Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

March 10, 2009

Unexpected Color

Filed under: Birds, digital benefits, favorite places, Gilbert Water Ranch, light — richditch @ 1:53 pm
Mallard on golden water

Mallard on golden water

Photos of ducks can be rather boring, at least for a habitat shooter like me who has trouble if the habitat is mostly open water. I’m happiest if I can work along the edges of a marshy pond and get the duck in or near any grasses growing along the edge. If I can’t do that then I try to find some creative way to show the water in a more interesting way.

One way to do that is to pay attention to what the water is reflecting. If you’ve got a bright blue sky then chances are you’ll end up with nice blue water, while an overcast sky will produce flat gray water that can be very hard to work with. Some ripples in the water will break up the surface and introduce some alternative color and can add interest. For this to work best look for vegetation around the pond edges as the ripples will pick up color from the surroundings.

The Mallard shown here is an extreme example of reflected color from vegetation growing on the edge of a pond. It was taken in early morning light at the Gilbert Water Ranch on November 24, 2007. If the water levels are good (they can vary overnight as the preserve staff manages the flow) then this particular pond can be excellent when the low winter sun hits these grasses and the golden color reflects off the surface. But this light doesn’t last for long, it doesn’t extend across the entire surface, and there’s no guarantee that a duck or grebe will move into proper photographic position. On this morning, at least, I encountered a female Mallard at just the right time and place. The light intensity was low enough that I needed ISO 800 to get an acceptable shutter speed of 1/200th second with the lens wide open at f/5.6 – I’d rather have a noisy image than risk blur from the swimming duck.

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