Mallard Ducklings

Nothing like getting out and doing some early morning photography.  And when there are 3 ducklings at the local pond ready to pose, well, that makes for a great morning.  Actually there were many more than 3, but these 3 guys along with the hen, seemed particularly interested in being the morning’s photo subjects.

With this first frame you do have to look closely to see all 3, they do kind of blend together.  One of the reasons I liked this frame.  A little unconventional, but all in good fun.  With a setup like this you have to be ready to click that shutter, a lot.  Baby ducklings are constantly in motion, and they move surprisingly fast.  It’s a constant challenge to get the focal length, aperture and shutter speed in balance.  The two close up shots were done at f/6.3, ISO 250 and shutter speeds between 500-800.  That’s a reasonable combination given my equipment and the Sigma 70-200 with tele-converter.  When it comes to gear, I can’t stress how many times that tele-converter has allowed to get that just slightly better shot.  There must be some ‘Equipment Peversity” law that states some relatively cheap piece of kit will be what makes an average shot into a better shot.  I see this all the time.  Whether it’s the tele-converter, or just the right neutral density filter, or a special tripod head, there’s often that one little thing that really helps out.

Mallard Ducklings

There are some tricks to shooting baby ducks, mostly common sense, but things to put on the checklist before you start your excursion.  First of course is to have enough glass.  A 70-200mm is a good start.  This is one case where a f/4 will most likely do the job, no real need for the extra weight of the f/2.8  I only own one 70-200 and it’s a f/2.8, but in a situation like this I would rarely go below f/4.   Another point is that there are usually plenty of subjects at local ponds.  these shots were done in a business park just a few miles from my home.  The advantage is these ducks are already somewhat habituated to humans.  You should still move slow, and move as little as possible to insure they don’t see you as a threat.  I always take along some plastic so I can lay down on the grass and get the low angle shots.  Another of those cheap items that makes a world of difference in the early morning when everything is wet.  I also take a bean bag, the kind rifle shooters use.  It provides a cheap and flexible way to stabilize that long lens just a few inches above the grass.   And last, I take some duck food from the local pet store.  Chasing ducks around a pond might be fun for some, but I’m happy to have them come to me.  The babies don’t eat that stuff, but the momma hen does, and where she goes, the ducklings follow.


Mallard Family

To finish off the morning I’ll share this family portrait with you.  It captures a bit of the serene atmosphere.  What a great way to spend a weekend morning.

Factoid Fun
Mallards are “dabbling ducks”—they feed in the water by tipping forward and grazing on underwater plants. They almost never dive. They can be very tame ducks especially in city ponds, and often group together with other Mallards and other species of dabbling ducks.


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Mallard Ducklings