Featured in the 2021 Winners Gallery of The International Color Awards
This panoramic photograph appears as a double-page spread (pp. 110-111) in FOSSILS INSIDE OUT. To help connect the past with the present, I needed an image of “The Miraculous Egg,” aka the amniotic egg, an evolutionary innovation that enabled reptiles and birds to successfully colonize land. Their eggs contain a complete life support system encased in a tough, drought-resistant shell. Even the mammalian placenta and its associated membranes are all derived from those in amniotic eggs.
Many if not most dinosaur eggs were no larger than emu or ostrich eggs, and surprisingly the largest eggs of any known animal, living or extinct, are those of a bird––Madagascar’s elephant bird, a 10-foot-tall giant driven to extinction by early human settlers. Through chemical analyses, scientists have been able to determine that the eggshells of a certain parrot-beaked dinosaur were blue-green, similar in color to those of today’s emu.
The closest living relatives of dinosaurs are birds, a realization that has grown from a proliferation of bird-like dinosaur remains discovered in recent years. To bring this connection to life, in May 2019 I decided to hunt for and photograph hatching emu eggs. I found a small neighborhood petting zoo in Arizona––Funny Foot Farm––with emus, capybaras, wallabies, and other unusual critters. The owners told me they incubate emu eggs, but the hatching season had just ended. Breeding would begin again in November. As advised, I checked back in December. Eggs were in the incubator, as hoped. Weeks later, during a power outage, the incubator failed, and the eggs never hatched.
Another batch was on its way, with a hatch expected in February 2020. I was put on high alert in March––one week went by, then another, and finally, the chicks began pipping in mid-March. Jeff Cravath, my intern, and I set up a photo platform with lights in a small feed shed on the farm and waited and waited some more. Finally, one bird broke free of its shell, and the next day another one. Jeff wrangled our cute models, individually, to keep them calm (no easy task). After two days of shooting until midnight, we had a few shots that looked good. We came home with a bag of broken eggshells to complete the shoot. The end result, shown here, is a composite that I created in Photoshop from nine separate images––to convey, with a little imagination, the beauty and magic of baby dinosaurs entering the world! -TW