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Photograph Waterfowl | Location

This blog article is part of a series about photographing water birds. In this article I’ll talk about advantages and disadvantages of different locations. The location plays an important role in every form of photography. Unlike for example in landscape photography, for bird photography the location is only a secondary factor. But what is the difference between a pochard in a harbour basin and a pochard in a nature reserve? Which one can I photograph better? Which one will give me the better photos? There is no clear answer to these questions. It all depends on the image you're after. Both locations have certain advantages, that you can use for your idea. On the other hand, both locations also have disadvantages that can severely restrict you.

1/640 | f/ 7.1 | ISO 250 | 600mm

Photograph waterbirds in the Harbour

Especially in winter, ducks are often seen in the harbour. Protected from wind and waves, they often stay there until they fly back to their breeding grounds. During these months, even the otherwise very shy ducks, like z. B. Pochard, Tufted Duck and red-crested Pochard slowly approaching the presence of man. I even observed that a group of goosanders were interested in the people who wanted to feed the mallards. As a photographer you can take advantage of this. But especially passers-by with dogs can make life difficult again. Taking pictures in the harbour area is especially on sunny Sundays not recommended.

If you are particularly lucky, you’ll find ducks who have no fear at all. For example, I was able to photograph a male pochard again and again last year. While I started off with my normal telephoto lens, I started to use shorter lenses. For some Pictures, I only used a 105mm macro-lens.

1/320 | f/ 5.6 | ISO 2200 | 400mm

1/400 | f/ 6.3 | ISO 560 | 600mm

With greater distances, photography in the harbour becomes difficult. The background ends up less blurry, and distracting structures can be seen in the background. Unfortunately, this can hardly be prevented, and you can only hope that the bird will swim towards you. But even with tamer ducks like these, this won’t happen often.

This female pochard duck and its four young ones were searching for food in a small boat harbour. The family was so close that the harbour wall in the background became blurred. If the female was further away, you could see structures in the background. These structures would distract from the bird. With a blurred background the whole focus of the viewers eye is on the bird.

Photograph waterbirds at nature reserves

In nature reserves or at natural lakeshores, there is no longer a problem with an unattractive background. Instead it is generally more difficult to get the water birds in front of the lens. It is also more difficult to get to the shore at all. Especially in nature reserves this is often prohibited. As you should respect the conservation regulations you can only look for other areas. This search can turn out to be quite difficult and I am still searching for my ideal area to photograph water birds. One of the best areas I have found so far is the Klingnauer Stausee in Aargau. Besides many diving ducks that spend the winter there, there is also great variety of diving ducks. I like this area because it’s relatively easy to reach the shore and it is possible to position your camera very close above the water. A low camera position can often be a deciding factor if a picture works or not. However, because the ducks have less contact with people, they are often much more shy. To photograph these ducks, you need a lot of patience and good luck. Depending on the location, a hide on the shore or even a floating hide can help to get closer to the ducks. But once the ducks have gotten used to you, the location allows more artistic freedom than if you would photograph the duck in a harbour.

1/80 | f/ 6.0 | ISO 450 | 360mm

Find out more about how to photograph water birds

Photograph Waterbirds | Introduction

Introduction to the topic of waterfowl photography. Tips and tricks how to get ducks and co. in front of the lens.


Why photographing waterbirds at eye level often works out the best and what effect a low camera position has on the image.

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Nicolas Stettler

Weyernweg 27

2560 Nidau

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