The Hypnotic, Sinister Beauty of Birds Caught in Time

Memory  /  Time Travel
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Here at Mylio, we’ve been known to natter on about the magic of photography, and its simultaneous ability to stop, leap, stretch, and finely slice time. The following projects add motion to the mix (and put a bird on it for good measure).

The (beautiful? Dreamlike? Disorienting? Slightly unnerving?) still images above and below are from Spanish photographer Xavi Bou’s project Ornitographies, birds captured in motion. Bou’s work is another example of what wonders a mashup of old and new technologies can bring – in his case, chronophotography meets Adobe CC.

Photo of a bird's flight path over time by Xavi Bou
Photo by Xavi Bou

Chronophotography is a Victorian-era photo technique for the scientific study of motion; it was the predecessor of cinematography – moving pictures – and most famously used by photo founding father Eadweard Muybridge:

The technique involved an array of cameras, tripped off in sequence – something that would be revisited a century later by folks like the Wachowski brothers in the Matrix, and dubbed ‘bullet time’ (GoPros have made some pretty sweet homemade examples possible now, too).

Bou shoots stills, then stitches them together for a single image. The result isn’t so much a time lapse as what another artist in this space, RISD Professor Dennis Hlynsky, calls extended moment photography.

Ornitographies is a balance between art and science; a nature-based dissemination project and a visual poetry exercise, but above all: an invitation to perceive the world with the same curious and innocent look of the child we once were.

–Xavi Bou

Photo of a bird's flight path over time by Xavi Bou
Photo by Xavi Bou

Hlynsky’s work adds actual motion to Bou’s suggested motion, maintaining images as they’ve appeared in real time, creating a sort of contrail or tracer effect to the birds’ flight paths (he also does bugs). The results are absolutely hypnotic:

Videographer and AfterEffects artist Parker Paul tweaks time (and the birds) in a different direction; from a fixed frame, he filmed every bird that flew by his window for an hour, then composited all the results into a single timeframe. Somewhere, Hitchcock is chuckling.

Oh — and ornithophobiacs: TRIGGER WARNING!