A Moving Icon

For the obvious reason, February is the bane of all bloggers with a quota. Rather than take the extra time for the prep on some projects I’ve been working on, figured we’d just close out this short month with the last set of Indianapolis Zoo birds. Don’t think you are out of the woods (err the zoo) yet. There’s one post left based on some elemental mammal experimentation, but for now… let’s go with the pinks.

There is no mistaking these birds and I’m pretty sure they are universally known. They can be seen at a majority of zoos, wildlife sanctuaries and even Vegas if you look hard enough.  They have even been known to show up in the yards of unsuspecting new homeowners. In case you have your head in the sand, we’re talking about the Flamingo.  These aren’t just your everyday Flamingos either.  No sir, these are Flamingos that have been shot in harsh light.  That would be a clever way of stating these shots are not going to be making it into competition anytime soon.  I threw all the recovery I could at it, but the conditions were just not the greatest when we made our way to their little pond.  The thing about shooting Flamingos is they are relatively skinny and can be very long.  Good characteristics for a model, but this forces some creative composition decision.  You can choose to go close and draw out detail in the head by cropping down as in the image above.  Rather than just throw a decapitated head out there I kept some of the body to provide a foundation for the shot – see, I’m learning from all those composition questions I keep asking you about.  I actually like how that shot turned out – yeah, I followed the rules of thirds which is pretty common for me.  In truth it is more about giving the subject room to breath in the frame – tight crops put a virtual cage around animals which tends to grate on us wildlife photographers.

If you are feeling a little cruel, you can relax your composition a bit to provide a sense of height.  Pulling back a bit you can incorporate some of the leg structure into the shot.  Now you have more of a visualization on the tall stature of the bird, but at a cost.  You lose some detail in the face and it starts to get lost in the vastness of the surroundings.  The other downside… is it essentially whacks off the rest of the bird’s legs.  The unwritten rule is you never crop a person’s legs above the knee – trust me, it just looks wrong. Although this is not as severe, it still bothers me a bit.  I will say, having a small part of the knee helps some.

Hit the jump to read more about this pink birds … and you get a BONUS!

Guessing you can tell where this is going.  So the next logical composition is the full body shot – head to web if you will.   To buy a little bit of room you can employ portrait mode although I was reading a professional photography blog some time back and he explicitly stated never shoot a tall bird in portrait.  Not sure I believe that, but just putting it out there for your consideration.  As you can tell, that tip was registered but not heeded.  First and foremost, the problem with the loss of detail is amplified when incorporating the long legs.   Granted I could have cropped it vertically a little bit more but I liked the vegetation in the bottom right to anchor the foreground and generate some depth.

At this point they do pretty much look like lawn ornaments.  Speaking of lawn ornaments … bada boom segue.  I decided to track down a little background on the use of plastic Flamingos as lawn art.  Leave it to Smithsonian to chronicle the pink lawn kitsch.  Back in 1957, Don Featherstone was commissioned by the plastics company of Massachusetts  – Union Products – to design the plastic Flamingo.  Initially a symbol of subdivision distinction, this plastic icon transformed into a symbol of tackiness – the new generation was taking a stand against gaudy plastics.  Then along came a movie in ’72 by John Waters called Pink Flamingos which evolved around a drag queen.  This movie managed to breathe new life into the plastic lawn decor.  By the 80s the symbol had taken on a more sarcastic tone being an “elaborate upper-class inside joke” as Smithsonian’s website put it.  An upper class snub of the lower class decor replacing their more traditional decorations (thinking their racist jockey statues) with a cheap plastic taunt.  Today it has just become a comic laugh for those moving into a new home.  Quite the journey for a piece of plastic and two wires.

Back on the topic of composition you can actually use environment to your advantage.  Create the illusion of height by leveraging an artificial leg cleaver.  In the following shot, that surgical device would be … water.

I am no longer guessing how tall the bird is, I’m asking myself .. how deep is the water?  Still not pulling in a lot of detail, but proposing this is a more appealing shot that the one above it.  In a pinch (I crack myself up) you can take a little more liberty with the crop in this instance.  The following shot cropped right up to the water entry point given more body detail without the viewer having to witness a harmless Flamingo bleed to death.  – Add a green matte and presto – a clever depth shot.

