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.