A friend and I were ambling around a marsh near Point Reyes, CA, when we noticed a hummingbird perched on a branch. The body was green and it had a dark purple head. Since we didn’t have the birding guide at hand, we let it be and walked around. Later, we would identify it as Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna).
A little ahead, we saw another hummingbird perched on a shorter bush. We walked towards it and it turned its head towards us. The head was a striking, deep pink that literally stopped my heart. But before we could get a good look it took off.
Later, when we returned to the same spot, the plain-looking hummingbird was perched on the shorter bush. The other one was nowhere in sight, so we decided to approach this one for a closer look. As photographers always prefer a front-on light, we went around the bird to get into a favourable position with respect to light. As we moved, we noticed that the lores of the bird were now glowing iridescent pink. Wow! That was something we hadn’t seen, we remarked to each other. After getting a couple of shots through, we resumed our walk aiming to “get the angle right”.
Then the hummingbird pointed its head towards us, and we finally got the plot. The deep pink-headed hummingbird was not a different bird – it was the same bird we were seeing from all directions. When direct sunlight fell on its face, the feathers there glowed in a hard-hitting metallic pink-red.
It was an encounter just shy of an epiphany. The most basic of photography lessons tell you the same thing over and over again – the angle and quality of light have a huge bearing on how good your subject looks. However, even the most masterful photographers would find this transformation effected by light nothing short of sheer magic!
Also read: Americana – A birding diary from the United States