A flamingo extravaganza is a project that can be easily done in a few hours and in one location provided of course that this location has flamingos.
One of the best places that I have used over the years when I wanted to photograph flamingos has been at my local zoo located in the beautiful city of Miami, actually it is located in unincorporated Miami Dade county, but we call everything down here Miami anyways.
Flamingos make very good subjects, especially captive ones because they can easily get accustomed to people and after a while tend to ignore us and simply go about their business. There is something absolutely beautiful about seeing a living explosion of orange colors and on such an elegant bird that always makes great images even if the birds are just standing still.
Flamingos, even though they may appear to some to be a collection of body parts, are very well designed for their natural habitat and to capture their food source, mostly consisting of brine shrimp, which by the way is part of what gives these birds their majestic orange/bright red coloration.
"Young flamingos hatch with grey plumage, but adults range from light pink to bright red due to aqueous bacteria and beta carotene obtained from their food supply. A well-fed, healthy flamingo is more vibrantly coloured and thus a more desirable mate; a white or pale flamingo, however, is usually unhealthy or malnourished. Captive flamingos are a notable exception; many turn a pale pink as they are not fed carotene at levels comparable to the wild. This is changing as more zoos begin to add prawns and other supplements to the diets of their flamingos."...Flamingos filter-feed on brine shrimp and blue-green algae. Their beaks are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they eat, and are uniquely used upside-down. The filtering of food items is assisted by hairy structures called lamellae which line the mandibles, and the large rough-surfaced tongue. The pink or reddish color of flamingos comes from carotenoid proteins in their diet of animal and plantplankton. These proteins are broken down into pigments by liver enzymes. " Wikipedia
When embarking upon this photographic project choose subjects which show a healthy reddish or orange coloration and these will be mostly adults. Focus on their eyes but include most of their body.
Because of their bright coloration, their images stand out better against dark backgrounds. By using a large f-stop (large aperture) it renders anything behind the subject in out of focus elements, therefore focusing all the attention on the subject itself.
Pay attention to their habits such as standing on on leg, wading through the water while swinging their beaks from side to side as they filter their brine shrimp and algae food supply. Often you may see a flock wildly flapping their wings while they appear to be chasing after each other make sure to record such images too.
Other interesting images are those scenes of interaction between adults and of mothers and their young. Close ups of their bright yellow eyes are very well received by may publications and have been used by tourist boards, especially where these birds congregate in large numbers. Keep this in mind when recording their images, in other words do it with a client's mindset.
If photographing in bright light, such as during the middle of the day, pre focus on their plumage and set the camera reading to manual, thereby locking the readings to consider their plumage and nothing else.
Keep in mind that when using automatic readings, unless you are doing a close up, the camera will consider all elements encompassed by the entire scene and may underexpose or over expose the main subject since it will try to balance the lighting conditions from all areas encompassed within the scene.
Start with large groups and reduce the numbers on each consecutive image
Your images should be taken from unusual and interesting perspectives whenever possible since this particular subject has been the focus of many photographic projects and your images in order to stand out must be different.
Consider spending a considerable amount of time and patiently taking many photographs until you feel comfortable that you have recorded as many possible scenes, from as many perspectives and as many angles as possible.
There are many publications that can uses images of flamingos such as photographic stock houses, greeting card companies, fine art galleries and book publishers as well as a host of naturalistic and wildlife publications.
Aim for local publications first to gauge the possible sale value of your images before attempting to submit to the national ones.
Always obtain a submission guidelines from each source before sending any material/
By the way the name flamingo is derived, rightly so, from their coloration: "The name flamingo is derived from the flaming red color of the bird’s feathers, which is like the blazing color of the sunset sky." Chabad.org
© 2012 Luis E Gonzalez
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