Natural Phenomenon Transforms Hummingbird’s Wings into Tiny Rainbows

Rainbow Hummingbird by Christian Spencer

Artist and photographer Christian Spencer was standing on his verandah in Rio de Janeiro when he made an amazing discovery. When the black Jacobin hummingbird flew with the sun striking its open wings, a beautiful prism effect appeared. At that moment, it was as if its body was made of rainbows.

In 2011, Spencer recorded the bird's movements for a film called The Dance of Time. The movie went on to receive 10 international awards as well as three best film honors. But, that wasn’t the end of the rainbow hummingbirds. Several years later, Spencer returned to the subject. “I decided to try and photograph the same phenomenon with my camera,” he shares with My Modern Met. The resulting series is called Winged Prism, and for Spencer, the images reveal “a secret of nature that cannot be seen with our eyes.”

Although Winged Prism seems too magical to be true, Spencer says that there wasn't any digital manipulation involved. “There is no special technique,” he explains, “just diffraction of light through the wings of this special hummingbird.” The awe-inspiring beauty it produces is what makes these images so special. “Nobody ever could have ever dreamed that this was a reality,” he says. “I receive emails every day from people across the world touched by these images.”

One image from Winged Prism is now available as a limited edition print from Spencer’s website.

Artist and photographer Christian Spencer captured the awe-inspiring sight of the sun shining on a black Jacobin hummingbird's wings.

Bird Photography by Christian Spencer

The result is a prism effect and makes it look as though the creature's body is made of rainbows.

Bird Photography by Christian SpencerBird Photography by Christian SpencerBird Photography by Christian SpencerRainbow Hummingbird by Christian SpencerRainbow Hummingbird by Christian SpencerRainbow Hummingbird by Christian SpencerRainbow Hummingbird by Christian Spencer

Christian Spencer: Website | Instagram (photography) | Instagram (art)

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Christian Spencer.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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