Stalking Ferocious Flamingos
November 29, 2003 - Puerto San Julian, Argentina

Argentina adventure travel pictures
 
5:30 AM. I'm alive and awake! I would even go so far as to say alert. Often you will find me smack in the middle of a good nights' sleep at this hour. But there is something about the light here that excites me. It energizes me.
 
In this part of the world and at this time of the year you get more than your fair share of sunlight. As I continue south the days will be even more exaggerated.

For as long as I can remember, I have always resisted going to bed. I have always liked staying up late, as if I were going to miss out on something by going to sleep. But there is another part of me that wishes I could get up and get going at the crack of dawn. Obviously these two habits do not go hand in hand. But the sunlight here naturally pushes your body in that direction. More light, more living! Feels awesome for now. I imagine that my need for rest will catch up with me. Perhaps if I lived here full time I'd just catch up in the winter when the lighting is reversed?

Back to our title, I am up early and I wanna get some photos of the flamingos I saw along the road yesterday. I head out of my hotel and up the highway that led me to this tiny seaside community. I am barely out of town when come to the first lake. Actually it is more of a large pond and by no means pristine. Signs of civilization are all around it, even in it. Lots of power lines and partially submerged cement structures. But there on the edge, partially obscured by some brush, is small group the long legged freaks. Flamingos, looking quite comfortable surrounded by urban waste.
 
I pull over and cautiously approach the lake, taking photos through the brush. Not knowing when they will get spooked and be gone, I snap photos continuously as I look for a good vantage point. The brush obscures their view of me and allows me to get very close.
Argentina adventure travel pictures
 
But my view is obscured also. I have to find a way to get around or through the brush without frightening them. My attempts yesterday taught me that they were very wary of human attention. I have to be very sly.
 
A tree had fallen through the brush and into the lake. If I can get over a fence, through the brush and out onto the fallen tree I will be in perfect position. Gently over the fence, slowly through the brush, I make it to the tree. I ponder my situation and the downside potential. If I emerge from the brush balancing on the fallen tree the flamingos will likely see me and even worse, I could fall in the lake with my camera. But the upside? Exotic creatures in the early morning glow... gotta go for it!
 
Argentina adventure travel pictures
Baby steps. Baby steps. Edging my way into place, trying not to think about the depth of the water beneath me... Holy shit! I'm in position. I raise my camera and CLICK! One shot and they are off to the far side of the lake. But I got the shot!
 
THE NEXT DAY OR SO would prove to be a continuation of a photographer's fantasy. A few hours later I was on a tour boat in search of penguins and a particular brand of exotic dolphin. (Brand of dolphin? Can you tell I have a science background?) Commerson's Dolphin. Cephalorhynchus commersonii to be even more specific. They are tiny critters by dolphin standards, only 4-5 feet in length. But they are strikingly colored like a killer whale in stark black and white.
 
Argentina adventure travel pictures
 
It was a good day for dolphin watching. We were very fortunate to see and interact with several groups. They were usually in groups of 4 or 5. Sometimes in pairs. They would swim playfully underneath the boat darting out on either side to blow water and air into the faces of the delighted tourists. What a thrill. They were so playful and lightning fast, like birds underwater--and sometimes above!
 
They were a challenge when it came to taking photos because they were so very quick and unpredictable. They would often leap out of the water, but you never knew quite when or where. I came soooo close to capturing one fully airborne - just a fraction on a second too late.
Argentina adventure travel pictures
 
Argentina adventure travel pictures
 
I must say that the penguins were a bit a of let down after the dolphins. Though they did seem share the same fashion sense, again in tasteful black and white. They were very easily approachable but the light was not the best.
 
Argentina adventure travel pictures
 
On the highway southbound the next morning I was treated to yet another gift from Mother Nature. Guanaco are llama-type (how is that for scientific?) animals that roam the plains in this part of the Argentina. They are a frequent site along the highway. I stopped to get a shot of a group of three of them. Unlike others I had focused on, these three seemed very interested in me. They scampered to the top of small hill nearby and waited. They looked at me and whistled. Something between a whistle and a screech. I whistled back.
 
Argentina adventure travel pictures
I approached a few steps, they retreated the same distance. I backed up, they advanced. They were teasing me, flirting with me. I was Eddie Murphy in Dr. Doolittle. I was in the zone. I thought I had died and gone to photographer's heaven.
 
Argentina adventure travel pictures



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