Tag Archives: Pelican

What Makes This Image Of A Brown Pelican So Powerful?

If there were ever a case about the sheer visual power of a black and white image it would have to include “Brown Pelican”.   Color is popular in the art world; there is no denying it. After all we see in color, dress by colors, and each of our world cultures have, in their own way, given colors specific meanings.

So why then is there such artistic fascination with the unseen world of black and white? What is the draw? We are able to see an object painted black or one colored white, but we don’t visualize the world in such a way.

This lack of an ability to simply turn color in the visual world off truly belongs to the realm of the artist. Artists love to take that which cannot be seen but by definition must remain imagined and bring them into the forefront of our understanding.

Thus we have Brown Pelican.   This is a typical brown pelican. Very much like its name, this bird really isn’t much to look at in its natural color. Its weird shape and large size draw more attention than the plain brown of the plumage.  For lack of better commentary, it’s just  a large brown bird.

Don’t misunderstand; the bird is graceful and powerful in its own right. There are plenty of fish in the sea that fear the mere presence of such a creature. Its wings spread out in the tropical sun, gliding over the surface of the water with eyes fixed upon the fish below.


But, the color! The color is a burnt sienna brown. The wings are brown. The head is brown. Even the magnificent beak is nothing more than a shade of boring brown.   Yet, if we take this image and remove the color an incredible sight opens before us.

Stretching Pelican
Stretching Pelican

The wings become these awesome shades of blackness slowly contrasted with brilliant peaks of white. The feathers of the tail and body almost look rigid with the white sharp contrast set against the black interior of the feather.   The feathers almost look like a metal armor.

Indeed, each feather suddenly renders a level of detail and structure previously hidden to the human eye.   Such detail brings new ideas and thoughts into focus. We see armor plating where there is none; we see rigidity where there is only softness. The bird becomes artistic and open for interpretation. The wings, feathers, and even head suddenly take on a new atmosphere. It’s up to the viewer to decide the overall meaning, but that is what photographic black and white photography is all about.

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I Didn’t know that!: Photographing a White Pelican

I love to take pictures of animals. It doesn’t matter what type of animal or how big they are. They are natural subjects that the art of photography can take full advantage of in both a scientifically curious way and an artistic way. Naturally, when I got the chance to photograph a group of white pelicans while they were swimming in a small holding tank, I went for it.

This pelican is truly an incredible bird. The white pelican is larger than it’s well known Louisiana cousin the brown pelican. They may look similar but truly, this 14 pound 9 foot monster of the aviary world belongs in a class all of it’s own.

As with most of my natural subjects, it’s amazing to do a little research and discover little known facts about them. While I was already aware that they catch fish with their large beaks by skimming the waters, I was unaware that they migrate.Pelican

I grew up thinking that pelicans were mainly seabirds that you would have to go to the ocean to see. I didn’t realize they could be found as far north as South Dakota and Minnesota during the summer months. When the weather begins to cool, they start their southerly migration like many other birds.   They use lakes and rivers and marshlands for brief stops along the way.

Their winter destination is usually the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coasts. But they also travel to areas as far south as Tabasco and Veracruz, Mexico.

Seeing these birds in flight is amazing. They are so big that they rarely like to flap their wings and prefer to coast by soaring on the air currents. In the air they remind me of some type of feathered pterodactyl with their bent wings and huge misshapen heads.

Our recent work Pelican, gives you some idea of the size of those wings. This beautiful bird was swimming around a small fishing dock looking for fish and chasing other pelicans for an opportunity to steal a catch. Its large wing is wet and you can easily see the water glistening on its edge. Also, this magnificent bird is sporting a growth on his bill that advertises his maturity and availability to mate to member of the opposite sex.

The one thing that always strikes me about this image though, is the crystal cold ice blue eyes that it has. I often have an artistic habit of looking for areas of deciding contrast in my subjects.  I feel that it brings the artistic nature of the natural world into view.

It’s that simple love of the contrast between the blue of the eye and the orange of this bill and shaded white of his feather that really caught my attention. It truly is a beautiful bird that deserves a portrait of its own and a place to hang in your home or office. Enjoy!

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Hall, Kristin. “American White Pelican Tracking Map: Migration 2012-2013.” AecGis American White Pelican Tracking Map: Migration 2012-2013. Audubon Minnesota Conservation and GIS, 21 July 2014. Web. 06 Nov. 2014. <http://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?webmap=da25d277bfbc42d0946f4b6b953a60b8>.