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Category Archives: Birds

When I first discovered the rampant theft of my images, I never dreamed the frustrating hours it would take to regain control. There were nights I seriously questioned whether or not I’d actually survive this hit. But with all the support and encouragement I received along the way (thank you!), hope soon replaced the feelings of despair and I gained a strength I didn’t know I had.

“Is there a problem, Occifer?” (Eastern Grey Squirrel) Nikon D300, 290mm, F/5, 1/125s, ISO 640, Nik SIlver Efex Pro ‘Floral’ Filter

Over these past three weeks, I have become well-versed in finding stolen images and how to use WHOIS to locate the proper folks with whom to make a claim.

I have filed countless DMCA forms, have sent numerous takedown notices and have gained invaluable knowledge about image protection and my rights as an artist. I’ve come to realize the only person who can truly protect my images is ME and I have begun taking the necessary steps to do so. Though I still have weeks of work ahead of me, the rose-colored glasses are off, my friends, and I am indeed, wide awake.

At last count (and I find infringements every day), over 85 different images were being used without my knowledge or permission. The actual number of violations, however, lies somewhere in the 250 range since many images were found on multiple sites all across the United States and throughout the world.

While some infractions were minor (e.g., image posted on a blog or used as an avatar), others were much more serious (images displayed on commercial sites, images used to sell products, images used in YouTube videos, images used as backgrounds, images used in online news articles, images posted on a photography tutorial site, images altered and so on). And, yes, there still remains the issue of the playground image used on an EP cover by a UK artist (the toughest pill of all).

I estimate that I’ve been able to get 95% of the images removed. Some, I may never get removed. New motto: learn, accept, protect, move on.

A hearty THANK YOU! goes out to the following sites: Google, Tumblr, YouTube, Polyvore, Instagram, Wikispaces, Facebook, WordPress and GoDaddy (as well as other countless hosting sites here and abroad) who take copyright violation seriously and acted promptly on my behalf.

There is one particular infraction, however, that I feel compelled to single out since the response by the thief is one that I think you all should hear. It started out innocently enough (as things always do).

~ Here’s the tale ~

While performing my arduous image search, I came across this photo of mine on a so-called “educational” wild life site:

“Snowy Mourning” (Mourning Doves) Nikon D300, 400mm, F/7.1, 1/200s, +0.3EV

No link back to my blog and no credit except for my copyright stamp in the lower right-hand corner (at the time, the center visible watermark was not present). Okay, nothing really new… or so I thought. As I looked more closely at the site to locate the contact information, I read the site’s very lengthy and explicit copyright statement:

Hmmm… how… very… interesting. Ladywildlife had taken it upon herself to offer MY copyrighted Mourning Dove image to others to download/print and use for FREE without MY permission or knowledge and yet, at the same time, appeared to have gone to great length to protect “her” site’s content.

You can imagine my reaction. 

I clicked on “CONTACT ME” and filled in the form requesting my image be removed, pointing out the irony of the site’s copyright statement. When I encountered difficulty in submitting said form (couldn’t confirm it was filed), I performed a WHOIS search the following day and located an e-mail address for the site’s webmaster. I then sent a DMCA notice to the webmaster claiming ownership of the image and requesting its immediate removal. 

After weeks of no response, I received the following e-mail this past Saturday (please click to view larger):

Ladywildlife E-mail

Seriously? You take my image and when I ask for it to be removed, THIS is the response I get?

Allow me to clear a few things up:

First, I did not, by any means, attack ladywildlife. I used the contact form contained on her site and requested my copyrighted image to be removed. When I feared the request wasn’t going through via that form, I followed up with a DMCA notice to the webmaster which is in my rights to do so (and has proven to be very effective). As an aside, I do not feel it necessary to be nice to those who take my creative work without my consent. 

Second, I found no link (or links page) or credit back to me or my blog. No idea what ladywildlife is referring to here.

Third, what on earth gives ladywildlife the right to declare my site as not safe for children? (Can you say, libel?) This couldn’t be further from the truth. However, I am glad viewers of ladywildlife will not be visiting my site since the only reason they would be doing so would be to grab wildlife images for their use without my knowledge. No thank you.

