise ship entered the harbor at Callao, Peru, I noticed great swarms of seabirds flying back and forth. Using a telephoto converter lens on my digital camera, I made a number of test pictures of birds in flight, but they said nothing about where we were. I then framed this harbor scene – featuring two small fishing boats in the foreground, a long stone breakwater in the middle, and a large freighter and a cluster of fishing boats on top. I waited until a mass of birds flew into this frame and I juxtaposed them against the harbor scene. Varying in size and wing position, they blanket the frame, yet magically leave space for the boats to float through them. It is an incongruous photograph – and one that almost offers us the sound of flapping wings and shrill cries.

Canon PowerShot G5
1/400s f/4.0 at 28.8mm full exif

other sizes: small medium large original auto
Phil Douglis31-Aug-2006 17:14
Thanks, Chris -- it is an incongruous set of layers at work here. Birds, boats, breakwater, more boats and more birds. A perfect storm of birds.
Chris Sofopoulos31-Aug-2006 09:50
The right choice of the basic theme with the ship and port, and the birds as secondary and supplementary elements. Very interesting image Phil.
Phil Douglis28-Jul-2006 23:33
Well put, Emi -- a bird storm is always a sobering reminder of the scope of nature's creatures.
Guest 28-Jul-2006 11:32
We human think we are the controller of the world, sometimes, just under-estimate the power of nature.

Phil Douglis02-Oct-2005 03:59
Thanks, Lisbeth for your thoughts on this bird storm. It was an amazing sight to see and to feel.
Lisbeth Landstrøm01-Oct-2005 20:59
I love this picture! What a show from all these free and flying fishers - having to give up counting them just gives an impression of how "fit for fishing" they are. In the background we see ourselves - covered by these huge "heavy metal" fishing equipments constructed cleverly not to sink. Not so elegant - but even more effective. Much too effective of course. This picture makes me wish good luck to us all - we have to live this close :-)
Phil Douglis28-Aug-2005 21:54
Mine, too, Kostas.
Kostas 28-Aug-2005 20:33
Before even taking a second look, one thing poped into my mind.
Alfred Hitchcock's movie, The Birds.
Phil Douglis25-Jul-2005 19:47
Thanks, Percy -- I am glad I was able to help you go back in time and enjoy your childhood again with this image. One of the most profound benefits of the still image is its ability to stop time forever, and thereby overcome the limits of our memory. Because of photographs, we can see the way we, and those who we care about, once were.
Percy Monroe 25-Jul-2005 13:10
WOW! your picture of callao with the seabirds and the boats, the wholle scenary, it really takes me back to my childhood years, when my friends and I used to go there and just play around, not even going swimming or anything, we would just admire the scene of the fishing boats and the inmencity of the sea. thanks for taking me back, again, excellent picture.
Phil Douglis23-Dec-2004 18:55
There is something unnerving about being in the midst of a flock of flying birds, Mikel, and that is the feeling I was trying to express here. They engulf big and small boats alike, and we are left, as you said, covering our heads and hoping for the best. A truly incongruous place to be at this moment.
Guest 23-Dec-2004 17:02
I am sure that Hichcock wold have liked this image. ;) The truth is that it gives me a certain closterfobic feeleng, something like if I wold be in a cave and thousands of bats wold pring out of it at sun downfall. It is like if I wold have to knee down and cover my head hoping no one wold crash in too me. And this effect, as you said is also doe to the large size of the birds and it's yuxteposition too the other boasts and vessels that with the perspective it gives a sence of beeng a mighty bird bunle, and huge ones too.
Phil Douglis03-Dec-2004 00:47
What you see is a storm of birds as well, Clara. It's raining birds in Peru! That's incongruity!
Guest 02-Dec-2004 22:44
yes the birds are sailing or the boats are flying! and the wall line is a false horizon too.
Phil Douglis01-Dec-2004 23:40
Read my explanation again, Clara. Then look at the picture. What are the incongruities?
Guest 01-Dec-2004 20:58
is not an easy to understand photo (to me at least). i'll keep trying.
Phil Douglis08-Nov-2004 21:16
Glad you get it, Nut. It is joy to help you see as a camera sees.
nut 08-Nov-2004 20:17
Yeap, I got it. Thank you.
Phil Douglis08-Nov-2004 18:32
Yes, Nut. Scale incongruity can involved more than just numbers. It involves contrasts in length, breadth, height, mass and so on.

And yes, there are spaces between the birds, but that does mean that there are not many of them in the picture. There are a lot more than usual!

