Never Short a Player

As a wildlife photographer, I tend to gravitate to the new or rarer opportunities. Clearly those experiences come with a greater opportunity to learn something interesting or to simply expand your portfolio. I try to be conscious of this tendency while out in the field since it can cause tunnel vision – a narrowing/restriction of your photo targets. The best example of this is on your first trip to Yellowstone compared to subsequent and even the later days of your first trip. If you have been there, go back and take a look at your first day’s shots. Guessing there are a lot of Bison in there. Now check the second, third and any subsequent trips. If you are like me, there is a logarithmic decline in those types of shots. Linda is very aware of this when it comes to my birding efforts. Takes a lot for me to take another picture of a Coot ha! I bring this all up because today’s post is one of those cases where traditional tunnel vision often occurs – fortunately, there’s a remedy!

Mallards shot at Springfield Lake May 2015

The Mallard is abundantly common in my parts, well for that matter, all of North America. If you are birding and come upon a decent sized body of water you are most assuredly going to see one or two hanging out near the banks paddling lazily by. To uphold my golden rule, I’ll quickly snap a pick just to record a species spotting – little effort in making sure the camera settings are ideal. For Coots I’m tempted to shoot from the hip and not even worry about getting it framed – those things are EVERYWHERE. There is something that changes my nonchalant attitude to the Mallard, something that transforms a minutia of shooting time into minutes if not hours.

Mallards shot at Springfield Lake May 2015

Hit the jump to see some more pics of this cuties!

Continue reading Never Short a Player

Mallard Slumber

It occurred to me that as of late, I’ve been doing a bashing of the Mallard and thought it was time to ease up a bit.  If you recall there has been some assumptions regarding just how promiscuous this bird is – for reference, check out the muta.. I mean interesting specimens here and here.  The little known but powerful Mallard Urban Transgressions and Neglect Tracking Society has contacted me with a cease and desist.  Trust me, you do not want to stay on their bad side.  As an act of restitution, today’s featured bird is the Mallard.  Unless you live under a rock or in The City (sorry, inside college joke) you have seen one of these at your local river, lake, pond or for that matter the roadside ditch.  They are indeed the most abundant duck in North America and the male markings make it very easy to spot – note, this is not true of the female mallard which is about as common looking as you can get with the exception of the blue teal patch on their wings.  On our way back home from Wisconsin, we stopped in downtown Dells to see what was playing in the river that runs through the middle of it.  After walking a ways down the nice path they have for pedestrians I noticed this Mallard catching some Z’s under a bridge.  It must be nice to be able to carry your pillow with you wherever you go.

Due to the bridge supports and an outcropping of brush and trees, there was a limited viewing angle (I’m sure that was his intention when selecting this spot).  For about 20 minutes I wrestled with foot compositioning in a futile attempt to clear the shot of branches but still capture all the rock pedestal.  At one point in this effort, I banged the bridge beam with my knee and my yelp woke it up.  He gave a quick look around before eventually settling back into his slumber.

Eventually some of the rock had to be sacrificed to get most of the other distractions out (looks like my cropping effort on the right side was just a wee bit short but guessing it would matte out in a print anyway.  After all that work none of the shots would make my gallery list, but I’m finally starting to concentrate more on the in camera composition which results in an easier time in post processing.

I will say the subject in the above picture isn’t that exciting, but I really like the texture that came out in the water.  It kind of looks like molten glass.

Hit the jump to see some additional shots of the Mallard along with a composition discussion.

Continue reading Mallard Slumber

What the Duck Is It?

I’m about one day away from going completely nuts due to not having Internet access from my main computer.  This is suppose to be resolved on Tuesday when the new satellite dish is installed.  Until then, I am forced to use my wife’s computer which has to be the crappiest Dell (Studio XPS) I’ve ever used.  Not only is this ridiculously hot thanks to the bad engineering design to have the lid close off the back vent when the lid is open, but the scratch pad mouse will float the cursor randomly if you just wave your thumbs over it.

I do need to persevere though and get through the vacation pictures.  This particular set is essentially a set of ducks of which I have been unable to locate in any of my three bird field guides.  This is likely due to being females and for some reason a majority of the guides will show a male specimen and then simply describe the female version.  It may just be me, but I find this a very frustrating approach for identifying birds.  Usually I can luck out and snap a male with the female which allows me to simply verify the image with the text for the male, but without a starting point, you are basically trying to wade through every description.  After going through this process a couple of times, I have given up and will simply provide the images in hopes someone out there can help me out.

But first, here is one I could actually identify due to how common it is where I live.  We walked up to Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Forest.  Unfortunately, the trail is actually uphill the entire way which did not win me any points with my wife.  I think she was just about ready to beat me over the head with the tripod when we finally reached the destination.  One of the first things we saw coming up to the lake was:

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a mallard with its head in the water, but the interesting thing was how long he maintained this position.  He would literally do a beak stand in the water for over a minute before bringing his head back up.  5 seconds of rest and he would go right back to that position.  It seemed like some kind of inside duck joke on visitors (or an inside joke between Linda and I if she won the lottery which will remain a secret).  This went on for the entire time we were at the lake.  Still intrigued as to the reason, I happened to pan to the right a little and it all came crystal clear.

The dude was just showing off for the ladies.  This is probably the duck equivalent to Val Kilmer doing stupid muscle poses during a sand volleyball game (except Val was with all males by the way).  A quick funny story.  On the way back down, I saw a small little snake dart into some rocks from the side of the path.  Knowing Linda is deathly afraid of them, I calmly mentioned she should go ahead of me (while I blocked vision from the snake).  She somehow put two and two together and started freaking out which included grabbing my shirt and literally ripping it to pieces.  Next thing I know, one of my favorite shirts now has its sleeve seam completely ruined.  Let that be a lesson to myself – next time, she’s going to have wished she hadn’t stepped on one and I’m keeping her hands off my clothes.

Since there a few unknown duck shots, I’ll put them after the jump.  Again, if you recognize any of them, please drop a comment.

Continue reading What the Duck Is It?