If, from my work table, I move slightly to my left and stretch my arm to a rather neatly arranged row of books, somewhere in the middle, I will find the Bird Photographer of the Year ( 2018 ) that a dear friend had gifted me.
It has a striking cover – a group of fiercely pink flamingos in the middle of a rather heated squabble, feathers and water droplets flying against a black background. All very dramatic. A perfect cover image and a cover I stare at quite often.
I had never made flamingo images. As I was travelling to the Rann of Kutch, this was one image that was imprinted on my mind. If everything goes well, I would see large groups of these striking birds and, who knows, maybe get a similar image.
Well, maybe not as red or pink as the ones on the cover ( the flamingos in India don’t get to that colour ) but my mind was a breathless rush of potential compositions – slow shutter speed images of a large group walking in the shallow water, some images focused only on their legs and the reflections, images of flamingos landing in their rather noisy and inelegant splash, maybe even a video of a line of flamingos walking as if they are dancers strutting on a Broadway stage.
I saw them in my very first drive. Sadly, a rather sparse group. On top of it, most of them roamed around in lonely splendour. There just weren’t any photographic opportunities. The only excitement was when a small group flew in to the narrow strip of water.
They do have a brilliant colour combination, don't they ?
“Koi baat nahi, kal subah humne sirf flamingo ke liye reserve kiya hai” ( Don’t worry, tomorrow morning is reserved only for flamingos ) assured my driver.
We saw an incredible number of them. There would have been easily thousands of them. However, they were just too far away. Apparently, the water from the Narmada canal had come in through the night and the water levels were a little high closer to where we were. Flamingos like both shallow and salty water and had moved away. Too far to click any meaningful image..
There was one heart-stopping moment, however.
We had stopped to have breakfast and I actually felt the movement before I saw it. I looked at the group and it was as if an entire column was moving. The flamingos were walking rapidly, usually a prelude to a flight. Soon they picked up pace and the air was filled with the noise of the flutter of a thousand wings. They took flight and… have you heard of the term ‘murmuration’ ? Its when a large group of birds fly together and turn together. I have only seen videos of starlings doing it and here this impossibly large number of flamingos were at it ! Utterly fascinating !
If only they were a little closer. There was only thing I could do. I kept my camera aside and just soaked in this visual delight.
A line of pink and white that seemed to stretch interminably
Mesmerising to see ALL of them move as one and then take flight
And so it continued for the next few drives. Not a single good, large group, not a single good opportunity. Not a single really good image. And I told myself …next visit.
We were at the beach and I was having a whale of a time trying all sorts of experiments with the shore birds.
And then we saw a smallish group of adults. A beautiful combination of striking white and a dashing pink, both contrasting brilliantly with the deep blue of the sea behind them. They were also not lost in their own separate space, but were walking around in a reasonably disciplined manner.
A flurry of legs and wings
Saw the odd one out ?
None of those images that were there in my mind got created.
I returned with a reasonably decent of totally different ones.
PS : I don’t know who sits and decides on the collective nouns, but whoever decided it for the flamingos, deserves a prize. A group of flamingos are called …a flamboyance ! A flamboyance of flamingos...ain't it just perfect !!!
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