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“Bird Facts and Stories From Around The World”

I get frequent inquiries about potential use of my photos, from those wanting basic prints, to kids wanting to use photos for a project, to college professors wanting them for lectures, to commercial enterprises wanting to use them. For any educational or non-profit conservation activity, I gladly provide the photos for free. I love, for example, a middle schooler asking for a photo for her project, and then having her send me a photo of the finished work. Priceless.

When people want to sell a product to make money, and want to use my photo for that product, I charge a fee. The fee depends upon usage, so when I was contacted by a Norwegian author recently, I gave some thought to my fee. She was writing a children’s book, “Bird Facts and Stories from Around the World”, and wanted to use a handful of photos for image sources for the book’s artwork. My price? I just wanted a copy of the book! It sounded like such a cool idea, and frankly, when artists use my work for “inspiration”, I usually am quite low in any fee I charge.

I just received a copy of the finished book…it’s gorgeous. I love the style of the artwork, and it was cool to see things like the pheasant painting here that was based on my photo. It’s got a really diverse selection of birds that she chose, with facts and figures about each. I’ve translated a few pages to English just so I got a feel for the book, and think it’s something that could spark a child’s interest in birds.

I’m getting a nice collection of printed materials that have used my photos, but I think this one may be my favorite!¬† The book is by Line Renslebraten…don’t see it online anywhere yet in case you 1) wanted to pick up a copy, and 2) read Norwegian. ūüôā

Bird Facts and Stories From Around The World - By Line Renslebraten

Cover of the book, Bird Facts and Stories From Around The World”.

Bird Facts and Stories From Around The World - Ring-necked Pheasant

A page from inside the book about Ring-necked Pheasants, with the artwork at the bottom based on my photo

Bird Facts and Stories From Around The World

 

Audubon artwork free for download!

Audubon Plate 186 - "Pinnated Grouse"

John J. Audubon’s “Pinnated Grouse” (Now called Greater Prairie Chicken). An example of the gorgeous artwork he created in the early 1800s.

John James Audubon’s “The Birds of America” was originally printed between 1827 and 1838, and included 435 hand-illustrated pieces from Audubon, a representation of the knowledge of America’s bird life at the time. Audubon’s work is clearly iconic, both from the bird and birding perspective, and from an artistic perspective. He certainly had his own style, definitely not photo-realistic, yet nonetheless, incredibly beautiful and representative of¬†each species. ¬†What I find so cool about them isn’t just the birds, which by themselves are gorgeous, but the settings in which Audubon often placed the birds. The Birds of America pieces also often included representative habitat,¬†represented in the same fluid style. Regardless of the content, they are timeless, gorgeous works of art that stand on their own.

Audubon’s work at the time was definitely considered unique, as he developed his own technique using watercolors and sometimes pencil, pen, or pastel crayons). ¬†The work at the time was very difficult to reproduce. Copperplate etching was used to reproduce the prints, with watercolor added by hand. He sold his prints through a subscription process, with subscribers receiving 5 prints every month. Less than¬†200 of these original sets were ever produced. Other editions were issued through the mid-1800s, but no edition produced more than 1,200 copies. ¬†Needless to say, these 1800s editions are extremely valuable today. ¬†The Economist in 2010 published a list of the most expensive books ever sold at auction, adjusted for inflation. ¬†They had to adjust their list to avoid repeats of the same title, because 5 of the top 10 most expensive book sales EVER were copies of Audubon’s Birds of America!

As I was wasting time on Twitter earlier today,¬†I saw a little blurb about “free Audubon prints”. I clicked on the link, and found that the Audubon site does indeed have digital scans of all the John James Audubon artwork¬†from his famed “Birds of America”. Given their date of production, they’re obviously past copyright and considered public domain. Here’s the link on the Audubon site.

John James Audubon’s Birds of America

This is so cool! ¬†Not only can you view each of the plates, you can download your own digital copy!! ¬†Best of all, they’re NOT small files with limited resolution, they are very incredibly detailed, very large¬†digital scans of the Audubon print. ¬†Downloading “Plate 77 – Belted Kingfisher”, for example, gives you a file that roughly 6,500 by 7,900 pixels, better than image resolution provided by the vast majority of digital cameras, and capable of supporting prints of up to 2 feet by 3 feet in size! The detail is amazing, with absolutely nothing lost. ¬†Every brush stroke, every tiny bit of feather detail is provided in these free downloaded files. The detail is so amazing that ¬†you can see some of the tiny “flaws”, such as where some of the water-coloring goes “outside-of-the-lines” of the underlying etchings.

Do you want your own copies of Audubon’s gorgeous artwork on your wall? ¬†You can do so very cheaply! ¬†Download the free digital files, then go to a site like mpix.com. If you upload your Audubon file download to mpix, for example, for a mere $20 you can have your very own 16″ x 20″ copy of an Audubon print.

After downloading a few, I have noticed there are some issues with the quality of the scans. For example, when downloading the “Black-winged Hawk” (what’s now called a White-tailed Kite), it appears that some of the details in the brighter white areas are “washed out”, as you would get if you overexpose a shot on your digital camera. That’s likely an issue with the way the images were scanned, but it appears in many¬†of the plates where white or brighter areas are evident. ¬†Overall the scans appear to be brighter (and thus washed out in some areas) than I’m sure the original images were. ¬†My guess is this was done during efforts to correct for white balance, to ensure that the background of some images¬†was a perfectly pure white color. ¬†I actually prefer the plate at the top of this post, of the “Pinnated Grouse”, as it maintains the older yellowish, warm tones of the background (as you might expect from an older print). ¬†I hope they keep working on the digital scans, working to make them as representative of the original colors and tones as possible, but overall the scans are really beautiful and wonderful to look at.

These are SO incredibly cool. It’s also so very cool to see the history in these prints, from the standpoint of what species were called back then. ¬†I love seeing a “Foolish Guillemot” (now Common Murre), “Rathbone Warbler” (Yellow Warbler), or “Great Cinerous Owl” (Great Gray Owl). ¬†Wonderful history, and wonderful pieces of art to enjoy. ¬†THANK YOU AUDUBON! ¬†It must have been an extraordinary bit of work to scan these, and clean them up to provide such gorgeous, flawless, massively sized digital files! Here are some more examples of Audubon’s work that you can download (these are just a fraction of the original image size).

Audubon's Plate 236 - Night Heron

Audubon's Plate 366 - "Iceland or Jer-Falcon"

Audubon's Plate 12 - Baltimore Oriole

Audubon's Plate 397 - Scarlet Ibis

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