The Art of Flight

Capturing God’s Creation

On the fifth day, God created birds. Surely, He stopped for a moment to watch the social whirlwind of chirping, pecking and flitting about. These feathered creatures were graceful, so engaging, so inquisitive, and He doused them with an eye-popping array of color, perhaps so He could keep them all straight. The results are as clear as the images shown on the pages ahead. Every bird, from the cute little bluebird, left, to the effortlessness of the heron that closes the story, reveals the artistry of the Master Painter.

Each of these images also reveals the artistry of Dr. Charles Stanley. This nationally known pastor is also a sharp-eyed photographer who ventures into Iceland, Patagonia, throughout the United States and the Serengeti region of Tanzania in search of birds, awe-inspiring landscapes and other gifts of the Creator.

On a mission trip to the Caribbean island nation of Haiti in 1962, Dr. Charles Stanley was surrounded by people, terrain and wildlife that didn’t look like those at home. So he borrowed a camera and snapped some memories.

“From those first black-and-white prints, I was riveted by the experience. Photography became my favorite hobby,” the Atlanta pastor says.

Soon after Charles was back home, he looked for the right camera and began pulling together a darkroom in his basement. He had the fever. Bad. 

“I remember spending hours working with the film and testing the exposures and going back and forth to get the photograph just the way I envisioned it,” he says. “When digital cameras came along, it was easy to make the switch because developing film is time-consuming and expensive.”

The hobby was a calming, involving influence on a man in demand. 

Through the years, Charles has gained a professional’s eye. When he’s on the trail of a shot he envisions, he travels great distances, waits patiently for all to line up and stands ready to take a shot that will be memorable to him and inspirational for his audience.

“I believe each image tells a story,” he says. “Perhaps it captures the face of a loved one, a history-making moment or the majestic beauty of a landscape. It calls important emotions, truths and memories to mind when we look at it.”

As much as Charles plots and plans his shots, the best are found at the point where effort and happenstance meet. 

“Our best photos are the ones we didn’t even think about. It’s always interesting to begin a trip knowing that when it’s all over we are going to be able to look back and think, my my my, we never imagined all that we would see or all that we would do,” he says.

Through photography, Charles has gained a deeper appreciation of God’s design and the riches He has given us in nature. People often ask the pastor how he found the spot where he captured a bird in flight or an exceptionally rich sunset. Give God the credit, he says.

“Capturing photos has helped me appreciate the Father’s creativity and love in a whole new way, giving me a better glimpse of the life ahead,” Charles says. “I pray that people will see the wisdom, splendor and sovereignty of God in His Creation and be inspired to draw closer to Him.”

Dr. Charles Stanley

Each type of bird in these pages has its own story.

Bluebird. God gave this chipper bird the keen eyesight necessary to survive in the grassy environment it calls home. A bluebird can spot insects from 50 yards away. That means a bluebird perched on a football goalpost can see a beetle scrambling along the 50-yard line.

Yellow-Throated Longclaw. With a throat and breast of bright yellow—the color of joy—this small bird is easily spotted flying across African grasslands. Once the bird settles on its ground-level nest, brown streaks on its back and head feathers allow it to blend into the surroundings, disguising it from predators.

Pin-Tailed Whydah. During mating season, male whydahs are the attraction. To lure females, males grow tails, more than doubling their length from beak to tail. Sweeping through the air, they do what they can to show off for females. The rest of the time, male and females look like what they are—finches.

Flamingos. Of the six types of flamingos, the lesser flamingo is the smallest. Seen on page 71, the lesser flamingo is usually under 3 feet in height—some flamingo are nearly 5 feet tall. Though smaller in stature, lesser flamingos are the largest in number. Vast flocks are known to congregate on the shores of Lake Magadi in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.

Lovebirds. Colorful and cute, lovebirds boast feathers in a stunning rainbow of shades. Native to Africa, they are named and celebrated for their affectionate behavior. Lovebirds form monogamous pairs, mating for life.

Lilac-Breasted Roller. Known for its aerial acrobatics, this bird shows off the Creator’s talent for painting. The crow-size bird is a mix of pink, green, yellow and several shades of blue. With its wings outstretched like a rainbow, it soars high, doing impressive gymnastic feats of strength and beauty.

Iceland Gull. This sea-loving species was designed with a built-in water filtration system that takes the salt out of seawater. This enables a gull to make long flights over the ocean without returning to land to drink.

Southern-Crested Caracara. A caracara chick, bottom left, grows into type of falcon—also called a bird of prey, or raptor—with a wingspan of 52 inches. When threatened, the caracara clacks its beak or breaks nearby twigs to scare off predators.

Heron. A group that includes 64 different species, the largest herons are 5 feet tall. Though they are considered water birds, herons don’t swim. Instead, herons walk slowly on their stiltlike legs along the edges of lakes, looking for fish, amphibians and aquatic insects.

Dr. Charles Stanley

Even believers who only occasionally scan through Christian TV or radio have probably seen or heard Dr. Charles Stanley. A media-savvy pastor, his In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley show is televised on about 300 TV stations and satellite networks, and broadcast on about 500 radio stations.

Growing up in Dry Fork, Virginia, Charles accepted the Lord at age 12 and felt called to ministry two years later. He has served as senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Atlanta since 1971.

Traveling the world in pursuit of settings for nature photography, Charles publishes his images in his ministry’s In Touch Magazine and also puts prints in calendars and other specialty items.

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