PetaPixel

Beautiful Studio Portraits of Birds in Flight

aviary4

Photographer Paul Nelson spends the majority of his time shooting commercial work for big name clients like MAC Cosmetics or Target. But when the flow of work began to slow to a trickle over the past couple of years, he embarked on a personal project that he hoped would remind him why he loved photography.

Thus was born Aviary. Shot in partnership with Springbook Nature Center, the photo series captures beautiful studio-style portraits of birds taking flight as they’re released back into the wild.

The series represents a balancing act between the advertising style of shooting — with its crisp white backgrounds and often highly controlled final product — and the unpredictability of photographing birds as they take flight.

Minnesota Original got a chance to see Nelson in action. Here’s their short feature on Aviary:

Nelson chose to work with the center because of the variety of species he would have a chance to photograph. Springbook captures these birds, collects data about them, and then secures bands to their feet for further tracking. When they let them go, they allow Nelson a chance to take a photo of them using the specially designed IR photo booth he built specifically for this project.

Because he’s capturing the photo as the bird is being set free, he gets only one shot to get it right. If the photo turns out badly, that it — no more chances. Fortunately, it seems he’s had some luck capturing some fairly stunning photos over the course of the project:

aviary2

aviary3

aviary1

aviary5

aviary6

aviary7

aviary8

aviary9

aviary10

aviary11

aviary12

aviary13

As you might expect, this project has increased both Nelson’s knowledge of and interest in birds. As time goes on, he hopes to expand Aviary to include more than just photos of birds taking flight. Already there’s a photo of a bird perching mixed in with the complete series on his website.

To see the full series or check out more of Nelson’s work, head over to his website by clicking here.

(via Slate)


Image credits: Photographs by Paul Nelson and used with permission.


 
Get the hottest photo stories delivered to your inbox.
Get a daily digest of the latest headlines:
  • Renato Murakami

    Amazing photos, thanks for sharing!

  • Ygor Oliveira

    I think it would be nice if the background was black and with some haze, showing the wind movement.

  • Matthew Neumann

    Why don’t you go shoot that then? This project was about shooting them on white. It’s like looking at a photo of a dog and saying, “I think it would be nice if this was a photo of a cat.”

  • Ygor Oliveira

    Because I’m not a bird photographer. And that’s not about changing the subject as you said, that’s about changing the background only. And I have not said the way Paul Nelson did was not good, it was good indeed.

  • KH

    Maybe they tried it and didn’t like it. To me, it looks like some of the feathers are partially transparent, which may have to do with white as the choice.

  • Keith McKenna

    Good Job, Paul. Was a real treat to run across this. Hope all is well.