"It's a bird, it's a plane, it's... Oh, wait. It actually is a bird!"
Photographer Xavi Bou snapped his first photo about 15 years ago. He kicked his career off in the fashion and advertising industries, but before long, his animal-loving roots took over. He itched to turn his lens toward the natural world.
"Like an amateur naturalist, I can recognize the tracks of many animals," Bou said in an email. "One day I asked myself, 'What track would be left by birds in flight?'
With that question, a new project was born — one he calls "Ornitographies."
Bou takes dozens of photos per second of birds in flight, often more than 1,000 in one sitting. Then he digitally stitches them together into a single image.
The results reveal complex, chaotic, and strangely beautiful patterns.
"I'm amazed by how gorgeous even their flight is, the trace or the draw that they make while flying," Bou said.
His work captures nature's hidden beauty, which is anything but random.
Different kinds of birds have unique and distinct ways of navigating the sky. Remarkably, Bou reveals those patterns with his photos.
Some birds shoot up and down, like a roller coaster. Some fly straight. Some flap frantically. Some glide with little effort.
Bou's photos have earned praise from publications and fellow photographers all over the world.
As for why people like his work so much, Bou said, "When you read about it and realize what is in the picture, it's quite surprising."
And he's right: Most of us can peer out the window and spot a robin or a blue jay on occasion. We might even catch a pigeon stealing some crumbs off the sidewalk.
Yet Bou's photos show many of these same birds doing things we've never seen before. His photos force us to look at the natural world around us in a new and profound way.
That's pretty incredible.