A number of these have also returned to our area and I've found these to be one of the most difficult birds to expose for. The black feathers seem to suck in all the light, and the white feathers seem to reflect it all when shooting the males, so we get either blown highlights or deep featureless shadows.
The two shots of the males I've posted here, I waited until I got some ot the iridescence reflecting back of the black head feathers, and underexposed the shots to not blow out all the whites. The female is somewhat easier to expose for.
Thanks Diane for your kind words and advise. They'll be around for most of the winter in any ice-free waters, so I'll probably get more chances to shoot them. A diffused light would help in toning down the contrast, but you generally you lose the iridescence of the head feathers without some sunlight.
Thanks Al. I had some small flashes of blown highlights. I find using the burning tool (set for highlights) just seems to turn the whites grey without bringing out any more detail. I did process the image again however creating a mask around the white head feathers and really pumped up the highlights adjustment in the shadows/highlight menu. Managed to bring out a little more texture in its head.
John, I hope what I write below helps and doesn't sound too confusing.
As a bird photographer, I enjoy the crop factor that a DX body (like the D300) gives over the FX full frame of a D800/D600. Mind you having 36 megapixels vs 12 megapixels at your disposal would allow you to do significant cropping in post, but ultimately bring to to approx. the same level as the D300 in terms of pixel density. However the dynamic range, especially of the D800, would be able to give you more details in the shadows & highlights of your images. My 600mm Nikkor on the D300 (DX) is the equivalent of having to use a 900mm lens on the D800 (FX) body.
Other reasons I'm holding out for a replacement of the D300 vs the D800 is price. I've recently started to consider my investment in good quality lenses as long term (10 years plus), whereas on bodies more short term (3-5 years). I have an excellent normal zoom range lens in the $1300 range new (in Canada), but it is a DX lens (17 to 55). If I invested in a D800 ($3000), plus a new FX normal zoom (24-70 at $1500) and a battery pack ($390) - that is a big investment for something that will be outdated in 3-4 years. Once again I refer to typical dollars in Canada. The D300 I now have is built like a tank and takes a reasonable amount of abuse without any problems. With the recent intro of the higher megapixel D5200 & D3200, and the big price drops in the D7000, I'm hoping for a new "D400" or equiv to be launched early next year and I'm thinking it will be a better build quality than the D7000 in terms of materials and have a price of between $1800 to $1600 in Canada. Absolutely nothing wrong with a D800 and I'd love to have one, it's a marvellous piece of engineering and capable of some stunning imagery as we've seen posted here and on other forums. However a prosumer level DX body would fill my needs better, and if one is not introduced soon, I may not have a choice as the camera starts to wear.
Hope this answers some questions, please feel free to contact me off line to address any points that need clarification on my end.
Hi Pakku and thank you for stopping by. Sunlight will create this effect on their feathers. From what I've seen a camera such as the D800 would probably handle the dynamic range somewhat better. Hopefully a D400 or D8000 with an improved sensor is not too far fro being launched.
Thanks Preston. If the highlights are blown, it's difficult to bring out any detail. If the shadows are under exposed, you end up with excessive noise. It really is a fine balance using the dynamic range of the D300 sensor with harsh lighting and high contrast.
Thanks Tom. The difference between these ducks and Bald Eagles, the eagles usually have some texture and hence some shadows in their head feathers. The head feathers in the ducks are "very" smooth and virtually have no texture. Reminds me of the breast feathers of a Cedar Waxwing - also a difficult subject to try and pull out some details.
Mon 03-Dec-12 08:08 PM | edited Mon 03-Dec-12 08:08 PM by CK
Really nice set, Richard. Capturing both the deep blacks and vibrant whites must be a tremendous challenge. I think you've done about as well as anyone could. Love the colours in the males' heads, and I especially like the female though -- those water droplets are a great touch! Well done, sir. Take care, CK Nikonian in Ontario, Canada