Fourth, ladywildlife, you most certainly did take my image. For someone who claims to be well-versed in copyright law, you have it all wrong. Finding images via a Google image search does not make them free to use nor absolve you from copyright infringement. Furthermore, when you click on an image in Google, the following statement appears in the side-bar: “Images may be subject to copyright.” So, if my visible copyright stamp wasn’t enough of an indication the image was protected, Google was attempting to inform you to do your homework before downloading and using said image.

Fifth, with regards to the copyright statement on my site, what you call ‘sloppy wording’ is the standard verbiage from the US Copyright Office and is actually, not even necessary to protect my site’s content. (All that is required is “© 2009-2012 Tracy Milkay/Milkay Photography  All rights reserved”). However, you will notice that I have since expanded my statement to be crystal clear so there is no room for confusion.

Sixth, thank you for the reminder about contacting the various search engines to get the older, un-watermarked versions of my images removed from searches and cache. This was initially lower down on my ‘to-do’ list but now I understand the importance of sending such requests at the same time I implement my image changes. A win-win for me. 

“Nope, I haven’t seen your missing peanut” (Eastern Grey Squirrel) Nikon D300, 400mm, F/5, 1/160s, ISO 640, Nik Silver Efex Pro ‘Center Focus’ filter w/Selective Toning

So there it is, folks. The above example is by far the most extreme case I have encountered to date. Fortunately, the majority of responses I’ve received have fallen to the other end of the spectrum, from honorable folks who’ve apologized for using an image of mine and have either removed it per my request or provided the proper credit/link.

I understand image theft is a widespread problem, experienced by artists all over the internet and my situation is nothing new. The internet is indeed, a complicated place (it is not called a “web” for nothing).

On the one hand, it provides a global platform for self-promotion of creative work and that is an amazing thing! However, on the other hand, it also exposes one’s work to theft, which is a tragedy. My goal here is to educate those in the creative arts field as well as those who are not. (I also hope to soon return back to the art of taking photos and look forward to the day where this is all behind me.)

My message is this:

To artists, do everything you can to protect your work!

To the rest of the communityplease respect and support the work of writers, photographers, graphic designers, painters, etc., and think before you download/use content you find on the internet. There are working artists behind those creative works who are trying to make a living and when their work is taken, without their permission or knowledge and with no compensation back to them, how can they continue to do so?

As always, your comments and ideas are welcome. I do not profess to know how to resolve this problem but hopefully, by simply opening up this dialog, together we can raise awareness. Spread the word.

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A few weeks back, right before the digital photography class I was teaching was about to start, there was a sudden power outage in the room. Try has he may, the building maintenance “guy” was unable to fix the problem so I simply moved my class to the lobby of the building. While it’s not the most lovely of places, the suspended ceiling just happened to be covered with more than a dozen strands of colorful garlands made up of origami paper cranes. Neat! 🙂

“Soarin’ ” (Origami Paper Crane Garland) Nikon D300, 120mm, F/5.3, 1/160s, ISO 3200, Built-in Fill-Flash w/Gary Fong “Puffer” Diffuser, -1.0 EV, Nik Silver Efex Pro “Infrared Film Soft” Filter w/Selective Toning & Vignette

Not one to miss an opportunity for intriguing subject matter, I instructed my students to shoot the birds (with their cameras, of course 😉 ) and look for angles and patterns that create interesting compositions. I also joined in the fun, playing around with different camera settings and switching back and forth between shooting in color as well as in black and white.

Those shots remained completely forgotten until today when I came upon them while scanning through my media cards. Turns out, I preferred the compositions I’d taken in color except for the stained drop ceiling tiles in the background (which I thought would have faded away with the shallow DOF I was using). 

So, I popped on over to Nik Silver Efex Pro to see if one of the trusty black and white filters could diffuse that not-so-great background and perhaps, bump up the contrast to make these birds really sing. A few clicks later and that’s an affirmative on the background and the contrast but now, I missed the color. 😦

Hmmmm, lemme think. Welllll, it was the orange bird who caught my attention in the first place soooooo let’s give him the spotlight and see if that does the trick.

