sea duck

Elegance of a Long-tailed Duck by Todd Henson

Elegance of a Long-tailed Duck

In early April of 2019 I had the immense pleasure of spending an entire day photographing a Long-tailed Duck that had departed from its typical migratory route to spend its days diving for food in a small lake in Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, located in Northern Virginia. I’ve written about this duck previously in On a Golden Pond, Reflecting on a Long-tailed Duck, and The Art of a Diving Duck.

Today’s image does a great job showing off the duck’s namesake long tail. I really like the pose the duck gave me, how it turned its head just slightly, looking my way, as if it were a professional model posing for the camera. Very elegant, I thought. And the water droplets show it had just recently been underwater, and was just briefly pausing up top before diving below again. Can’t get much better than that.

This photograph was created just before 5 PM with the sun behind me and having just drifted below the trees in the background. This helped provide a nice soft light on the lake and the duck. I wasn’t directly at water level, but I did have the camera and tripod down low, to photograph the bird as close to its eye level as possible. This helps us better connect with the subject and often looks much better than standing up tall and looking down at something. Give this technique a try some time. Get down to your subject’s eye level and create photographs from their perspective. See what you think of the results.

If you like this photograph please consider stopping by the shop. In addition to wall art, you can purchase greeting cards, throw pillows, and a number of other products for around the house or as gifts.


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.

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On a Golden Pond by Todd Henson

On a Golden Pond - A male Long-tailed Duck in Northern Virginia on April 6, 2019.

What type of duck is that?” I thought as we watched this beautiful duck repeatedly diving below the surface of Lake Gardiner at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia. I had never seen anything like it in the area. It had very distinctive coloration around its head, and it had a very long tail.

I didn’t have my long lens with me, but I did the best I could to capture photographs that would be good enough to identify the duck from field guides. On the way home I was able to identify it. We had seen a Long-tailed Duck, which is a sea duck, on a small lake in Northern Virginia. This was very unusual. I’d have to come back on the weekend with my longer lens and see if it was still there.

Thankfully, when I returned on Saturday the Long-tailed Duck was still at the park, and still diving in the same small lake. I spent almost the entire day circling the lake, watching and photographing this lone duck. Others had heard of it, drawing a small crowd at various times around the lake. But the people never seemed to bother the duck. It swam around the lake in circles, sometimes getting fairly close to the shore, always diving to the bottom, sometimes coming up with green plants hanging from its bill.

This particular photograph was created later in the afternoon, when the sun provided a nice glow to the duck, and reflections of a blooming tree on the opposite shore turned the water a beautiful golden color. I’d been watching this stretch of water, waiting and hoping the duck would swim through. Not only did it swim through the golden water, but it turned its gaze towards me, allowing me to capture this wonderful moment of a rare Long-tailed Duck spending a little time in a small lake outside its normal range, making at least one local birder and photographer very happy.

If you like this photograph you can purchase it at my online store. On a Golden Pond is available as wall art and on a variety of products.

Fine Art Prints by Todd Henson