Greece: Pelicans and flamingoes

There’s no better way to get experience than working with people better than you. That’s why at the end of January / beginning of February I participated in a photo expedition “Pelicans and Flamingoes” organised by Marcina Dobasa, a National Geographic photographer.

Five days spent in Greece in the Kerkini Lake National Park provide you with a unique opportunity to take photographs of Dalmatian pelicans, threatened with extinction. The day was split into two sessions – the morning one, when at dawn, in temperatures close to zero, we were taking a cruise on a small boat, and the afternoon one, during which we were photographing pelicans from the shore of the lake just before sunset. Marcin organises this expedition in two variants – as a four- or five-day trip. The longer variant (the one I participated in) provides some added security against the risk of weather conditions – and it must be said that the weather, especially in terms of ambient light or temperature, was changing rather rapidly (daily temperature variations of almost 20 degrees Celsius). We photographed not only at the classical times of day, i.e. during the blue and golden hours. A thick cloud cover provided ideal conditions for isolating the pelicans from the background and capturing their silhouettes reflected in the water surface – in a minimalist style. When it cleared up, sun rays shooting through the clouds spectacularly highlighted the pelicans.

On the other hand, in low light and with longer exposure times – in the range of 1/40 – 1/20 s – you could practice panning, with the effect of unmoving bird’s head while at the same time showing the motion of its wings. However, when trying to do this, it turned out in practice that I still have a lot to learn.

Out of several thousand photographs I selected the best 40 to the “Pelicans and flamingoes”.

Perhaps the expedition is not a classical example of wildlife observation because we didn’t wait during the entire night in order to catch a few photos of a bear going on its morning hunt. Pelicans are quite willing to pose for photographs and they obediently follow the orders of the local guide, Vasilis, who can attract the birds from the far end of the lake with one motion of his hand. To make the experience complete you also have a chance to photograph flamingoes – they are not as cooperative as pelicans but we still had several opportunities to capture these spectacular birds into the frame. As a result, memory cards became jam-packed and at the end of the day there was plenty of stuff to choose from, while Marcin Dobas shared with us his invaluable advice concerning technique, methodology of session work and post-production.

But the atmosphere during such an exhibition is created primarily by people. Various levels of skill, various experience. Each one of us had a different take on the same subjects we photographed. It was a true dream team – Ania, Adrian, Jerzy, Marcin, Mariusz, Szymon – thanks to all of you for our excellent time together! Of course in no way can you not recommend the organisers of the expedition – – Wyprawy Foto. Bożena and Marcin really do a good job! I encourage you to learn more about their expeditions, and there’s quite a choice of those – bears at the Kurilskoye Lake, Iceland, celebrations of the Holi festival in India, wolverines in Finland or whales at the coast of Greenland.