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Night of the Pelicans

I am very pleased to report that I was successful in both the mammal and bird categories of the 2014 Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards. This was the 50th year of the competition and the gala dinner in London was incredible with Sir David Attenborough handing out the awards and Duchess Kate, being the guest of honour. This post is about my image titled 'Night of the Pelicans' which was one of only 6 finalists in the bird category of the competition (you can see my successful mammal entry here).

Click here to see the other photographs that made it all the way in the 2014 Competition...

An excerpt from my journal describes this image: 'I am camping alone on the floor of Kenya’s rift valley and my 1976 Nissan Patrol has finally had enough. This evening it managed to get me to the lake’s edge but this appears to be where it wants to stay forever as she refuses to start-up again. Being stuck and stranded is not all that bad if you are a photographer and lying on the edge of the lake, watching day turn to night, has offered a fascinating array of photo opportunities. The pelicans have come in to roost and are busily preening. A burst from my flash is just powerful enough to make out one of the last stragglers and the smallest amount of ambient light reflects off the rift valley wall, in the background...'

The truth be told, I really love pelicans and I just cannot resist this opportunity to share with you another of my favourite pelican images. This one I call 'David and Goliath':

Pelicans are quite simply MASSIVE. As a photographer, I am essentially a storyteller and my biggest challenge as that my audience is never present at the time of the taking of the photograph. I therefore need to find ways or in this instance, a prop, to help tell my stories. Here, I was faced with the challenge of trying to communicate the enormous size of a pelican? I figured that the best way to do this was to place the pelican in a frame with another bird. A Black-winged Stilt kindly volunteered its services and I waited for the outstretched wings of the pelican to exaggerate the bird’s size. This gave me the ‘David and Goliath’ perspective that I was looking for. But, for an image to be really special, you need that extra 'cherry on top' (as I like to call it). As hard as I may try, these ‘cherries’ cannot be manufactured, they can only be harvested. The dynamic ‘cherry’ in this particular frame, came in the form of water droplets looking like snow falling around the stilt. A black and white conversion has been used to accentuate this element.

This is another of my favourite pelican shots. I know, I know, "Enough with the pelicans already"! This last one (and it is the last one) carries the title 'Pelicans in the Mist':

I awoke early in the morning to find Lake Nakuru in Kenya, covered in a thick mist. I have been to the lake many times before, but I had never before seen such a beautiful and blue mist. Bouncing along in my decidedly uncomfortable 4x4, I desperately wanted to get to the shoreline before the sun rose in order to capture the cold blue mist, which I knew would soon dissipate in the presence of the equatorial rays. The angst and excitement that I was feeling on this particular morning, made the journey to the lake shore feel extra long! When I however, did finally arrive, I was met with a beautiful and surreal scene. There were Great White Pelicans preening in the foreground, while the mist and the rift valley wall had blended into a deep blue and white background. Without giving it a second thought, I waded into the water and crouched on my haunches. I was quite simply mesmerized by the beautiful scene before me and I desperately wanted to translate what I was seeing into my camera. Trying to choose when to trip my shutter proved especially challenging as the grooming pelicans made for a difficult composition? Finally, I spotted a pelican flying towards the flock but from the back. As a wildlife photographer, I knew that this would be the moment I needed to capture...

The end.

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