That shot was taken in a place called the Aru Islands, in Indonesia. I went there on a bit of a pilgrimage because Alfred Russell Wallace, Darwin’s contemporary, had spent eight years in the Indonesian Archipelago. One of his main objectives as a collector of natural history specimens and an amateur scientist was to hunt birds of paradise. He journeyed to the Aru Islands because it was the source of the trader in birds of paradise, and he became the first western naturalist to observe birds of paradise displaying in the wild.
I thought it would be cool to go back to the same area, so I got in contact with the villagers, who agreed to take me to a tree where the greater bird of paradise displayed. There’s still a big problem with hunting. But these guys had decided to protect their patch of forest, hoping that tourists might come to see their birds. So, with their help, I climbed up an adjacent tree using a bow and arrow to shoot ropes up into the tree. They then helped me build a blind right across from the tree where the greater bird of paradise was displaying.
I would climb up in the dark, in the early morning, get into my blind and wait for it to get light, as the birds only display for a short time right around sunrise. I was about twenty feet away. This was a particularly nice morning with soft light and a tight frame, which I got using a telephoto lens.
What blows you away is the sheer beauty of these birds. Birds of paradise are an incredible representation of the amazing life forms we have on the planet. I want people to think, “Wow! We live on a planet with birds like this!”
Location: Wokam Island, Indonesia
Photograph Date: 2010
Medium: Chromogenic Print