Corvus Mortis

Finally a post that fits the blog name.

Without going all Disney on you about the cycle of life, death is most certainly part of it. While I don’t seek out dead things to photograph (even though there’s plenty of roadkill these days), I didn’t avoid it when presented with an opportunity. I thought there might be something beautiful to be found and I was right. At least I think so.

A couple of months ago I looked out onto my back lawn and saw a strange, black shape. ‘A dead crow’ flashed through my mind before I even walked over. Lo and behold it was a dead crow. In the middle of the lawn. Weird. I mean, yeah, I know crows die and probably even they don’t get to choose either the manner or the hour, but this one fell out of the sky into my yard. Unfortunately, it was already…well, um…someone had a meal already and it wasn’t in a particularly photogenic state. I could wait though.

A murder

I’ll start you off slowly, with a couple shots of the beak. The blue up there is real, not computer-generated. They say that all the colors of the rainbow can be found in aspects of black and it certainly did with this study. Having never been close to a crow before I had no idea they had a little hook there at the end of the beak. Useful I’m sure. As I said, this fallen flier had been disturbed with one wing completely severed and so I moved it into position for these shots and as much as I like that one of there look what nature brought me a few days later –


I’d been planning to go outside in the early morning because that low-angled sun would bring up all kinds of texture and detail. Who knew I’d get a frosting of ice crystals? I was out the door like a shot when I saw it from the window and the race was on. How many images could I get before it melted? Could I manage the dynamic range of pure black and pure white? Would it be as subtle and yet dramatic as it was to my eye? Oy.

Corvus Noir
Funeral Jewels

While the seconds ticked by and the sun started to erase the finery, I noticed so many color changes that I could hardly believe it. While they may not work as a cohesive set, they are pretty true to life. I didn’t add color that wasn’t there and I didn’t process too hard what color was there. It’s purely light and white balance.

Corvus Mortis

While I shot these last couple of images, a few of this crow’s still-living brethren flew overhead, calling a raucous good morning. Crows, as a rule, aren’t very sentimental. I’ve heard it said that they mourn their dead, but as smart as I know crows to be, I think they’re more interested in eating their dead than anything else. That’s probably what got to this bird in the first place. That or a hawk of some kind. I’ve often seen them arguing high overhead (we have tons of crows and hawks in my neighborhood). Crows have always reminded me of stern deacons of some intensely puritanical sect, stalking around with stiff-legged purpose; disapproving. And I have an unfulfilled fantasy of having a raven as a pet. Of course I also want an octopus. Intelligent animals fascinate me.

I’m not the only one. Check out this terrific little TED Talk with Joshua Klein. The CrowBox was a great idea, but seems to have, alas, dropped out of sight.

6 thoughts on “Corvus Mortis

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  1. There is beauty in all things.
    I would make the suggestion, if you have the time and inclination, to interact with any of the corvid family ( have a particular love of ravens); they are nothing short of fascinating – as the TED video supports.

  2. Hanging around waiting for the snow to get deeper (or the power to go out) before I go out and clear it for the first time, and I re-read this old post. I saw the last couple of lines this time. When I was growing up, a cousin of mine had a pet crow. It would come when called, and would ride around on her shoulder like a movie parrot on a movie pirate. She lived on the family farm in way-downeast Maine (East Machias) we visited in the summer. That crow was constantly and unsuccessfully stalked by dozens of barn cats. They are smart and wary birds

    1. Thanks everyone. I knew when I shot these they wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I really did mean respect and anyone who knows my photography and my love of nature would assume that. I’m glad people new to my work can see it as well. Crows and their ilk are fabulous creatures.

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