Hummingbird Rainbow by Christian Spencer

Hummingbird Rainbows

Will Be One of Your Favorite Things


When a hummingbird gets captured in a photograph with direct sunlight behind it, rainbows shine through its wings.

by Diana I

Hummingbird Rainbows

Hummingbird Rainbows Will Be One of Your Favorite Things

Christian Spencer has spent 20 years of his life living in Itatiaia National Park in Brazil.

Although this location keeps him a long way from his native Australia, it also gives him unique photography opportunities.

His past work has included false coral snakes, pumpkin toadlets, and other creatures that the rest of the world doesn’t often get to see.

Spencer says that his 20 years in Brazil have let him find some unique things about the natural world.

One of his most fascinating discoveries involves the wings of hummingbirds.

When a hummingbird gets captured in a photograph with direct sunlight behind it, rainbows shine through its wings.

Hummingbirds Are One of Spencer’s Favorite Subjects

Spencer won awards for his short film in 2011 called The Dance of Time.

It showed this effect in video form, making it the first time for many people to experience the phenomenon.

After taking some time off from studying the birds in recent years, the artist says that he returned to the rainbow producers in 2019.

We live in an era where you can create almost anything digitally.

Many people see the rainbow wings of a hummingbird and automatically assume that a program like Photoshop got used for the composition.

When you see the hummingbird images in Spencer’s portfolio, none of them have been digitally altered.

What you observe is the natural phenomenon that the artist has been studying for two decades.

The Rainbows in Their Wings

A hummingbird’s wings have unique refractive properties that act similarly to a prism.

We don’t detect the rainbow of colors from the sun with our eyes because it doesn’t get refracted through our vision.

We need something else to produce that effect for us.

That’s why rainbows appear when moisture is in the sky.

The combination of rain and sun creates a refracting effect that can produce stunning colors.

If you hold glass up to sunlight, it can offer a similar effect.

Hummingbird’s wings do the same thing on a limited scale.

Although you won’t see a sparkly banner hitting the ground when encountering this effect, you can detect it in their wings as they speed by.

For Spencer, his high-speed camera captures this effect with remarkable clarity.

More of the art prints on Spencer’s website.

Hummingbirds Rainbow Prism 7
Hummingbirds Rainbow
Hummingbirds Rainbow Prism
Hummingbirds Light
Hummingbirds Rainbow Prism 2
Wings of time photography
Hummingbirds Rainbow Prism 3
Images of bird wings
Hummingbirds Rainbow Prism 4
Hummingbirds Rainbow Prism 4
Hummingbirds Rainbow Prism 6
Spencer light

Photo Credits Christian Spencer