The photo I am sharing with you today has proven itself as one of those pictures. This photo has been affectionately referred to as the “Archangel Duck” and with that in mind, I will share with you how this photo came to be.
As a rule, I spend a portion of my free time de-stressing from the week by going on mini photography safaris around my home here in Western New York. With the Iroquois Wildlife Refuge a stone’s throw away, I can often be found walking a trail or sitting near a pond, in anticipation for what may come in for a visit.
After spending the morning walking through the trails, it had become clear that the weather was not going to cooperate. With gusty winds and some precipitation, wildlife activity had seemed to come to a halt. Frustrated and a little disappointed I ventured to the wetlands of the wildlife refuge in hopes that maybe my luck would change. While moving through this area, I had snapped several scenic photos but still had not seen much in regards to wildlife. The winds had locked down the geese and ducks, and most of them were taking shelter in the reeds, and amongst the cattails that are vast throughout these wetlands. Having made the decision to abandon my efforts for the day, I proceeded to start the long walk back to my truck, and call it quits for the day. Reflecting on the morning, I found myself slightly annoyed because I had spent the morning in the elements, hiking several miles with nothing to show for my efforts other than a few shots of the terrain and a wet backside.
With my truck in sight, I had decided to take one last walk around a small pond that was between my truck and me and this proved to be a wise decision.
Feeding in this small pond were two ducks, and they had not noticed my presence, as I went into hunt mode, and slowly approached for a shot. My angle of approach was concerning. The sun although overcast skies were present was peaking through the breaks in the cloud formations, and one rule of photography is to always avoid shooting into the light. Knowing this, I decided that if I was going to make this happen I would need to break the rules, and prepared the camera. With a rain soaked backside, I made my final approach towards an area of the pond in which the reeds and cattails thinned out enough to offer me the best opportunity for a photo. As soon as I hit the opening, my presence was detected, and the female duck had shot up, and proceeded to fly off. Knowing that I had only a split second before the male followed suit, I quickly raised the camera to my eye, and imediatly the male bounded for the sky. Instincts took over at this point, and the shutter was banging, as the duck made his exit from the pond.
Uncertain of how the images would look, I quickly made the short trip home where I would be able to view them on the computer and determine if any of the shots would be worthy of saving. While viewing this one shot caught my eye, and I proceeded to import the photo into Adobe’s Light Room program for some very light editing. Pleased with the results, the shot was uploaded to Face book where it caught the attention of several of my friends and fans. In addition and most recently, I was asked to donate a copy of this photo to a local cancer research charity for a fund raising event they were hosting. To my surprise, I was informed that the photo raised quite a bit of money and they thanked me for my help. Being able to help and do something like this made the trails of that day all worth it.
Sometimes as a photographer, you will at times have days like this. Waiting for several hours, exposed to the elements, and walking away without one decent shot to show for your efforts. These days I like to refer to as paying your dues. My advice, stick it out and endure, because simply, in the end when you catch a shot like this, the feelings of frustration quickly disappear. Wildlife photography requires patience, stealth, and knowledge of how to break the rules when necessary.
Some tech data regarding the shot:
Nikon camera and lens combination, yes I said Nikon.
Iso 400 at 200mm @ 1/1000 of a sec with an f-stop of f-8
Edited in Adobe Light Room, for exposure control and image crop.
Michael Sargent is a top wildlife outdoor photographer in the eastern United States. See more: