Rocks and Feathers On a Cloudy Day

During a recent trip to Crescent Lake, I was hoping to get some good landscape shots but with the weather being gray overcast, the lighting wasn’t ideal to capture the lush, vivid colors of the foliage around the beautiful lake. I was using aperture priority mode and didn’t like the results. The landscape images were dark, bluish cast and very flat looking. I decided to go manual and started to experiment with the camera settings. Such as: changing the white balance to sunny might give the image more warmth and color; increase exposure time and ISO while lowering my standard f/11 landscape aperture to f/6.3 to get better light.

As I was making the adjustments, a mallard duck waddled up a few feet from me. Quickly, I took a shot of the duck and was pleasantly surprised by the result. I really like the contrast of the duck’s soft feathers against the shallow depth field of the rocks on the beach. It created an attractive looking background. For me the background is just as important as the subject — especially when shooting shallow depth of field. I know from experience, a distracting background can ruin otherwise a perfect shot.  It is something to keep in mind when shooting — a boulder might become a big black blob that takes up half of the image.

For the next several shots, I focused on the feathers and rocks but also lighting and composition. I didn’t want it to be just a photo of a duck. And lucky me, seem like the duck knew what I wanted and posed nicely for me. It’s interesting how a situation like this helps me learn more about photography than just shooting a pretty landscape.


26 Comments on “Rocks and Feathers On a Cloudy Day

  1. Great series Emily! It always a shame when you expect to take a couple of photo’s and the weather/light is not great. but still you captured some great ones! the last 2 are my favorites

    • I know I had the landscapes in mind but actually I’m glad that things worked out the way it did… because my experience was much better with the duck than I would’ve shooting the landscape. Thanks Losangelas for the compliment. 🙂

  2. I am with Mike, I really like the last image of that certain creature that just doesn’t ever EVER want me to capture. Great job Em! 😀

    • LOL… I actually thought about you when I took the shot. It’s funny… okay, maybe not for you but every time when I see birds or creatures with feathers, I think of you. 😉

  3. The colors are tremendous, Emily, and you caught incredible detail, love those feathers! It’s always nice when we stumble on a great subject (or one waddles up to us).

    • It was a great experience to observe and shoot the duck so closely. I’ve never seen the feathers under the wings before and was happy to have the opportunity to capture the colors and details. 🙂

  4. Your landscape photo looks cool and dreamy, Emily.
    The duck? Even in real life I have not seen such clarity in feathers. Those shots are SPECIAL! Plus, the duck is now famous! 🙂

    • That was one special duck, alright… while the rest of flock flew off, she chose to stay and help me be better photographer. 😉

  5. Thanks for another great post. You inspired me to get outside and have fun with my camera. This morning walked in my neighborhood, took my camera and tried to create abstract images. I used a polarizing filter, and I got some nice images. Looking forward to seeing more of your great images.

    • Thank you Kathy for making my day with your wonderful comment. I’m so glad my work inspires you. Look forward to seeing your creations. 😀

    • Thank you Damian for the wonderful compliment. Your photography style is very interesting. I look forward to learning from you. 🙂

    • I’m pretty sure this is a female mallard duck, since her feathers are not as colorful and bright. Also, the male usually has a bright green head.

    • I was surprised by the colors the camera was able to capture given that the weather was very gray. Thanks Roberta. 🙂

    • Thanks Martina. Unlike the rest of the flock that flew away, this particular duck was very cooperative. It was great being able to get the details.

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