Dance of the Forbidden Flamingo
I frequently work in controlled environments armed with fancy cameras, lights, beautifully adorned models, and expensive artisan water bottles filled with tap water.
But from time to time, I venture out into the world armed with just a camera, basic lens, and an open mind. No heavy production or planning. I just allow the world to unfold before me, and I’m just there to capture the performance. I call this my Out N About portfolio.
In this ongoing body of work, inspired by the tutelage and work of Jay Maisel, I’ve sought to capture gesture. In short, gesture is interplay of angles, colors, and expressions of everyday people, places, or things. It’s all around us; you just have to look for it.
A lot of this is really about patience — be at the right place at the right time – and wait for the scene to unfold. Such is the story behind my Dance of the Forbidden Flamingo image.
One day, I came across a Susan G. Komen promotion consisting of a sea of bright pink plastic flamingos. I was trying to figure out an artistic way of capturing the scene, when I saw a little boy racing towards the flock. A bunch of fake flamingos combined with the energy of enthusiastic youth – that’s got to be a site to capture. All I had to do was wait and be ready for whatever the child was going to do.
In this photo the boy’s expression, the awkward angles of his lanky pre-teen arms, and his flamingo-like posture combine to elicit a whimsical and delightful expression of gesture.
Another key to capturing great gesture photographs is to always have your eyes — and mind — open. In the photo of “The Pissed off Pelican”, for example, it was easy to become focused on the bird as the sole subject. The pelican’s very anthropomorphic (look it up) expression of irritation makes for an interesting picture by itself. However, a broadening of vision led to introduce the sign offering “Pelican Food For Sale.” Capturing the sign in this photo creates a quizzical juxtaposition of images that — in my mind — conjured up the storyline of a cranky pelican whose dinner reservations had not been honored.
If you’re interested in exploring this style of photography, you’ll have to exercise patience and realize that you’re not always going to find the perfect shot every time you go out looking for it. Instead, try to carry a camera around with you as much as you can and be ready to recognize when you come across the right scene for your shot. Technical note: Although you will be mostly shooting in broad daylight, use an ISO of 800 to insure you maintain a high shutter speed. You would rather have a sharp image with a little noise than a perfectly clean picture of a fuzzy child running through a sea of pink water fowl.