You talk about 3D? I think you must mean the illusion of depth. I provide that here by comparing sizes for you. The birds close to us are larger than the birds far away from us -- that is what gives you the feeling that you are looking deeply into the picture. A photograph only has two dimensions in reality, Nut -- height and width. But we can imply depth by comparing the ever decreasing sizes of things as they go back into the picture. Hope this helps you.
nut 08-Nov-2004 14:30
So scale incongruity here is something in the meaning of quantity, right? If you say yes, so
how about length, breadth, height, mass, time, dimension, weight, power, value and property
are scale too. So it mean it's possible to express an incongruous too, right?

I saw some space between each bird so I think there are not many of them here. You put
small ships in the (almost) middle of frame. I saw long line space ran from the big ship down
to the bottom right corner. How can you make this photo as deep as 3D photo? I think it's
about scale. But it's about size or quantity ??
Phil Douglis08-Nov-2004 05:29
I don't think this incongruity is due to abstraction, Nut. Abstraction means to take away information, leaving only the most important and allowing room for the viewers imagination to work. In this image, however, I have added information - hundreds, if not thousands of birds in the frame. That is a scale incongruity. We are used to seeing a few birds at a time, or maybe a formation of birds in flight. But to fill the frame with them, so that the small birds overwhelm the big ship, is incongruous.
nut 08-Nov-2004 05:19
This is the incongruous photograph in term of abstract and also in scale.

Group of flying birds is represent "Back-Forth" of all ship status here at the
harbor of Callao. The sound of flying seem to be sound of "Laughing-Crying" of
when someone arrived and when someone gone.
Phil Douglis06-Nov-2004 19:25
Human imagination is at the core of expressive photography, Nut. I tried to use my own imagination when I made this photograph. And your own imagination is stimulated when you look at it. It is not an accident that the words "image" and "imagination" both are central to photographic expression.
nut 06-Nov-2004 07:13
All my imagination based on my background. And it will never ending as time goes by.
Everyday I come back here, I always get something new thought in my imagination database.
I do believe, this world won't gonna move without imagination.
Phil Douglis05-Nov-2004 19:49
Once again, Nut, you have used your imagination to bring far more to this image than I had originally intended. Which is exactly what any expressive image should do -- let you create your own meaning, think about it, learn from it, and perhaps even someday act on it.
nut 05-Nov-2004 10:11
Scale incongruity bring me to see an abstract incongruity again. First time when I saw
this photo, I thought two small boats in the foreground were toys of some kid around this
harbor. But I was wrong. Scale incongruity made me blind.

In my personal opinion, two small boats in the foreground are represent the past. A group
of flying seabirds are represent "Time goes by" sign on this frame. And a group of big
boats in the background is represent the present. This photo remind me this song "As Time Goes By".
Phil Douglis11-Oct-2004 00:23
Rodney, you have made me think of this image in an entirely new way. Taking potential weaknesses and turning them into strengths is what photographers must do if they are to be successful. Come to think of it, I do this kind of thing a lot -- after awhile it becomes instinctive. And you can, too!
Guest 10-Oct-2004 21:18
This is photographic judo. Normally one avoids the distractions, while you took the weakness and made it a strenght. Like in judo, you use the other's stregnth to your advantage: if they are bigger..fine use their weight against them, and you are faster). :)
Phil Douglis02-Jun-2004 20:17
Coming from a master of stunning images, this is high praise, indeed, Dirk. Thank you. I am as amazed as you are about the chaotic nature of masses of birds in flight. I uses my frame here to enclose that chaos, and the recognizable forms of ships and breakwater to help organize it. Absolutely no collisions, either!
Guest 02-Jun-2004 14:43
Stunning, stunning image and very clever to compose it this way. I also tried often to capture lots of flying birds but when nothing else is included in the picture it never reflects the reality. This one is so amazing, someone could write a theory about chaos on it. I'm always amazed when I see lots of birds flying in all directions in the air because I never saw a collision or accident, they are really masters in the air.
Phil Douglis30-Jan-2004 02:01
Thanks for your views on this one, Tim. You are the first to comment on it, and you saw, as usual, an incongruity within it that I did not see until now. For me, the incongruities were the bizarre sight of a sky filled with so many birds at once, as well as those "magical holes" where the birds left space for the ship and boats to "show through the curtain of fluttering wings." For you, it was the contrasting forces of the moving elements of the picture juxtaposed against the still. This shows us how incongruity can be seen in different ways within the same image -- depending each viewer's own perception.
Tim May30-Jan-2004 00:21
This image continues to draw me in. I think the incongruity for me is the blanket of frenetic natural energy which is layered in front of the stolid stillness of the human-made objects - the interplay of the natural and man-made world.
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