Birds on the wing — they inspire artists, authors and anyone with a love of nature and an eye for beauty. They inspire photographer Paul Nelson to create striking images, extraordinary in their immediacy and degree of detail. A moving experience for the viewer, a peek into an ethereal world almost out of reach — that’s Wild Birds Flying.
Paul designed a unique and specialized photography rig that allows him to capture the images safely and without any harm to the birds. He coordinates with Minnesota Nature Centers to set up and shoot during bird bandings: the process in which wild birds are given a small identification band to keep track of their movements and life history.
Paul’s stunning photographs are just the beginning. He and Stacy Fortier, his wife and business partner, have expanded the images into distinctive textile designs for accessories and home decor. The approach is modern yet vintage, cutting edge yet timeless, relaxed yet polished.
And the through line? An appreciation of and responsibility to the natural world. Not only will these avian works of art inspire future generations of artists and bird lovers, but a portion of the profits from Wild Birds Flying is donated to regional and national wildlife conservation initiatives. Ten percent of our net profits go to Audubon MN.
It started as a hobby to fill time between commercial photo shoots. Now, Wild Birds Flying has become a lifelong journey for wildlife photographer Paul Nelson.
Stacy Fortier, Paul’s wife and business partner in Wild Birds Flying, first prompted their love of birds while she volunteered at the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center. The beauty of these majestic creatures led to a mutual passion for birds and flight — so much so that they released a great gray owl at their wedding to share the experience with family and friends.
Paul had already made a name for himself in the advertising world with his remarkable photography. But the artist in him wanted to portray the stunning details and grace of birds in flight in a way no one else had been able to do. What was once left to the imagination, he wanted to capture in photographs for all to see: a moment of flight.
Paul built a specialized photography rig that could catch those split-second images. The quest led to partnerships with bird banding groups and nature centers that regularly release songbirds into the wild.
With the well-being of the birds in mind, Paul sets up his equipment to capture these breathtaking moments using high-speed photographic techniques. The laser-triggered shutter is tripped as the bird flies past a pure white background. The results are nothing short of spectacular — wings translucent with astonishing detail, awash in brilliant color and patterns the naked eye alone cannot hope to see.
And so, Wild Birds Flying has found its wings. With initial regional success, Paul is setting his sights on birds from across the globe. And he and Stacy have taken these wonders a step further: the amazing imagery and patterns translate to scarves, note cards, pillows, and prints — decorative items that can be enjoyed throughout the home.
Determined to give back, Paul Nelson and Stacy Fortier have committed to donating 10 percent of their net proceeds to wildlife causes. For every product purchased, they will be benefiting the environment and ensuring that future generations can share in their passion for wild birds in flight.
Since 1999, Paul Nelson has been a highly regarded Minneapolis-based commercial photographer. Specializing in conceptual studio work, he has developed problem-solving skills, innovative lighting, and sound post-production methods that add up to a clean vivid style with arresting visual impact. Past projects include campaigns for Target Corporation, Best Buy, FedEx, Marvin Windows, Pfizer, Sprint, and more.
Wild Birds Flying is his personal venture. It was born of a love of birds, an appreciation for uncluttered depictions, and a belief that beautiful images are as close as the backyard.
Inspired by John James Audubon’s prints among others, Paul’s inventive photographic techniques replace the 19th-century pen and watercolor representations. His highly detailed, split-second images against a pure white backdrop reveal every feather, flap, and glance, and offer the observer a rare, up-close viewpoint.
These almost surreal avian portraits — captured during bird bandings at Minnesota nature centers — also landed Paul a segment on MN Original, Twin Cities Public Television’s art series.
Paul Nelson and designer Stacy Fortier, his wife / collaborator / business partner, live in Minneapolis, MN.