But for the backdrop of towering mountains, and a glimpse of the nearby Atlantic Ocean, it's quite an ordinary place
with extraordinary birds feeding and prospering there.
I quickly realized that shooting flamingos at Strandfontein Wetlands was a matter of judicious framing.
When they are coming in against the mountain, they create a vision of singular beauty.
You can see the city of Strandfontein in the haze beneath the birds. They're all busy making wastewater for the flamingos.
Not every shot is so poetic. I had to shoot this guy, nonchalantly preening in flight as he dropped into a lagoon. The backdrop, not ideal...
But that's what's such fun about bird photography. You can frame and crop and tell any story you want.
We were able to get out and walk at the wetlands, but we made a point of staying in the van around the flamingo flocks. It's only polite.
I shot this from the vehicle. There's a kind of tunnel vision that overtakes an avid photographer in pursuit of that perfect shot. This person is trying to get as close as possible to a resting flock. You can see that, while some are preening, one head has shot up, and a wing is out. That's like a neon sign flashing, "Back off!!"
Which, of course, he doesn't. Perhaps because he wants some flight shots. It's pretty arrogant, we thought, to put sixty heretofore relaxed flamingos to flight just to score yourself some photos.
This isn't a zoo, and these regal birds haven't been put there just for your amusement. It's easy to forget that the flamingos are busy trying to lead their lives, even when they seem to you to be doing nothing at all. When they radically change what they're doing because of something you're doing, you're doing it wrong, sir. Seeing that he was going to press the birds until he got what he was after, I thrust my Canon into Leon Marais' expert hands and he got this beautiful shot as the birds fled right past us.
|photo by Leon Marais. He was sitting on the right side of the van. But he is that much better than I am.|
I much prefer shooting flamingos that are ignoring us. Or mostly ignoring us. In any flock, someone's always got his eye on you.
But this isn't the Ohio River, and it's not the Sternwheel Festival, and I am really seeing this, right over my head. Pinch me moments are what this trip is all about.
I'm going back to South Africa in September 2016. Wanna come along? Click here for details.