But Brian, where are the Flamingo facts – we want our Flamingo facts!  Wow, the natives are rebelling.  Time to employ the great work of our friends over at Wikipedia.  First interesting fact .. they have really no idea why they tend to stand on one leg – I’m thinking a federal grant or wasted stimulus money will clear up that little gap in a jiffy.  Their pink hues.. well, they come from the proteins in the plankton they eat.  The more blue-green algae in ones’ diet .. the darker the pinks.  Guessing by these samples they are getting a steady diet of bananas.  These birds are likely not to see themselves as icons for parenthood anytime soon.  They parent for a whole 14 days before the youngsters run off to join the microcrèches.  Think of it as Flamingo youth gangs but wear pink bandanas instead of red or blue – likely not the most intimidating gang around.

There’s something about the next picture that makes me chuckle.  Not sure but it may be the Phyllis Diller vibe it is giving off  – maybe I should put this up alongside the Crowned Crane from the previous post to keep me happy all day long.

What you can’t see just outside the top of the frame are two of its microcrèches mates being impolitely mooned.  By the way, I have no idea what a microcrèches is but I like typing it .. and it makes me look uber smart – Take that my “Reddit poster proclaims me as the reason I got into math” brother.

I thought this was a great way to “end” my segment on Flamingos.  If you you are frequent reader you know this is pretty much my signature move.

See the Flamingos in the back .. the ones that just got mooned by Phyllis above.  Well they didn’t appreciate it and hired a Mallard for a little revenge tail .. feather.  I like how the one on the left is giving it a stern look.

Wait.  Wait.. I can already hear it – that same cry every time I make a photo post.  “Hey Bri where’s the shots from our favorite photographer so we can drool over her works of art and rain praise upon her unparalleled photography skills (that her husband taught her).  Where Bri?  Where?

Good lord, you bunch of Facebookers!  Fine, I’ll satisfy your craving with one of her shots .. sigh

Happy now?

I’m not going to end on a Linda shots so we move into the BONUS SECTION.  I give you the Mexican standoff log style.

The red-eared slider risks tail and claws to stand her ground against the Lemurs.  Tails up, the Lemurs prepare for the take no prisoner battle of the pond while the Flamingos watch on, blushing with anticipation.  The closest Lemur reaches for his weapon… how will it end {imagine spaghetti Western music playing in the background}..

Oh yea, we know who the King of the Log is.  Never go against a red-eared slider when its forced to protect her baby.  Disclaimer – I have no idea if it is really a red-eared slider, but the redness on the side seemed to match the images a quick search of the web revealed.  I’m also not sure if it is a he or she.  Hell, for that matter they might not even be related.  It doesn’t matter really, I still like that last shot – a lot.

That’s a wrap on the birds of the Indy Zoo.  Thanks for stopping by and hope you enjoyed!

5 thoughts on “A Moving Icon”

  1. Very nice pictures (still in awe over one of them). I thought the reason that flamingos are pink is the _shrimp_ they eat! Or more likely brine. Is it really plankton? I hope I haven’t harbored that delusion all my life for nothing. I also thought they had black eyes–they would certainly look better that way.

    That tall skinny picture–I would forget the reflection and crop that way down vertically, but that’s just me. I think with the feet at the very bottom of the picture it might look like it’s going to fall out of the frame onto the floor. If you were to put something intriguing below it, such as a small fish on a stand (or maybe a vulture in a lamp), it might look like the flaming was really interested in it. The picture also reminds me of Big Bird, who bends over with his tail up in the air like that. Or maybe one of those dunking birds.

    I find it hard to believer that lemurs and flamingos live near each other. Lemurs seem like tree things and flamingos seem like water things. Oh, isn’t there something about the curve of their beaks that lets them filter brine/plankton from the water??

    Thanks for the photos! You met your monthly quota with style!



  2. I did a little digging – the source of the pigmentation is carotenoids – these are found in the plant plankton with blue green algae being a big source. The way it is worded in Wikipedia is a little odd, but it looks like carotenoids can be obtained from their animal diets – not an expert on this, but I did track down Astaxanthin which is a carotenoids that is found in shrimp so I think you are correct and your life has meaning. You are also dead on with their odd shaped beaks – those are specifically designed/evolved to separate the food from the muck and are actually utilized upside down in the water.

    An interesting perspective on the Phyllis shot – I’ll try to crop that down and put it in the post when I get a few minutes to spare. The big bird and dunking bird references are dead on…. and since I am of of the few proud owners of a vulture lamp (and ashtray) I can definitely print a cropped version and see what kind of effect that has – may have to blow it up a bit – don’t want the Vulture to overwhelm the composition — my lamp is nearly lifesize.

    …now about that picture you are in awe about


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