4.05.2021

Economy springing back to life. Now I get to use some of those new cameras and lenses! Hooray.


 All of a sudden we're getting booked for assignments. It started out slowly; a big project in March followed by a growing number of corporate portrait bookings. Some here in the studio but more out on locations. The early wave is mostly comprised of bankers and lawyers and we're even starting to hear rumblings of corporate events being scheduled in late Summer and Fall. 

I'm ready to get back to work. We'll keep wearing our masks and taking all the precautions we've learned throughout the pandemic but with everyone I work with having been vaccinated it's starting to feel less risky. 

Even though I've always been an extrovert I'm finding that it takes some practice and effort to get back into a more authentic give and take with photography clients. I guess I've "talked" more here on the blog over the last year than I have in the real world. I have to re-learn how to talk "out loud" again and also how to patiently listen.

I did five portraits last week and the most fun were two that were shot in the studio but composited into out of focus backgrounds I'd shot earlier in the week. With the backgrounds already shot it was easier to make portraits that "fit" the look and feel of the whole assemblage. Getting a good selection with good feathering at the edges helps a lot. I use the "select and refine" menus and tools in PhotoShop to separate the subjects from the studio background and to create a file with an image layer that is, except for the actual subject, transparent. That makes it a simple matter to open a background image file in the same window and just pull the person over into the scene. 

You'll have to a do a few adjustments and maybe blur the edges of your person a bit to match better with the background. I also find it helps, once the compositing and adjusting is complete, to add "noise" or grain to the overall image as it reinforces the appearance of the photo being homogenous instead of leaving tell tale signs that it's a fake collage. Keep it subtle but pay attention to some of the subliminal cues that happen when joining different images together. 

And now for the exciting news. It seems a mother raccoon has made my home's chimney into a nursery. She has somehow dislodged the cap on the chimney and, while she was not in the chimney yesterday the young raccoons were down at the bottom; just above the flue. Isn't that special?

We have experts coming tomorrow but I realized that the mom might not have been able to get in for the last few days since I reattached the cap. I'm torn but my reverence for all life and my ignorance of what might be best for the little raccoons. The expert and I talked and I think I'll head back up to the roof and take the cap off the chimney for tonight and also dangle down a thick, thick rope to help with an exit. If we play talk radio in the fireplace and occasionally bang on the bottom of the flue there is the thought that the mom raccoon will evacuate her brood and move on. But for now maybe I should drop in some apple slices for the young ones so they get some moisture and sustenance. 

Anybody here a raccoon specialist? And, yes, I know they are primary disease vectors and can be vicious to boot. But I'm willing to take both animal behavior advice and ethical treatment advice. Please- no gun talk. I'd like them to exit alive.

On a happier note. Elon Musk is coming to save Austin! (sarcasm alert!!!). 


19 comments:

Eric Rose said...

Just don't play conservative talk radio! All we need are some really pissed off Trump loving raccoons!!

Glad to hear you are back at it. Peace and Love as Ringo says.

Eric

David said...

Twisted sister for 24 hours straight full volume should work.
Yes never place the cap on or move the babies. Typically they should be placed in a box close by and the chimney resealed. If not the raccoon will tear down the whole chimney looking for them. They are strong like bears.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Thanks Guys. I fear raccoons. I think they are Floridians in deep disguise. I felt bad about blocking the mom's access for the last three days so I opened up the chimney, made a rope ladder to help with a mom-led evacuation and also dropped down some apple slices so the kits would have some moisture and something in their tummies. I hope the mom doesn't interpret this a a "welcome basket."

We can get more revolting than Twisted Sister, we'll just play some contemporary country and western stuff. The raccoons will get so tired of hearing about pick-up trucks, good dogs, unfaithful women and the healing powers of God and Whiskey they'll likely de-camp as fast as possible. But, then again, they are Texas raccoons. My plan may backfire...

Jerry said...

We've fed raccoons on the back porch for the last 23 years. Possums, foxes, bobcats, otters, we've had everything but bears here. Sometimes the raccoon moms will bring as many as six youngsters with her. They get along with our cats just fine. The dogs not so much. Be kind.

J Williams said...

My Mother used to be a registered wildlife rehabilitator so I've seen quite a few Racoons raised from babies. One got so attached to us it took permanent residence in our backyard (inside it's own specially built cage) as it was too tame to let loose in the wild.

Above all else they are extremely curious creatures. They generally aren't aggressive creatures, but I'd keep an arms length from any adults as one really should with any wildlife. Really should do the same for the babies but they are even more curious and less afraid of people at least initially. I'm sure you weren't going to hug them or anything, but this is just general wildlife stuff that amazingly some folks do not know.

I'm not surprised Mom was able to remove the cap and go down there to see how things looked (again very curious creatures), but a bit surprised that just your normal activity in the home didn't make them go elsewhere. The person you have coming is probably more familiar with them in the circumstances you are currently in than I would be.

Above all don't be afraid of them (vs. using common sense and staying away). They're just trying to figure out how to get along and do the normal Racoon things (like raising babies) in a world that is constantly destroying their native habitat. They're better at adapting than a lot of wildlife. If you've ever spent time around these rather amazing creatures, you'd hate to see any harm come to them. I'm sure your guy will know how to safely extricate them.

If there are any woods etc. behind your home and they can find a place there, the babies are fascinating to watch. At my house (not my mothers) we had a pair of babies just old enough to be away from Mom and they roamed the neighborhood looking for fruit trees that had planted anything tasty to eat. We had an ornamental Plum tree in our front yard they visited almost daily. They also seemed to like the Bradford Pears that many in the neighborhood had planted in their yards. Very entertaining to watch and largely unbothered by our presence as long as we kept a respectable distance.

