A very rare sighting

14 04 2015

Being in the right place at the right time is a large part of the wildlife photography challenge. I was lucky enough to have all the variables come together recently, when, quite unexpectedly, an extremely rare black flamingo arrived in Cyprus. I happened to be on the island, with a couple days to spare to try and see this rarity, with my camera ready of course.

This special flamingo is not a different species, it is a greater flamingo like all his pals, but it is a melanistic form (Wikipedia: Melanism is a development of the dark-colored pigment melanin in the skin or its appendages and is the opposite of albinism) of a greater flamingo; the flamingo equivalent of a black panther. When I heard about this bird being sighted, I set off immediately to see if could capture an image or two of such a unique bird. Luck was on my side, and I managed to see and photograph the black flamingo, even if it was at a bit of a distance. This was a truly wonderful surprise, and turned out to be even more special by the fact that it disappeared by the next morning and I was unable to find it on my follow up visits. I do wonder where it will pop up next.

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A good start to the year

20 01 2015

Over twenty thousand greater flamingos in one salt lake is never a bad way to start the photographic year! Well actually, they start arriving at the salt lakes in November, but the big numbers only really start to appear in January, and when they arrive, the show really starts.

It s quite difficult to get into a good position for photography, because the salt lake is quite big, although only a few feet deep at the most. This means that the birds can feed at any point in the lake often leaving them out of reach of even the biggest lenses. Every now and again though, you can get a small group of flamingos that have separated themselves, and wandered a little closer to shore, or as I like to call it, within photographic distance. The second challenge becomes apparent quite quickly; which birds do I aim at? When there are a thousand plus birds to choose from in each small group, it can be difficult to find the right compositions. The ‘spray and pray’ technique of just photographing as much as possible in all directions doesn’t really work, because inevitably in all you shots you will have birds cut in half at the edges. The trick I find is to go back as often as possible, and see what the pretty pink birds are up to. Once you have worked out their patterns, the potential images start increasing, and with a little luck, you can actually get a nice little group shot, or even an individual!

As with all wildlife photographers, I would love to be able to get closer and see what kind of shots that would produce, but until I can work that out, I will keep photographing from the banks and see what new images I can make.

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Natures Best Photography Awards

15 11 2013

Every year, thousands of photographers try their luck when entering the Natures Best Photography Windland Smith Rice Photographic Awards, and every year for the past five years, I have been in the mix trying my luck and entering images into the competition.  Finally, after reaching the final round of judging every year since I started entering, I have cracked the nod, and have had two images accepted into the awards.

The competition is based in Washington D.C. and the gallery housed in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.  It attracted twenty four thousand entries from over fifty countries, making the going quite difficult.

The two images that were accepted are both quite special to me.  The first, the elephant’s trunk, is a shot I have tried to get for many years.  Getting a close up shot of the trunk is surprisingly difficult for a number of reasons.  The first is you have to get quite close.  Elephants are large and dangerous animals, so I needed to find one that was relaxed around vehicles, allowing me to sneak a camera nice and close.  Secondly, the trunk never really stops moving, so zooming in on the trunk, and trying to follow its unpredictable movements is a seriously tricky affair.  Lastly, the trunk is constantly in the grass/bushes/trees, so getting it to stand out from the surroundings requires a lot of luck.  After many years of trying/waiting/hoping, I got the right elephant on the right day, and it paid off.

The second image is of a small group of greater flamingos.  Again tricky, but for quite different reasons.  On this particular day, there were around five thousand flamingos walking through the shallow waters of the salt lake.  Separating a small group from the masses was nearly impossible.  Everywhere you aimed the camera there were more flamingos!  Another difficulty is that they all do the same thing, all the time, so finding a new perspective or a new shot was challenging.  Luckily for me, they started displaying and the shot seemed to compose itself.

It really is a great feeling to have your images accepted into such a huge competition, especially after putting in the time.  Lets hope the good luck continues!