OP Home > Locations > International > Birds Of Paradise


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Birds Of Paradise

With the trained eye of a scientist, Tim Laman captures the behavior of the world’s most rare and extraordinary birds

Labels: Lightroom
This Article Features Photo Zoom

A cloud forest with misty valleys at sunrise near Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea.

Patience, persistence and ear wax—three requirements for photographing the world's 39 species of birds-of-paradise. (Yes, ear wax—more on this later.) It only took eight years and 18 expeditions to New Guinea and Australia for photographer Tim Laman to pull off this remarkable photographic and scientific achievement.

"There's a reason why no one has ever done a serious job of photographing all of the birds-of-paradise," says Laman. "It's virtually impossible to walk around a rain forest carrying a camera and get a picture. The birds are too high up in the trees or too hard to approach closely."

Left: Twelve-wired bird-of-paradise (Seleucidis melanoleuca), Badigaki Forest, Wokam Island in the Aru Islands, Indonesia. Right: Adult male greater bird-of-paradise in static display, Badigaki Forest, Wokam Island in the Aru Islands, Indonesia.

So Laman spent countless hours climbing trees, rigging blinds and hauling gear up as high as 160 feet into the canopy of the rain forest. And then he waited. And waited. And waited. In today's frenzied world, where instant is the new normal, some things can't be rushed. There's no substitute for good, old-fashioned patience, a virtue that Laman has in droves. He built more than 100 photo blinds, and together with ornithologist Edwin Scholes, spent more than 2,000 hours crouching and waiting for those magical moments when the birds appeared. Their patience was rewarded and the results are beautifully displayed in their book, Birds of Paradise: Revealing the World's Most Extraordinary Birds (National Geographic Society, 2012).

But nothing about the project was easy, and 10 days into Laman's first expedition, he hadn't made a single publishable photo. He wrote in his journal, "What have I gotten myself into?"

It's a question that Alfred Russel Wallace no doubt asked himself many times when he explored the dense, mountainous jungles of the Malay Archipelago some 150 years before Laman arrived. The first Western naturalist to see birds-of-paradise display in the wild, Wallace authored The Malay Archipelago: The Land of the Orang-Utan and the Bird of Paradise (1869). Wallace is also credited with developing the theories of how species evolve, along with his more well-known counterpart Charles Darwin. Fast-forward to the 1980s, when Laman read Wallace's book while working as a research assistant in the tropical rain forest of Borneo, home to orangutans. The book piqued his interest to someday get to the island of New Guinea, home to the birds-of-paradise that Wallace described as "the most beautiful and the most wonderful of living things."


Add Comment


Popular OP Articles