Saturday, December 19, 2009

At a Secret Pond

There is a pond in New Mexico easily accessible and open to the public where common ducks lives year round and wild waterfowl visit in winter. I was sworn to secrecy by Virginia’s “non-plus-ultra” wildlife photographer, who took me there, not to reveal its location. The beauty of this place is that many species of ducks that I have chased for years, finally were accessible photograph. The Wood Duck was one of those ever eluding dreams but no longer.

As in most bird species, the males are usually the most colorful, this is to attract females. In turn these are dull in color due to their camouflage to blend with the surrounding when nesting and to protect the young. But in their own right, they are beautiful too as seen above.

We spent basically a whole day at the pond due the unusual photo opportunities
and to take advantages of light changes as the day advanced. Another advantage of spending time there was that various species of birds arrived and departed throughout the day, giving an opportunity to get different ones photographed.

One of the challenges of photographing any subject with white color is blowing away the highlights. And in the case of bird with white feathers or other parts, getting the right exposures becomes difficult, so exposing for the white areas may result in an overall darker picture.

There is a need to underexpose to get the highlights right. But digital cameras this is no longer an issue if one keeps and eye in the histogram by keeping the right end of the curve inside the chart. In the photo of the female Wood Duck, even though I reduced the exposure, the white around the does not show much detail in the image above. But additional exposure reduction would have resulted in the rest of the image looking a bit darker…all is a compromise.

Wood ducks are perhaps the most colorful ducks in North America and due to their lifestyles and habitat hard to photograph. They were there of their own desire and not captives, and enjoying the pond disregarding the presence of humans.

I am limiting this blog just to the Wood ducks but in upcoming ones, I will address other exotic waterfowl which I never had the opportunity to approach so close at this no so secret place.


Misty Dawn said...

WOW! To a photographer, finding a place like that is like finding a piece of Heaven! Outstanding!

jeannette stgermain said...

Whoa, almost unreal those colors. The waiting paid off big time! -incredible photos!

Coy said...

Stunning photographs of an elusive bird. Amazing work!

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

What a beautiful post Jose. As you know we do not have anything as beautiful here. The colors in the male are magnificent.

I like the way you have captured the different reflections of light in them, one of the advantages of being able to stay all day at a pond like this. I can guess who your “non-plus-ultra” wildlife photographer is, but I won't mention names. :)

I know how it feels to get your first phohographs of something like this. I managed to get my first Sunbird pictures this morning and was thrilled with them too but I have not had time to download them so I am hoping there will be something suitable to publish.

What lens were you using? The 500mm?? Getting the exposure right on white is always a problem and the same can be said for yellow. As you say, it is a matter of compensation.

I still love the one with the reflection of the head disappearing. LOL!!

Ken Conger Photography said...

Don Rocky NG,
Nice series. The top image is by far my fav.
Ultra Plus (you mistakenly but a non in there)

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Wishing you a fantastic Christmas and New Year Jose. May 2010 find us sharing many more fantastic posts like this one.

Craig Glenn said...

Unbelievable photos Jose...

I just got a new camera, can't wait to get better and learn how to use it. But when I see shots like this I just want to take it back to the store LOL

Thanks again for your help today and I hope I can be half as good as you someday!

Happy Holidays