Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ann Arbor Wrap-Up

In just a few days, Steph and I will be moving back to Marquette! I'm excited for our relocation, but I'll also miss Ann Arbor in many ways. This city is my hometown, after all, and there are many memories tied to it. I will miss my parents very much, of course, as well as the exhibit museum and all of the photographic opportunities that it provides. I'll miss the plethora of Japanese food and the Trader Joe's that's right around the corner, and the Ann Arbor Area Crappy Camera Club, too.

Living in Ann Arbor for the past year has allowed me to take this project in several different directions. I've explored new techniques (such as using limited depth of field with a macro lens) and I've had the chance to watch the complete decay of three different animals (September Squirrel, March Buck, and Needham Opossum). This city, with its many roads and large population of squirrels, raccoons, opossums, and deer, has provided me with an almost constant supply of subject material, and has even allowed me to practice the skinning of animals and the tanning of their hides.

Before we move, there are a few photographs I'd like to share, from last month's foray down U.S. Route 12 to Saline and back. Steph and I went out for an early-morning drive, before the temperature got too warm, to look for recent roadkill. Route 12 (also known as Michigan Avenue, connecting Chicago to Detroit) can be a death trap for animals, especially deer and raccoons. We didn't see too many fresh corpses; the side of the road was mostly littered with flattened, unidentifiable pieces of fur.

One corpse we did stop for was that of a snapping turtle. The body was a dry husk, and light as a sheet of cardboard.

Route 12 Snapping Turtle I

Turtles are rather special to me, and seeing them dead on the side of the road is always so heartbreaking. This snapping turtle was really quite beautiful, with the early morning sun hitting the scaly, dessicated skin.

Route 12 Snapping Turtle II

Perhaps the most heartbreaking thing, though, was when I moved the shell -- and beneath the carapace, scattered amongst the bones, were unlaid, unhatched eggs.

Route 12 Snapping Turtle III

On our way back, as we were nearing Saline's strip mall district, a robin swooped out in front of the vehicle ahead of us. It collided with the car, and for a moment, its plumage was illuminated in the sunlight, a fiery red-orange. It was dead before it even hit the ground. I parked the Jeep on the side of the road, and there lay the robin, a fledgling, its speckled plumage moving gently in the breeze. It was otherwise quite still. I scooped it up; the body was warm and limp, only moments dead.

I brought the robin back to our apartment, where I photographed it in the grass.

Young Robin I

Young Robin II

Young Robin IV

Young Robin III

This was the first time I photographed an animal that I had watched die. It was a sad, surreal experience, and one that I'd rather not repeat. The body cooled slowly, gradually becoming stiffer as I took more photographs. By the time Stephanie painted a watercolor rendition of the fledgling, rigor mortis had set in. Later that day, I buried the robin in my parents' backyard.

The fledgling and the snapping turtle are the last two useless creatures that I photographed here in the Ann Arbor area. Many adventures await in Marquette and the Upper Peninsula, and a full update will arrive, post-move!