Just when you thought you’d seen everything that nature has to offer, it stuns you with beautiful surprises you never knew could exist. A perfect example is this professional artist and photographer’s amazing discovery about the ‘hidden’ quality of a hummingbird’s wings.
With their tiny bodies, needle-like bills, and exceptional flying speed, it’s no secret that these animals are one of the most fascinating creatures in the world. Because of their unique characteristics, they’ve become a favorite among bird enthusiasts and photographers. One of them is Christian Spencer, the Australian-born artist behind the award-winning photo series, “Winged Prism.”
Spencer has lived near Brazil’s Itatiaia National Park since 2001, where he has been taking portraits of his lush surroundings and the local wildlife. He was standing on his veranda in Rio de Janeiro one day when he caught sight of a black Jacobin hummingbird flying by. Spencer was stunned by the magical scene he just witnessed – the hummingbird’s wings looked like it was made of rainbows!
The incredible prism effect wasn’t a product of his imagination. It was created when the light of the sun diffracted through the bird’s wings.
Spencer recorded these hummingbirds’ movements, and it was featured in the 2011 short film “The Dance of Time,” which featured Brazil’s rainforests and their biodiversity. The movie went on to receive 10 international awards and three best film honors. Several years later, the photographer decided to try and capture the same visual phenomenon with his camera.
And he succeeded. The result was the series he named “Winged Prism,” which he described on his website as “the exact moment in which the sunlight penetrates the wings of a Black and white Jacobin hummingbird revealing a secret of nature that cannot be seen with our eyes.”
The Jacobin hummingbird has a black body with distinct whitetails. Its most notable feature is its wingtips, which appear brown until the sun shines through them and produces a mesmerizing rainbow-like effect. It might seem hard to believe, but Spencer claims that he didn’t add any after-effects to the rainbow hummingbirds’ photos. Everything you see is natural!
“There is no special technique,” he told My Modern Met, “just diffraction of light through the wings of this special hummingbird.”
The spellbinding display of colors he captured in the wings and tails of these animals received acclaim all over the world. “Winged Prism” even won a prize at the Museum of Modern Art of Resende in Rio de Janeiro.
“Nobody ever could have ever dreamed that this was a reality,” he said of the captivating portraits. “I receive emails every day from people across the world touched by these images.”
One image from “Winged Prism” is available as a limited edition print on Spencer’s website. Check out the rest of the photos in the gallery below.
Christian Spencer was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1977. He has used canvas, film, music, and photography to express his creative genius. Follow him on Instagram or visit his website to see more of his works.