Northern Shovelers — Beautiful Light!

March 31, 2018

A pair of northern shovelers just about to hit the deck this morning at a wetland in Franklin County.

Yesterday, Mr. Weatherman suggested that we should have partly cloudy conditions this morning before the next front moves in. I decided to take a chance at some waterfowling, not because I trust the weatherman so much but because “partly cloudy” is the best light under which to photograph waterfowl and other critters. Cloudy conditions result in drab colors, and clear skies cause all kinds of problems with dynamic contrast, including blown whites, dark shadows and harsh images. Well, kudos to the weatherman because that window of perfect photography weather unfolded just like he predicted and I enjoyed at least two hours of prime shooting light.

I probably would have been asking too much for the ducks to have been cooperative under such beautiful skies just after daybreak, but as you can see from the featured image, a couple of northern shovelers, a mature drake and a younger drake, gave me a chance to exercise my shutter before the clouds rolled in. Typically, northern shovelers are one of the hardest ducks to photograph well due to their highly contrasting bright and dark colors.  That wasn’t the case this morning under the sweet, soft light.

The featured image demonstrates the narrow depth of field when using a super-telephoto lens, in this case, 700 mm. Although the ducks are within inches of being in the same plane of focus, the rear bird was just out of the ever-so-thin focus plane. In the next image, the two shovelers are in the same plane of focus and both are critically sharp. I still like the featured image better.

Northern shovelers on final approach.

The final image is of the mature shoveler alone. They are such beautiful, if not awkward looking, ducks with their huge shovel bills. When photographed in the soft light, they are as impressive of a waterfowl species as you will find.

A closer look at the lead shoveler.

After I made these images, the clouds rolled in, just as predicted. It was just beginning to rain when I packed up my gear and began slogging across the wetland back to the 4Runner. As if I had not already had a wonderful start to the day, I jumped a bittern and watched it land almost right where I had been sitting. Good times!

Thanks for looking,


Email me at:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Gallery of Images:

America is beautiful. I vote to keep it that way.


9 comments on “Northern Shovelers — Beautiful Light!”

  1. Ah…once in a while, a bird that I see here in south India, too. And a bird photography 101 thrown in, too. I agree with the problems the Shovellers pose, but wish I could solve them as elegantly as you have!

  2. Great images, great story. Thank you!

  3. Enjoyed the read Danny and the tips are as always, spot on. Great images.

  4. Beautiful shovelers.

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