Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Whole lotta spashing going on

with 22 comments

On February 3rd we visited McKinney Falls State Park for the first time in more than a year. At one point as we walked along Onion Creek I startled some ducks and they quickly took off. I raised my camera, which fortunately had a long lens on it, and without time to adjust any settings I somehow managed to get this one picture with the ducks’ heads in focus. The wings, especially at their tips, were moving too fast to keep from blurring, even at the 1/500 of a second shutter speed the camera had been set to.

UPDATE: See the comment below from Circadianreflections regarding what species these birds are.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 19, 2021 at 4:37 AM

22 Responses

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  1. I know well that feeling of seeing some interesting action you’d not been actively looking for so you don’t have the camera set for it but do your best anyway hoping you’ll get something. I almost find that a little more thrilling than when I’m out specifically set up and looking for action, perhaps because of the element of chance.

    Todd Henson

    February 19, 2021 at 5:27 AM

    • It’s a good test of how well our reflexes are working. In this case they came through for me. I reflexively got off another shot almost immediately but by then the birds had flown closer and were out of focus.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 19, 2021 at 6:41 AM

  2. The best wildlife photographs are often a combination of preparedness and luck, evidenced by the difficulty of duplicating a photograph for a second time. So many things have to come together to get a shot like the one of your ducks…it’s truly an amazing shot. I love it!


    February 19, 2021 at 7:24 AM

    • Thanks. You’re well aware of all the contingencies that go into making an action photograph, not the least of which was luck in this case. We show our successes and bury our failures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 19, 2021 at 8:02 AM

  3. How fun that you were quick, and got this image in focus. I wonder if they’re not Blue-winged Teals? The marking on the face makes me think so. Those are a real treat to see here as I do not see them often.


    February 19, 2021 at 7:29 AM

    • Just before I read your comment I began to wonder if these were regular old ducks (I know next-to-nothing about birds). The white crescent on the head of the two birds at the left does seem to match up with the one in a picture of a breeding blue-winged teal, Anas (or Spatula) discors, that I just found on the Cornell site, and the range map shows the species in central Texas year-round. Thanks for your prompt.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 19, 2021 at 8:21 AM

      • You’re welcome! Hopefully someone will give us a confirmed ID on them.


        February 19, 2021 at 9:06 AM

        • They are blue-winged teal. They show up fairly regularly at the refuges, and they’re often found in mixed flocks with other species. I don’t have a good photo of them, but I do have an image of a pair. Apart from the fun of seeing the birds in flight, I like the contrasting water color of their splashy take-off.


          February 21, 2021 at 9:22 AM

          • Thanks for verifying my thoughts on their ID!
            Your images is lovely!


            February 21, 2021 at 10:27 AM

            • You’ve gotten two confirmations now, so thanks for setting me straight. If you ever have any trigonometric doubts, I’ll do my best to reciprocate.

              Steve Schwartzman

              February 21, 2021 at 11:08 AM

          • I sent the picture to bird expert Shannon yesterday and she also confirmed the species as blue-winged teal. Gary (below) took off on the splish-splash theme.

            Steve Schwartzman

            February 21, 2021 at 11:07 AM

  4. Great shot, Steve! A little blur from the rapidly moving wings enhances the impression of movement. How do you cope with the devastating effects that the winter storm created in Texas? I hope it was not too bad where you live, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    February 19, 2021 at 7:56 AM

    • I made the best of the wing movements and took them in the way you said, as conveying a sense of movement.

      In tomorrow’s post I’ll provide details of the ordeal we went through this past week, and which has eased but isn’t over yet.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 19, 2021 at 8:29 AM

  5. They look like feathered planes taxiing across the water for takeoff. Airborne!

    Lavinia Ross

    February 19, 2021 at 8:13 AM

    • I wonder what the fare would have been for me to get a ride from them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 19, 2021 at 8:30 AM

      • That would have been interesting to see! A duck-powered Santa’s sleigh ferrying Steve up and away for some aerial photographs! You’re having the weather for it. 🙂

        Lavinia Ross

        February 20, 2021 at 7:54 AM

        • I think the closest I’ll come to that is DuckDuckGo, a browser that prioritizes privacy.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 20, 2021 at 8:11 AM

  6. How were you to know there was a party going on?


    February 20, 2021 at 12:46 AM

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