Taking Flight in The Light

Each individual has their unique areas of interest  — from music to windmills. My wife’s sister, Vicki, is a birder. One of her friends (of a feather?) had a 20-year old Green-Winged Macaw (Ara chloropterus) named Baron. She had a hunch I might enjoy photographing his molted feathers, so she sent them to me, along with a few from other birds.

At first, I foolishly dismissed the idea — delegating the box of feathers to a closet. However, a couple of years later, on a whim, I began examining them. I was particularly struck by how much their color changed depending on the direction from which they were illuminated. This observation “hatched” a seven-year quest to capture their beauty.

Here’s a fun fact…A feather’s color is produced by pigments that can reflect, refract, or scatter selected wavelengths of light — or by a combination of these things. This coloration is vital in both communication, protection and possibly other functions. To investigate this phenomenon, I began illuminating the feathers from different angles with a small LED flashlight, and was captivated by the iridescent glow and ever-changing colors. Working in a closet, I positioned the feathers in various arrangements, explored the depths of their beauty.

It was quite striking and unexpected how much the color, texture, and vibrancy of the feathers changed — depending on the orientation of the light source. Results were often unpredictable. Using a Canon EOS 6D and Tamron SP 1:2.8 Macro lens, what my eye perceived while peering through the lens of the camera was inexplicably and sometimes dramatically altered as the image passed through glass, reflected off mirrors, and recorded by the camera. This phenomenon constantly reinforced for me the importance of acknowledging that my interpretation of what “exists” is dependent upon my mind’s singular and unique interpretation of reality at a given moment in time and space. In truth, pronouncements that certain observations constitute “fact”, are often more subjective than we might realize. This point is further reinforced by various quantum physics observations such as the  ‘Double Split Atom Experiment’ which seems to suggest that what one individual “sees” in a specific location does not exist there until it is observed.

Clearly, additional factors contribute to the way each of us interprets our surroundings — and those we encounter: molded by previous experiences, personal circumstances, genetic makeup, and a host of other factors of which we may, or may not, even be aware. I’m hopeful that my attempts to delve more deeply into exploring the various factors that may influence my perceived reality will continue to help in my ongoing effort to be more accepting of our differences, leading to greater patience and compassion.

It is my impression that when an individual sees and touches an object, the physical and emotional response is unique to that sentient being. In this project I have attempted to artistically convey my personal way of connecting with these graceful and delicate objects: the “simple” feather. Or are they?