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Hummingbird in the Rain, California, 2015

This photograph of a male Anna’s Hummingbird was taken in Robert Dudley’s research laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Dudley is interested in understanding how hummingbirds are able to do the remarkable things they do, such as hover, fly backwards, and flap their wings over 100 times per second. 

Hummingbirds often brave downpours to gather nectar. This particular experiment uses an artificial rain machine to study how hummingbirds dry themselves off.  This Anna’s hummingbird shakes off rain as a wet dog does, with an oscillation of its head and body. Each twist lasts four-hundredths of a second and subjects the bird’s head to 34 times the force of gravity. Even more remarkable: Hummingbirds can do this in flight as well as when perched.
Location: University of California, Berkeley
Photograph Date: 2015
Medium: Chromogenic Print
Edition: 200
Available Sizes: 70cm to 280cm ICON

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About the Photographer

Anand Varma

Anand Varma discovered his passion for wildlife exploring the streams and forests near his childhood home in Atlanta, Georgia. As a teenager, he picked up his father’s old camera on a whim and discovered that he could use it to feed his curiosity about the natural world, and to share his adventures and discoveries with others.

While pursuing a degree in integrative biology at UC Berkeley, Varma worked on a variety of field projects, including studies of elk behavior and mangrove forest ecology.

His introduction to National Geographic came in 2006 when he landed a job assisting photographer David Liittschwager on assignment in Sequoia National Park. That started his career of collaborating with scientists to tell the stories behind their research. In 2010, he was awarded a Young Explorer Grant from the National Geographic Society to photograph the wetlands of northern Patagonia.

He shot his first feature story for National Geographic magazine, “Mindsuckers,” using a macabre, graphic novel-inspired treatment to introduce the world to mind-controlling parasites. The project had him raising insects, frogs, and parasites in his home—and in hotels—across the world. “Mindsuckers” was published on the November 2014 cover of National Geographic and won the World Press Award for best nature story. For his next project, “Quest for a Superbee,” published in May 2015, he documented how scientists are studying the threats facing this critical pollinator. He has since photographed stories about hummingbird biomechanics and carnivorous bats.

To photograph the wonders of biology Varma has developed unique techniques, including building some of his own equipment. He works tirelessly in support of science, running workshops in the United States and abroad to teach scientists and educators how to communicate their work through photography.

He lives in Berkeley, California.

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