I live in the Great Lakes area of Wisconsin. Late fall through early spring brings to us a wealth of waterfowl. Some are here all year, but many breed in the far north, in some cases above the arctic circle, and only visit us in the winter. There is nothing on a cold winter’s day, better than sitting all comfy in your car (coffee, hot chocolate?) as you photograph ducks and other water birds. If necessary, you can always start up your car and add a little warmth to your life. I have done this for hours at a time. The direction of light is important and during the winter months finding a location that allows you to shoot north, will give you great light all day long.
Male Greater Scaup
Female Greater Scaup with mollusk.
A happy couple of Mallards.
A male Common Goldeneye just after emerging from a dive. He needs to take fishing lessons from the female Scaup.
Horned Grebe. Grebes are water birds without sexual dimorphism. Both sexes are equally colorful.
Of course waterfowl are special creatures all year. In June through August (earlier with resident Canada Geese) new babies will abound.
Getting back to winter (I know, yuk), other birds also make for interesting subjects.
I was always on the lookout for birds (and other animals) in the snow. Adding that element to a wildlife photo makes the image more compelling in my opinion. Of course exposure can be an issue.
Normally in a snow and ice scene like this, I would take an exposure reading from the snow and open up my lens about 1 1/3rd stop. Your meter desires everything it is pointed at to be mid-gray. That would in fact make the snow gray. This dark immature Bald Eagle and white snow should not be able to live together in the same scene. The extreme winter sidelight however, produced low enough values to retain enough detail in the bird while keeping the highlights on the snow from having a total blowout. The snow is also acting as a reflector, bouncing light back up to the bird. There are a few foreground patches of snow, that are indeed over exposed. I have no problem with that but their values could be reduced in the editing process, by circling those areas and lowering the brightness. I would suggest only doing that minimally, as they will become gray very quickly.
Pheasants in the snow are to me, a natural. I used manual spot metering in this shot, but on the bird not the snow. Instead of adding exposure as I would have if I had metered the snow, I subtracted 1 stop. I metered the patterned side of the bird. I subtracted that one stop and walla, there is detail in the snow, and no blown highlights on the bird.
Next we have what can be a nightmare in photography. Bright sun, white snow, and a black bird. This shot does exactly what I was attempting to accomplish. I kept detail in the snow, and used the sun to create detail on the Crow’s head and beak. The angle of the sun helped with all of this. It created little shadows in back of each furrow of snow. That means texture or detail. That small bit of snow on the bird’s beak also helps settle the viewer down as to the difference between the lights and darks of the scene. My exposure was evaluative (Matrix metering) , via aperture priority. I added .03 stop of light to compensate for all of that white snow and the desire of the meter to underexpose it.
For my final bird photo I share this image simply because I have never shown it before. A beautiful and inquisitive female Cardinal in my back yard. It is from 2011.
Seasons come and seasons go.
I love it when I hear people say that in photography, equipment doesn’t really matter. Anyone who really looks at what is being shared on social media today, would need to have their eyes closed to not see the difference in imagery just over the last year. Having said that, there is no question that some people do very little with a lot, and others do a lot with a little. Today’s photographers will have an ongoing battle in order to keep up with equipment upgrades. Those who truly make pictures to earn their living, and they are few and far between, will be hard pressed economically. Despite that, just like in every era since photography’s infancy in the mid 19th Century and on, there will be those who will succeed. It will require enterprising minds, and hard work. Photographic creativity, isn’t just about making pictures.
Next post? We’ll have some great images by ten other photographers.
God Bless, Wayne