The Art of a Diving Duck by Todd Henson

The Art of a Diving Duck

When I photograph nature I’m often trying to capture interesting views of different species to share my love of nature and wildlife. But sometimes something more artistic can come out of my explorations. I’ll notice something beautiful, or something I think has the potential to become beautiful. And I begin exploring this, trying to find whatever it was that sparked my interest.

Diving Below the Glowing Surface

The 3 photographs in this post came out of one of these explorations. I had been photographing a Long-tailed Duck, a somewhat unusual species in Northern Virginia. It was very indifferent to human presence so I was able to spend a lot of time watching its behavior, and it was often close enough to fill the frame without need of cropping.

Across the Water

As I watched I kept noticing the patterns formed when the duck dove below the surface of the lake. Its long tail helped add an interesting element, either forming a fascinating pattern, or flicking droplets of water in fantastic patterns. I began watching specifically for the moments it dove, trying to capture as many variations of this as I could.

I think these 3 images best express what I was seeing and feeling as I watched this unusual duck repeatedly diving for food. I’m sure it was as indifferent to my excitement at the beautiful patterns it was creating as it was to my presence. But I’m very happy to have shared these moments with this duck, and thankful for the opportunities it gave me to explore my creative side.

All of these photographs are available for purchase through my online store, run by Fine Art America / Pixels.

Fine Art Prints by Todd Henson

Fine Art Prints by Todd Henson

Fine Art Prints by Todd Henson

Reflecting on a Long-tailed Duck by Todd Henson

Reflecting on a Long-tailed Duck #1

Reflections can sometimes add a really nice element to a photograph. In the case of these two photographs the reflections are of the Long-tailed Duck I was fortunate to photograph during early April 2019 on Lake Gardiner at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia.

I spent the entire day observing and photographing this male sea duck, who strayed a bit further south than usual during its migration. It spent a lot of time below the surface of the water feeding on the bottom of the lake. Each time it surfaced I was ready to create more photographs if it happened to be against an interesting background or if it performed an interesting behavior. In the case of these photographs I really enjoyed how the surface of the water, though still rippling, showed the reflection of the duck. I also liked the patterns the water was making.

Reflecting on a Long-tailed Duck #2

Click on the photos and look very closely between the duck’s eyes. You may see some small streaks of green from the aquatic plant life the duck was bringing up from below.

Do you like these photographs? If so, consider purchasing one from my online store. Reflecting on a Long-tailed Duck No. 1 and 2 are available as wall art or on a variety of products, such as greeting cards, tote bags and throw pillows.

Art Prints

Purchase Fine Art Prints by Todd Henson

Reflections in the Wetlands by Todd Henson

Reflections in the Wetlands. Click on the image for a larger view.

When I visit wetlands parks I am most often looking for wildlife to photograph. But these sorts of locations can provide much more subject matter than wildlife alone.

The photograph above does, in fact, contain wildlife. If you look closely there is a Great Blue Heron near the center of the far shore. And a number of ducks are hidden in various locations. But I don’t consider the wildlife the subject of the photograph. For me, the photograph is all about the reflections and the patterns they create.

I was photographing several species of duck far closer to my location, using my 200-400mm lens. As I looked around the wetlands I noticed the beautiful pattern in the reflections along the far shore. This was mid-March in Virginia and all the trees were bare, a little too early to begin growing leaves. So the reflections formed fascinating lines and patterns, lighter where the sun shone on a tree trunk, darker on the shaded side and between the trees. There was a small amount of movement to the water that added a slight shimmer further from shore.

I turned my camera towards the far shore and looked for a focal length that would capture what I was seeing. This particular photograph ended up at 280mm. I framed the image to focus mostly on the reflections but also capture some of the trees being reflected. I did intentionally include the Great Blue Heron. I figured it was a nice addition, though it is standing behind a pole in the water.

I thought about creating a symmetrical composition, including the same amount of each island on either side of the image. But instead I opted for a bit less symmetry, showing the entirely of the island on the right and giving the heron more room since it was facing in that direction.

This image was created at a fast shutter speed (1/1250 sec) because that’s what I’d been using with the ducks. I would have been curious to create versions of this image with slower shutter speeds, perhaps several seconds or more, to smooth out the water and possibly create more clear reflections. I don’t know if I would have preferred that version, but would like to have seen them both. However, slower shutter speeds are not as easy with the longer lens. If I’d had a 70-200mm with me I could have used that along with a neutral density filter, if needed, to slow the shutter speed down. Perhaps next time.

Next time you find yourself in a wetlands park take a look at the wetlands, itself. Are there any interesting compositions, any reflections, patterns, or colors that could make a nice image? Let me know what you find in the comments below.