Anand Varma@anandavarma

I am a National Geographic photographer who loves to share science stories from around the world.

A wooly false vampire bat flies back to its roost inside a Mayan temple in the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico.  On the left side of the image, you can see carvings that are 1100-1300 years old.  I used a LIDAR (infrared laser) sensor made by #Cognisys to precisely control the timing of a flash to compose this image.  The bat's movement triggers the sensor which in turn fires the camera and flash so the bat in effect photographs itself.  This setup is called a camera trap.
#bats #lidar #temple #Maya @thephotosociety @natgeocreative


This abandoned Mayan temple is part of the Hormiguero archeological site in the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico.  It contains dark, quiet hallways that are the perfect habitat for bats that otherwise roost in caves, such as the wooly false vampire bat.  This carnivorous species is one of the largest bats in the Americas and a family group lives inside this temple.  One of the researchers studying this species, Ivar Vleut, walks across the entrance of this temple on his way to check on the bats inside.  This photo was taken with a drone as part of an upcoming story on carnivorous bats in the July issue of @natgeo magazine.
#bats #research #temple #Maya @thephotosociety @natgeocreative


To photograph this Anna's Hummingbird's forked tongue, I worked with a scientific glassblowing company in Berkeley called Adams & Chittenden who made a custom "hummingbird dinner plate" out of glass. I glued a tiny aluminum wire to the base and angled the camera so it looks like the glass is floating. Finally, I trained this hummingbird in Chris Clark's lab at UC Riverside so it would feed through the tiny opening you see on the right side of the plate. This setup was inspired by the experimental design of Alejandro Rico-Guevara who uses artificial plastic "flowers" to study hummingbird tongues.
Anna's Hummingbirds can lick a flower up to 15 times per second. Other species can lick as fast as 21 times per second. The particles you see on the plate are bits of protein powder that is added to the artificial nectar to keep hummingbirds healthy while they are in captivity.

You can buy a print of this image for $100 as part of National Geographic's flash sale happening this week (ending midnight on 28th). Go to the link in my profile and check out the other amazing images from my fellow National Geographic photographers.


Live now! I’m happy to announce that my hummingbird tongue photo is part of the @natgeocreative’s Flash Sale of prints that capture wildlife and wild places. Visit the link in my profile to see all the signed prints on sale for $100.


A Black-chinned Hummingbird flies in a wind tunnel in Chris Clark's lab at UC Riverside. This is part of Sean Wilcox's research to measure the flight performance of hummingbirds in order to better understand their courtship displays out in the wild. I put a homemade fog machine into the wind tunnel in order to visualize the air flow. The birds are safely released after the data is collected.

@thephotosociety #hummingbird #research


An Anna's Hummingbird dries itself off by shaking vigorously back and forth. This movement is too fast to see with your naked eye so I had to film it at 3000 frames per second and slow it down 100 times. This video was part of my hummingbird story for @natgeo that shows how scientists study these amazing creatures. This bird was released unharmed after the video was recorded.

The video was taken in Professor Chris Clark's lab at UC Riverside. I used a simple hand held mister to simulate rain. The original experiment was conducted by Victor Ortega Jimenez at UC Berkeley using the same little spray nozzles you see in grocery stores used to keep the lettuce looking fresh.
#hummingbird #highspeed #phantom4k @natgeocreative @thephotosociety @hivelighting #litbyhive


Taking a slight detour from my normal science content to show off my brother Ravi's amazing foldable, portable lamp. Back in April, he asked me to help shoot the video for his Kickstarter campaign, so I busted out the rain machine and fog machine I built for my hummingbird story (see previous post) to show off the durability and design of this sweet light.
Ravi is an industrial designer and lighting engineer. He has built custom macro lights for me on occasion and he is the first person I call when I need help with tools, adhesives, and general hacking/tinkering skills, which all together end up being critical to my process. If you like what you see, head to the link on my profile to grab a Mesa light on Kickstarter while you still can (and see the full video which I shot at my house in Berkeley using my housemates as "models"). Shot on a RED Epic using a fluid video head as a quick and dirty makeshift turntable.
@mesalight #bringontherain #shotonred @reddigitalcinema


An Anna's Hummingbird flies in a wind tunnel blowing at 26 miles per hour. These birds may be small, but they are much more powerful than you would think! This video was part of my hummingbird story for @natgeo that shows how scientists study these amazing creatures. This bird was released unharmed after the video was recorded.

I used a #visionresearch Phantom Flex 4K to shoot this video which starts at 2000 frames per second and ends at 3000 frames per second. That means by the end, it is playing 100 times slower than what you would see in real life. @hivelighting generously lent me some amazing plasma lights to help illuminate this shot, which was taken in Chris Clark's lab at UC Riverside. I modified an industrial humidifier to create a make-shift fog machine so that the air movement in the wind tunnel would be visible.
#hummingbird #highspeed #phantom4k @natgeocreative @thephotosociety


A Cuban Bee Hummingbird perched on a penny to show scale. This male weighed roughly 1.8 grams. In comparison, that penny weighed about 2.5 grams. That makes this species the smallest bird in the world! However, a couple species of woodstars (also hummingbirds) in South America come very close. The penny was supported by a tiny wire which I hid by cropping the image tightly. I trained it to perch here in front of a piece of white plexiglass inside a flight cage. Dr. Chris Clark from UC Riverside uses the flight cage to study the courtship display of this species. This male was released unharmed after being measured and photographed.
#hummingbird #science #scale #research @thephotosociety @natgeocreative


An Anna's Hummingbird sitting in a virtual reality tunnel that is designed to study hummingbird vision. The researchers can control everything the hummingbird sees in this tunnel. By manipulating the thick and thin bars and then observing how the bird responds, they can better understand how hummingbird visual perception works. This particular experiment was being run by Roslyn Dakin in Doug Altshuler's lab at the University of British Columbia. #hummingbird #science #research #vision @thephotosociety @natgeocreative


An Anna's Hummingbird shakes itself dry. A long exposure image shows the trajectories of individual water droplets as they are flung from the hummingbird's body. This image was based on research done by Victor Ortega Jimenez from the Dudley lab at UC Berkeley. Thanks to @hivelighting for providing the plasma light that made this image possible.

#hummingbird #biomechanics #science #litbyhive @thephotosociety @natgeocreative


An Anna's Hummingbird hovers inside a special chamber that is designed to measure the forces produced during its flight. Each of the three rectangular shapes you see is an extremely sensitive sensor that is attached to the ceiling of the flight chamber and together they measure the tiny pressure wave generated with each beat of the hummingbird's wings.
This device allows researchers to understand the mechanics of hummingbird flight with much more detail than before.
The chamber was built by Rivers Ingersoll, a graduate student in David Lentink's lab at Stanford University. The photo is part of my story on hummingbird biomechanics in the July issue of National Geographic.
#hummingbird #biomechanics #flight #science #research @thephotosociety @natgeocreative


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