Excerpted from Poetry in the Sky by Christian Spencer. Copyright © 2022. Available from teNeues Publishing.

The true majesty of a bird can only be seen entirely when it is captured in flight. In general, this pre­sents technical and artistic challenges to the pho­tographer. Whether it is the hummingbird flying at 50 kilometers an hour and 60 wing beats a second or a wedge-­tailed eagle (Aquila audax) gliding over the salt lakes of the interior of Australia—when captured properly, they pass a serene and poetic image like no other animal. 

Poetry of Birds book cover with iridescent hummingbird silhouette on black
Courtesy of teNeues Publishing

Photographs of large flocks, for example of Australian parrots, can resemble impressionistic paintings full of depth and movement. Hummingbirds frozen in flight together with dew-­dropped flowers at times look like 3D sculptures. The scale-­throated hermit (Phaethornis eurynome), while sitting on a branch, can sometimes appear dull and inconspicious, but once captured hovering and feed­ing on delicate flowers, its full splendor can truly be seen. The blue ­and ­yellow macaw (Ara ararauna) of Brazil is one of the most beautiful birds in the world. Measuring more than a meter in length, it glides and flies through the usually dry and harsh landscapes in a dance of technicolored poetry.

Many birds give the impression they are swimming through an invisible liquid or performing a highly syn­chronized ballet that has been planned and written through the echoes of time.

Birds photo
Australian emus. Christian Spencer
Birds photo
Galah. Christian Spencer
Birds photo
A green-headed tanager. Christian Spencer
Birds photo
Blue-and-yellow macaws. Christian Spencer
Birds photo
Little corella. Christian Spencer

Buy Poetry in the Sky by Christian Spencer here.