Our Artists - Kathleen Elam

Artist Statement

Spreading the joy, beauty and magic of hummingbirds is the intention of my photography.  I have found through exhibiting my work that hummingbirds hold a deep meaning for so many people.  Almost everyone has a hummingbird story.  I have heard stories of hummingbirds at funerals and weddings and I am moved by how much emotion these extremely tiny birds can create.  

I have fed hummingbirds for many years and sometimes there will be over sixty hummingbirds at one time at my feeders.  I love standing next to the feeders in order to feel the vibrations of the wind from their wings.  

I try to capture the birds so that every detail can be seen.  It was a lengthy process learning how to photograph them so that the wings were “frozen”.  They are exceptionally fast little creatures and I have thousands of photographs with no bird in them.  After months of frustration trying to photograph them in mid-air, I began attracting them with flowers, which made the process much easier.  I typically use backdrops and control all of the light using programmable flashes.  That is the only way to catch their wings in stop motion.  It also helps to put sugar water in the flowers so that they linger just a little longer.  There is a synergy that occurs with the bird and the flower that brings a special energy to the photograph.  

I take hundreds of pictures in the hopes of getting just one or two that I will share.  I catch them doing some amazing acrobatics.  I bring the pictures into Photoshop to create a work of art that will attempt to do justice to the beauty of the hummingbird.

There are some people who don’t think that photographs should be manipulated in Photoshop.  But even when photographers like Ansel Adams developed their pictures they used techniques to change colors and lighten and darken different areas of their photographs.  I think being able to successfully create a beautiful photograph in Photoshop is an art unto itself.  I continue to take online courses to become more proficient at it.

I so enjoy allowing people to see how beautiful these little flying jewels really are.  My inspiration is evident as the hummingbird is one of the most amazing creatures on the planet and they gracefully live their lives in our midst and we are blessed.  It is a privilege to have such magical, spiritual subjects for my photographs.

I  live in Southern California and exhibit in local galleries and art shows.  One of my photographs will be included in the Hummingbird Society 2017 calendar.

Kathleen Elam

There are times when I stand still near the hummingbird feeders and allow the hummingbirds to fly all around me.  There is a magic to the wind that comes off the vibrations of their wings that makes me realize how special these small creatures really are and how much they have to teach us. When I photograph them, I try to imagine what it would be like to be that tiny little bird and try to see what it sees as the flower comes into view.  They are remarkable, flying miracles and I am always in awe in their presence.  It is a privilege and an honor to have such magical, spiritual subjects for my photographs.

My Process