May–June 2024

Photo Essay

Flashes of Brilliance

These colorful songbirds are bright spots on the Minnesota landscape.

Richard Hamilton Smith (photography)

A dash of yellow, a streak of blue, a riot of red: Some of Minnesota’s songbird species virtually scream for attention with their brilliant hues. Photographer Richard Hamilton Smith found his eye drawn by these flashes of color in the woods around his rural Park Rapids home. Smith’s house sits atop a rise that looks down on a grove of trees, and his method of finding local bird life is deceptively simple: He hangs out in his yard and waits. “I’ll just pull up a chair and put up a long lens on a tripod and watch what’s happening,” he says. The result in this collection of images is a full spectrum of native Minnesota avian life that throws shade on the notion that you need to go to the tropics to see colorful perching birds.