Endangered Beauties Project

I have always been fascinated by the colors and the dynamics of the flight of birds.

The “Endangered Beauty” project (or “Beleza Ameaçada” in Portuguese) came by chance, while I was trying to figure out a way to shoot the impact of two or more portions of different colored paints thrown into the air. As a specialized photographer in high-speed photography with liquids, this challenge was latent for years. In August of 2013, I decided to build a series of contraptions of
different shapes and sizes to figure it out. The idea was to launch into the air portions of different color paints to provoke a collision and to photograph them at the exact moment of the impact.

Dealing with collisions and impacts in fractions of milliseconds involves a lot of trial and error. Even if we repeat the procedure with detailed planning, specific equipment, and rigorous consistency, the result will never be the same. There aren’t two identical splashes in nature. Each photo is unique in its smallest details.

When I finally managed to collide and catch the moment of collision of a portion of yellow paint against another portion of blue paint, the image captured showed, in detail, the transition between
the two colors, forming a third color, green.

Eureka! A range of new and unprecedented possibilities opened up. A window had opened to the unlimited creation of amazing effects in endless color combinations.

It was even more fascinating to note that in addition to the color transitions, the configuration of some splashes, depending on the impact and the type of contraption used, seemed to have been
caused by the rustle of a bird’s wings bathing in small puddles of colored liquids.

The feeling at that moment was that this was the secret of nature to match the color transitions of birds’ plumages.

Suddenly, I had another insight: why not photograph birds taking flight, benefiting from the same techniques and equipment used for the splashes? Noting that, coincidentally, to freeze the
movements of flying birds, it is also necessary to use high-speed techniques. I knew, from experience, that a black background is ideal for photographing and directing birds, since in semi-dark
ambient, they remain calm and serene. Moreover, black keeps colors vibrant without interferences and contaminations, as it happens with photos taken in nature. My intent was to photograph the
birds and the splashes, each at a time, but in the same environment, with the same quality and direction of light, therefore having both shots balanced for a final digital assembly.

To limit the birds from flying all over the studio, I built a large black tent to confine and restrain them safely. Inside it, a laser motion sensor was set to trigger a high-speed flash, synchronized to a
pre-focused camera, just as a bird crossed the laser beam. A perch was positioned outside the frame of the camera, illuminated by a beam of continuous light so that the bird could have a landing
reference at the end of its flight path. This way, in each attempt, I could capture a different and spontaneous image of the bird in full flight.

After each session, I’d choose the best shot, mostly in regard to its composition, before deciding which combination of colors would work better for the suitable splash during the collision session.
There, in each attempt, I had a new and unique shot, indeed impossible to be repeated. Best of all, the formation of the splashes coincided with the aerodynamics of the bird’s flight, providing equally unpredictable results. Both situations were perfectly integrated. Finally, I had two images ready for digital post-production.

Another curious component about this technique is the fact that the photos are taken about three feet away with a wide-angle lens. Due to the bird’s proximity, its details and colors are a lot more
noticeable compared to pictures taken at a distance in nature with telephoto lenses, which compresses perspective. Also, in nature, lighting is unstable, while studio lights are consistent and
reveal details and textures with greater accuracy.

Despite having overcome this initial logistic, another bigger challenge came up. I had no idea about the resistance I’d have to get new and unusual birds. First, I went after the certified domesticated ones born in captivity. Unfortunately, most of them have their wings pruned not to run away, and they cannot fly. Besides, there is a considerable limitation finding different species. In addition to the fragility and delicacy required in taking pictures of birds, it is forbidden by law, in Brazil, to photograph wild animals outside their natural habitat. Additionally, most people involved are somewhat concerned about breaking the law. Thus, after consultation with biologists and veterinarians, we concluded that the best route would be to look for those wild ones living under the protection of a zoo or other governmental entities.

Only recently, with the support and supervision of Balneario Camboriú’s Zoo in Santa Catarina, we were able to photograph some endangered species, among others, with the assistance of their
professionals. It was touching to witness their care and responsibility they take in keeping animals recovered from nature, unable to survive back in the wild.

Today, Galeria ArtShot (www.artshot.com) represents Endangered Beauty, which donates a percentage of the proceeds from the sales of our artworks to institutions or guardians of the featured

At this point, to continue with this project, we are still looking for dedicated bird’s defenders willing to cooperate and help us make it a vehicle for awareness and protection of our endangered beauties.

Please share and contact us with possible help.


Projeto Beleza Ameaçada & Endangered Beauties Project
All photographs by Tony Generico © 2017 – All Rights Reserved