A Photographer’s Notebook

Manchac Swamp. 1/20th sec @f10, ISO 100, Canon 70-200mm zoom @135mm. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Manchac Swamp. 1/20th sec @f10, ISO 100, Canon 70-200mm zoom @135mm. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

I was out on a boardwalk in the Joyce Wildlife Management Area on the edge of the Manchac Swamp, watching the daylight slowly unfold. In front of me, a massive cypress tree framed the left side of my composition with the open freshwater marsh opening out behind it. In the distance a mist could be seen rising up in front of a murky line of trees in the distance.

The image was ok, but just ok. I was limited by the water around me, and the view afforded by the boardwalk: I couldn’t move 20 yards to the left or right to change the available perspective. But I knew something was missing.

Many times a composition can be improved by a change of lens perspective or a change in your elevation: would this look more interesting from down low, for instance. But in this case I was stuck. But I knew the shot needed another element to work.

Then I saw it. A lone duck, just a silhouette off in the distance, seemed to be barreling straight at me. At the last minute it turned, heading off down one of the other invisible overhead pathways that only the ducks knew about. A few minutes later, another one did the same thing.

So now I was ready. Thinking about the duck and my shutter speed, I made an adjustment to my exposure, wanting to get a bit of blur in those duck wings. Now it was time to wait.

The mosquitoes were bad, warming up as the day started to break. I had forgotten repellant, of course. I started to wonder if any more ducks would come.

Then there they were! Two of them, flying together on the same path. I got off a few shots before they were gone. Over the next 10 minutes, this same thing happened a couple more times.

The image, with the addition of the duck silhouettes, is greatly improved, I think. The highlights on the water at the lower right also help, adding a bit of depth to what would otherwise be a very flat foreground.

The key, of course, was searching for that missing element.

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: How To

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

4 Comments on "A Photographer’s Notebook"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. stew black says:

    I know what you mean about an image sometimes missing something. We are at the mercy of fate sometimes as photographers. It can sometimes be a sudden and brief change of light due to the movement of cloud or as happened to you it can just be something or someone wandering into the shot. I am interested in the decision to go for the motion blur and I think it makes the shot.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Stew. Yes, the motion blur is tricky: too fast a shutter speed and it doesn’t work, too slow and you won’t really see the birds register as birds here.

  3. Karla says:

    It’s pretty frustrating when I’m not fast enough to capture what I consider a near perfect shot of a subject that’s why sometimes I prefer inanimate objects to shoot. But every once in a while I always take a leap with nature and say “what the heck”. At least its worth it even if it’s not perfect.

  4. yoursurprise-bellatio-2 says:

    Hey I am so grateful I found your web site, I really found you by mistake, while I was browsing on Askjeeve for something else, Nonetheless I am here now and would just like to say thank you for a marvelous post and a all round entertaining blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all at the minute but I have saved it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the fantastic work.

Post a Comment