Avian Expert Articles

Photographer Focuses On The Beauty Of Feathers

Mockingbird feather, photo by James Henderson

It can be said that our world is interpreted through the art that we create. How we understand ourselves, how we perceive events and locations, and how we love other things are all represented in a million ways via our art. The traditional brushstroke of colors in paintings often is the norm for display as is a variety of photography. There are even birds that create art envisioned by humans that see things that many cannot. In that, the human allows the bird to do what it will and then creates permanence for the work.

Art encompasses so many corners that it is one of few things that still finds shadows of originality in its making. A strange but beautiful display of art comes from James Henderson, a photographer who takes the oft-ignored unattached bird feather and creates stunning photographic imagery with them.

A Feathered Inspiration

The journey begins with a walk that led to the casual discovery of a large unattached brown pelican feather. Being a photographer used to seeing things that many do not immediately register, Henderson picked up the feather and took it home. There, he placed it on his desk. Upon closer inspection, he saw photographic possibilities with the feather that had him thinking about texture, color, and style. After a few sessions with the feather, Henderson found the art in it and began work in bringing that art to the fore.

Feathered Focus

Vulture feather, photo by James Henderson

Using macro lens on a digital camera and specific lighting for his photos of the feather, Henderson was able to capture exquisite details that soon led to a finished piece. After the sessions with the brown pelican feather, the photographer saw feathers everywhere. As he picked them up, he would sometimes ask questions of individuals to get their conceptual thoughts of the feather. What he discovered was that many people had unique stories and thoughts, some of them ethereally engaging and beautiful. These concepts were used to add an unseen element to the feather that would enhance the visual from the photographer’s perspective.

Blue-and-gold macaw feather, photo by James Henderson

As Henderson views and contemplates a feather he wishes to use, he begins to see perfection in the imperfect. He focuses on the feather not as a whole, but rather on parts of the feather that are generally ignored. As an example, he may look at a feather and find that a part of it will have a wondrous display of color and/or pattern. It will be something that once focused upon, stands out and become a “featherscape.” Another example is a hummingbird feather. Viewed at one angle it can show a dark color. But turn it slightly, and a splash of colors explode from the sunlight that the feather reflects. This is the kind of unique “featherscape” that Henderson looks for.

Seeing What Was Unseen

Rainbow Lorikeet Feather, photo by James Henderson

Once a feather is chosen for whatever beauty it yields within it, the feather is stabilized and photographed against a black background. Using depth against a black background to cause it to “fall away” from the focus of the photo, the feather image captured takes on more amazing elements of display that causes one to stare in awe at the typically unseen part of any bird’s feather.

Henderson is a professional photographer who has captured beautiful photos of bamboo, spacecraft, old schoolhouses, unique infrared images, and of course, feathers as seen in his Featherscape art photo project. He is also an accomplished filmmaker who had a film on Hulu – Troxler’s Truckers: Memories of Vietnam. We marvel at the portrait-style feather displays of Featherscape.



4 thoughts on “Photographer Focuses On The Beauty Of Feathers

  1. Fascinating and gorgeous! While all animals have magnificent beauty and uniqueness, there is something particularly compelling about the beauty of feathers – the variety of shapes and colors, especially the amazing iridescence many have.
    I have saved many of my birds’ molted feathers with the idea of making a feather “painting” someday – if not, I will donate them to an avian vet to use in imping (a way of replacing damaged feathers until new ones grow out).

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