Working for birds in Africa

Pink Africa

Fri, 21/12/2012 - 14:03 -- abc_admin
Carlo Mari and Nigel Collar, 2000. 210 pp, many colour photographs. London, UK: The Harvill Press. ISBN 1-86046 804-7. UK£30.
p 163

There are many photographic books to the wildlife of Africa but almost all focus on mammals such as lions, leopards, elephants and rhinos. Some include occasional shots of birds, but this is the first to concentrate on just two species - the Greater Phoenicopterus ruber and Lesser Flamingos Phoeniconaias minor.

Carlo Mari's photographs are excellent and almost every page of this large format book contains an image that takes you right into the heart of these flamingos' lives. Anyone who has visited the East African Rift Valley lakes to photograph flamingos will have realised that the opportunity to demonstrate your creative flair is rather limited! Just how many photographic styles can you use to show flamingos in action? Well, Mari has filled this book with every conceivable image. Some shots are detailed with pin-sharp focus while the blurred movement of the birds in others makes them appear to move across the page. Wide-angled panoramas of the birds' habitat are mixed with close-ups of their anatomical features, and everything from birth to death is included in graphic detail.

The early pages include a light and easily readable text in the form of a long essay on the ecology of flamingos by Nigel Collar. The writing style is artistic and while it follows a logical order through plumage, structure, feeding, breeding, behaviour and conservation, the text is not designed to be used as a reference. Indeed, there is no index. In addition, each photograph is accompanied by an extended caption which amply describes the activity being displayed - very often a failing in so called 'coffee-table books'.

If you have visited the Rift Valley lakes then you will want to buy this book. If you have not yet made that journey, then it will take you there in an instant. This is not a book for hardened birders, but if you have ever attempted wildlife photography you will enjoy it. To create a book on such a narrow subject was a brave project but it has succeeded admirably.

Keith Betton

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