Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Faces & Ducks are Cool!

border="0" />Canon 30D
Canon EF 75-300mm f/3.5-5.6
Shutter Speed 1/400
Aperture f/7.1

ISO 400
Manual Mode
Natural Light

I have a thing with ducks. Northern Illinois University has the Kishwaukee River running through it. Every day for 3 years I had to cross that river and every day I was greeted by several ducks. I swear they would talk back to me as I muttered my "good morning!" Since those years I've always had a soft spot for ducks, humble and unassuming as they are.

This guy was taking an afternoon siesta on the Fox River in St. Charles. There were probably around 20 ducks in all, half sleeping and the other half practicing their synchronized swimming routines as they plunged their heads into the water over and over. It was fun just watching them.

The reason I spent so much time with the ducks is because once again, I chickened out when it came time to photographing a stranger. I'm just a big wimp! I had my chances! There was the guy that looked like a beat up version of Joaquin Phoenix (think last appearance on Letterman - if you haven't seen it, youtube it). There were the 4 waitresses taking a smoke break from the fancy Italian place on the river. They were very pretty and yet they were obviously letting their hair down for about 5 minutes. The light was great, my camera was set-up, it was a fantastic setting, and I sat there like a 6th grade boy trying to get up the nerve to ask the popular girl to dance with me. There was also the two friends sitting on a park bench obviously catching up after a long separation. They would have been thrilled to be photographed most likely and I could have shared the photo via email. I just completely wimped out.

But when I saw the ducks I made a B-line right too them and they gladly approached to be photographed. I'm no fool, they thought I had food. I can handle that.

At first, I got as close to the surface of the water as I could to get eye to eye with the lovelies. I got one shot in particular where this beautiful female is looking at me with one eye, almost feigning sleep. There is another one with a male walking towards me, dripping water from his head as he investigates my presence. In the end, I walked over to a bridge that was directly over some sleeping ducks. They were lazing in the shallows and I got this birds eye view.

This guy was just waking up and shaking out his wings giving me a full view of the fantastic patterns and colors his plumage provides. What a beauty! Because of the dark setting it was necessary to shoot in manual mode to ensure proper exposure. This is an example of needing to underexpose. With it being so dark the camera's meter is fooled into thinking there isn't enough light. Using an ISO of 400 allowed me to use a fast enough shutter speed to stop the action (he was really doing the jitterbug!). Plus, I could use an aperture of f/7.1 to ensure sharpness. This was particularly important because the lens I used is really soft at wide open settings.

My connection to Jay'me is tenuous I'll admit, but we were both outdoors when we shot our photos. I had other things in mind like the fall colors, maybe a butterfly, or maybe my friend Mike eating a leaf. But this photo was too hard to resist, especially seeing as I asked Brandi to randomly pick a number from 1-14 to decide for me (I couldn't choose! Don't judge!). Thanks for checking us out and I promise to continue my efforts at asking the popular girl to dance with me.



  1. Where is your infamous punch line for this photo? You know of what I speak.
    I like Mr. Ducky. The natural colors on him are beautiful. I realize it was 50 degrees and that the water was probably hovering around 40degrees but could you get a get on his level next time? All kidding aside, the photo is beautiful as usual. I personally would brighten it some but I tend to like really bright pictures. When I first looked at it I said.."Hmmm... I wish Ducky wasn't centered."
    You got the shutter speed right on. I can catch the movement in his feathers and the water but it's not blurred at all.
    Can't wait to run with this today! You actually left me some great options for a change.

  2. It's funny, I actually tried an off center shot but I thought this was better. I almost always avoid centering anything but it worked for me this time.

    I wondered if it was too dark actually. Maybe I'll send you the original to see what you would do with the post-processing (if you're up for it). When it comes to photography, I'm far more comfortable behind the lens then in front of the computer. I'm thinking maybe a feature of "what would I do" might make a really cool post. Any thoughts?

  3. beautiful feathers. Did you enhance any of the coloring because it looks really vivid? The blue and white areas. I would have to agree with brandi about a little more brightness on his face but I can understand why you wouldn't. i would think that by brightening it or giving it some highlights you would lose some of the vividness of the blue and white coloring.

  4. Sorry I didn't get to comment right away...
    This shot gives us a really neat feeling of a black and white with interjected super color.
    What a beautiful duck with perfect feathers. We normally think of Mallards for their iridescent green heads. This shot lets us focus on the fabulous feather design and other punches of color he offers up.
    I like the unusual angle this was taken from so we can enjoy that gorgeous tail.
    I really would love to see the other shots you took that day. ONE ISN'T ENOUGH!!!