Quack snakes and pink legs

I’ve been volunteering at WWT Slimbridge for a while now, and every lunchtime I like to take my camera out in pursuit of the perfect duck photo.

Getting a close-up portrait of birds takes a lot of patience even when they’re in captive collections. They move a lot and usually just at the wrong moment, so it is very satisfying when the photos come out well.

But with some birds, especially the likes of flamingos, swans and geese, you can quickly run out of ideas for how to frame them. That long neck dominates the composition, and the pictures start to get a bit monotonous no matter how perfect they are (NB giraffes also cause the same issues).

In the first few weeks of owning my DSLR I started to notice all my bird photos looked very similar, and I coined the phrase “quack snake” to describe them.

Quack snakes
Quack snakes

So, I’ve been trying to find more exciting ways to view such subjects, taking a look around and finding points of interest or angles that might otherwise be missed.

With flamingos, there is a fairly obvious place to go, and that’s down. Their legs, and the penchant for standing on only one, are probably a flamingo’s main identifying characteristic after their pinkness, so it makes sense to spend some time focussing on them.

Flamingo legs
Pink legs

When I started trying to find interesting shots down below, I realised there was even more going on. Flamingos are filter-feeders, slurping water through their beaks on their upside-down heads, so that’s yet another opportunity to capture something a bit different. And when you’re looking down at the water, you realise it is full of reflections…

Flamingo reflection
Flamingo reflection

As a novice wildlife photographer, it’s been easy to get caught up in the obvious and not consider the full scene in front of me. It’s such a simple thing to take a step back from the viewfinder and really assess what is going on, but it’s something I’ve often forgotten as I rush in to start shooting.

Taking that little bit of time, and applying a bit of mindfulness, has not only improved my photos but also made my lunch breaks much more fun.