Relax and if somehow given the opportunity enjoy your little visitors.

Bill McFadden said...

Racoons can be hard to deal with. When in the Army 50+ yrs ago I lived in a rented house in town. A raccoon removed the garbage can lid every night and helped himself. I had a sergeant who had been a Green Beret so I asked for some device that might make a bang to frighten the coon. Unfortunately any explosive device he could suggest would have leveled the house and a fair segment of the neighborhood. I'd love to help but I haven't gathered any gentler advice in the intervening years.

Bill McFadden

J Williams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

I agree with everyone that these guys are just trying to get along in the world. I'm hoping by leaving the chimney open tonight the parents take action to move everyone to better quarters. One thing I read on the web (a source of all honest and good information) alternately suggested just letting them camp until they are ready to leave and ignore them. Let the parents do their parenting thing. The premise is that in a couple of months they'll all decamp. But if they are anything like young adult humans they may just decide to stay forever. God help me if they ever discover how to do video games in my chimney; they'll never leave.....

But I have no intention of being cruel. Honest.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

I heard Leica is getting into humane raccoon traps. The limited edition "Crocodile Dundee" raccoon trap is only $12,000 and comes signed by Rocky Raccoon. You'd probably never want to use it though since it IS a collectible...

J Williams said...

Not that I necessarily recommend this for everyone, but if there is a door nearby I'd just open the door then have someone stand blocking access the other way and open the flu and let them out. Maybe not for the faint of heart but it's actually pretty easy to do. I've never done this with Racoons but actually did the same exact thing at my in-laws house when a squirrel got down their chimney. He made a quick exit out the door and Racoons are way smarter than squirrels.

They aren't going to come out charging for you. Only question is how quickly can they find the door. Just an option.

3 days is a long time to be stuck there. I'm guessing Mom already tried to get them out and couldn't. Being babies their survival is already in doubt after that long.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Hi J Williams. Hope springs eternal. They are still chattering away. They are not newborns but several weeks old, I think. It's been mild temperatures here and I'm hoping the gourmet apple slices will keep up their strength and hydration. Maybe their mom will make another attempt tonight. Fingers crossed for luck.

J Williams said...

They're chatty little things for sure. Good to hear they're still making noise. Wasn't trying to alarm you, but babies can be quite fragile. I'm still trying to figure out how Mom got out as I thought most modern chimneys were lined with a slick steel type liner that would seem difficult to climb, but I'm pretty ignorant there. Whatever lined my in-laws chimney was too slick for a squirrel to climb and they can scale just about anything.

crsantin said...

We had a mom racoon get into our attic with her babies. She got in through a missing vent cap on the roof that must have blown away in a storm. We had a company come in that specializes in humane animal removal. When they arrived they installed a one-way trap door over that hole in the roof...mom could get out but not back in. When she left in the night for her food gathering she was not able to get back in. The next day they retrieved the babies and placed them in a cozy box and placed that up on the roof. Mom was able to get her babies from the box on the roof and locate them somewhere else, confirmed by the friendly employee the next day. They even installed new caps and animal-proof cages over all my rooftop vents so no other critters get in. All went well and everyone survived. We did spend one sleepless night that first night. Raccoons can make one hell of a racket up in an attic. No fun at all but raccoon babies are awfully cute and raccoons are actually very good parents.

Peter Dove said...

Long ago, Austin raccoons ate nearly an entire crop of about a hundred melons. Left me a couple of scrawny ones. Thanks? They liked to pick peppers and toss them around, too, but they would only pick one or two to play with. That was pretty cute. The cats trapped one in the house. One cat blocked the flap-door, the other beat up the raccoon, then the two ushered him out the flap-door. I tried trapping and relocating them, but gave up after a month of daily trips out Parmer Lane to drop them off. Made no difference.

Greg Heins said...

Baby raccoons in the flue? Talk about click bait! I’ll be back tomorrow!

Michael Matthews said...

As to herding the raccoons down the chimney and out the front door — you might want to listen to a classic segment of This American Life, the long-running public radio program. Go to the This American Life website...Archives...and search for Squirrel Cop.

scott kirkpatrick said...

When we lived in NY state we had a raccoon family that found the chimney and went all the way down to the basement fireplace to enjoy the warmth. Unfortunately they brought an infestation of fleas with them, which also appreciated the warmth and created a snapping, crackling foot-deep cloud in which it was not possible to appreciate the cute little babies. We convinced the raccoons to leave (but they stayed nearby) and fumigated.

rgonet said...

Kirk, raccoon poop can carry eggs of a parasite that is very harmful to humans and there isn't a very good treatment for it. Read this about Baylisascaris: https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/baylisascaris/ Then google it for more medical information. Scary stuff.

At the veterinary center at Colorado State University, any raccoons are kept in metal cages on cement floors. When the raccoons are later removed, the poop is removed and the cages and floor are sanitized with a blowtorch and boiling lysol. This is really nasty shit, literally and figuratively, and you don't want it in your chimney or even in your yard. The roundworms can cause severe problems in humans.

Good luck!

rgonet said...

According to Bob Vila, light, sound, and ammonia might work.

"How do you make sure that raccoons get out and actually stay out? You must determine the animals’ entry point. Typically, raccoons get in through the eaves of the roof or in openings at the foundation level. Once you’ve located the access point, the next step is to make your home inhospitable."

"Raccoons enjoy the dark, so a strategically placed flashlight can be a deterrent.
Because they’re also put off by strange noises, playing a small radio may help keep them at bay.
Finally, raccoons hate the smell of ammonia, so leave a saucer full of the stuff (or an ammonia-dipped rag) near the creatures’ entry point.
Within 48 hours, thanks to one or all of the above tricks, the raccoons are likely to vacate the premises."