Digital Prospector: A time lapse of birds

In short films starring vultures and starlings in flight, artist Dennis Hlynsk seems to be mapping time.
In short films starring vultures and starlings in flight, artist Dennis Hlynsk seems to be mapping time.

I know what you’re thinking. Why do I need to watch a time-lapse video of birds when they already fly fast enough? Good point. So think of these astonishing short films by artist Dennis Hlynsky not as time lapsed but as time remapped.
Hlynsky points his locked-down camera towards birds flying to and from trees and electrical wires. Then, using freeze frames, fades and a layering technique, he captures the ghostly afterimages of their flight patterns.
Like a jet leaving a contrail, these birds etch black paths into the sky that trail behind them and then slowly fade as if an invisible eraser smudges them into the ether. The paths look like railroad tracks, or the dashed lines of a map, and when multiplied by dozens or hundreds of birds, en masse, weaving across the muted gray canvas, the effect is both painterly and otherworldly. 

This abstract illusion is especially dramatic in Hlynsky’s “data in data out” where the bird patterns resemble the microscopic trajectory of zygotes squiggling across a giant petri dish, followed by an explosion of birds creating a black smear across the screen. Another one, “Swallows of Essex”, looks like a scene from a science fiction movie, or perhaps an Etch-a-Sketch run amok.

The filmmaker has not yet put music to these clips. Instead, he allows the mundane chatter of off-screen conversation or traffic noise to supply the soundtrack. This only adds to the unsettling nature of these videos. The quotidian presence of crows and starlings suddenly acquires a spectral weight. One wonders what a remake of Hitchcock’s The Birds would look like with this visual sleight-of-hand.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Rustin Thompson

Rustin Thompson

Rustin Thompson is a filmmaker, film critic and indie radio deejay. He enjoys strong coffee, red wine, IPAs and his wife and grown children. He is comfortable with the fact he will never be rich, but grows petulant if he thinks too much about it.