The Swakopmund–Walvis Bay area in Namibia is one of the Van den Bergs’ favourite places to photograph. They spent some time there photographing for Southern Africa’s Beautiful Deserts – The Big Picture and were after the desert creatures in the dunes behind Swakopmund.
One day they decided to drive up to Walvis Bay, passing the town towards the salt works. There, to their delight, they came upon hundreds of flamingoes on the eastern side of the road. Every time they had been there in the past, the flamingoes had kept to the western sea side of the road. They had been difficult to photograph because they were against the light in the afternoon. But this time a high tide had come over the road and suddenly it was a photographer’s paradise.
Not only were the birds now on the best side of the road for lighting, but they were against the most beautiful background imaginable – Namib dunes.
Instead of choosing to isolate one flamingo, Philip opted to use the 600 f4 without any tele-converters to get as much background in the images as possible.
He set his camera to Av, opened the aperture to f4 and had his lens on a heavy tripod as close to the ground as it could go. His ISO was on 100, as the light was still strong.
The problem, however, was that the closer Philip moved to the flamingoes, the further they moved in the other direction.
Because it was next to a public road, regular traffic passed next to the dunes. People were slowing down, straining to catch a glimpse of Philip’s 600mm.
Then, to his surprise, he saw a jogger running on the opposite side along the road towards the flamingoes. As he got closer, they got a fright, lifted their pink wings and started running back along the dune. Philip had his camera set on the highest frame-per-second rate and kept the shutter button in as he followed them. His focusing point was in the centre, to have more control over the focus.
When the jogger reached Philip, he apologized profusely for chasing the flamingoes away. If only he had known what a great favour he had done for him.