Click, click, click – Boom! One fun abstract image! 🙂

“Cat Call” (Gray Catbird, Adult Male, Dumetella carolinensis) Nikon D300, 490mm (VR 200-400mm F/4G w/1.4x Teleconverter), F/6.3, 1/320s, ISO 320

After the silence of winter, the chirping of birds in the spring is a welcomesound!

When you’ve been listening for as many years as I have, you can’t help but learn the different bird calls and, after some time, can instantly identify what birds are around just by the prevailing sounds.

Since it is mating season, the songs have been abundant! Many will sing for hours on end, desperately trying to entice a mate. Once a mate is found however, the songs do not end but rather, turn into chattering between the males and females.

Oh, wouldn’t you love to understand their conversation? 😉

The male Gray Catbird returned time and time again to this particular branch to sing out his melody. I spent quite awhile photographing in order to achieve a well-composed, well-lit shot of him in full song, his beak wide open. Another must-have was to capture an image where that tiny spot of red under his beak was exposed as he sang. Not an easy task, as I soon found out! Persistence, however, does indeed, pay off. 🙂

During his song, a House Wren joined in on a lower branch and began to sing along. Not one to pass up an opportunity, he now became the focus of my attention.

“Sing to Me” (House Wren, Adult Male, Troglodytes aedon) Nikon D300, 490mm (VR 200-400mm F/4G w/1.4x Teleconverter), F/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 320

The wren’s song was different as he was already successful in finding a mate who was busy making a home in the large yellow bird house for the inevitable wren brood to come. Still, their voices blended and harmonized and I enjoyed the free entertainment on that warm, sunny day.

Eventually, both birds flew off to other tasks and I called out a “Thanks, guys!” for the private concert, knowing that it wouldn’t be my last.

It’s that time of year where all the birds have one thing on their minds… makin’ babies! 🙂 The wrens have taken up residence in the large yellow bird house, the chickadees are in the bellows bird house and the sparrows (both the English and house varieties) have found spaces in the gutters (despite our attempts to discourage them. Sigh).

Looking down from one of my office windows, I can see the large arbor that extends over our garage. Two weeks ago, I watched this female robin tirelessly gather building materials for her nest.

“Material Girl” (North American Robin, Adult Female) Nikon D300, 420mm (VR 200-400mm F/4G lens with 1.4x Teleconverter), F/5.6, 1/160s, ISO 640

The nest is lovely and she barely fit inside of it when it was finished. However, with all the rain we’ve had in the last two weeks, I didn’t get a chance to scope out a spot where I can get a good camera angle on the actual nest itself (it is tucked within the trumpet vines just below the garage eaves…a very tricky spot, indeed). Sadly, this week the nest has been empty. 😦 (I am hoping this is merely a temporary situation and that it hasn’t been abandoned even before being utilized for its intended purpose). Stay tuned.

“Orange Crush” (Baltimore Oriole, Adult Female) Nikon D300, 550mm (VR 200-400mm F/4G w/1.4x Teleconverter), F/5.6, 1/80s, ISO 640

 
 

Over the weekend, a flash of orange streaked across the sky and I knew in an instant it meant the Orioles were back!! I immediately cut an orange and filled the rind halves with sweet jelly in the hope I could entice the little beauties to stay around.

I have no idea where the nest is being built but this morning, I spied two males and a female flitting about the yard. Good enough reason for me to haul out the large lens and tripod, dontchathink? 😉

“Getting Ready” (Baltimore Oriole, Adult Female) Nikon D300, 550mm (VR 200-400 F/4G w/1.4x Teleconverter), F/5.6, 1/100s. ISO 640

 

 
 
Now, while the brightly-colored male eluded my lens (must be related to the male cardinal, eh?) I was able to capture the female as she took 5 in a nearby tree, a tuft of freshly picked grass clasped in her beak.

Folks, I did my best paparazzi moves to capture these images! Even so, I was eventually spotted by the orange girl and she then decided the photo shoot was over.

Seeing that these are my first ever Oriole photos, I’m okay with that! 🙂

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