I’ll be the first to admit that ducks are seldom my first choice of subject for my avian photos, and it has been that way since I started in photography in New Jersey where ducks were a lot more common than they are here in Phoenix. But there are advantages to duck photography in the desert: a lot of species spend the winter here and can become tolerant of human activity in close quarters in the many small ponds and lakes scattered throughout the urban landscape.
The Northern Pintail above was taken at the Gilbert Water Ranch on February 10, 2012 in late morning. I like the way the wings mimic the position of the tail. Pintails can be tricky to expose properly, with large expanses of white feathers that blow out easily. In this case I used the spot meter with -2/3rds stop compensation to end up with an exposure of 1/1250th second at f/8 with ISO 400.
Male Ring-necked Ducks have some of the same exposure problems as pintails, but I can avoid that be concentrating on the females as in this image, taken February 7, 2012 at the Gilbert Water Ranch. I like to use the reflections on the water to add interest to my compositions – here I like how the swirls on the water harmonize with the colors of the duck. I was set up on a floating walkway on the freshwater pond so I kept the ISO higher at 800 to give a shutter speed of 1/100th second at f/8.
Mallards are so commonplace and widely distributed that it is easy to take them for granted and ignore their beauty. In this shot, also from the Gilbert Water Ranch, I’ve tried for an intimate view and used the setting to show more habitat. Taken January 20, 2012, at ISO 800, 1/200th second at f/8.
The final image is another Mallard, also taken at the Gilbert Water Ranch on the same floating bridge and date as the Ring-necked Duck above. The duck is standing on the railing of the bridge which gave me an opportunity to showcase the orange legs and feet. ISO 800, 1/1000th second at f/7.1. All images taken with Nikon D300, 300/2.8 AF-S Nikkor lens with TC20E III (2x) on Gitzo 1325 tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head and Sidekick.