Type of images
There is a wide range of image possibilities, from those taken just above water level to throw the foreground and background completely out of focus, to action shots of them flying, taking off and landing. If you are going for the former, invest in an angle viewfinder, to save you craning your neck to see through the camera’s viewfinder.
For flight shots, remember that many birds prefer to take off and land into the wind, so consider your position. The silhouette of tufted ducks is distinctive, with the tuft on the top of their heads, which can look great when shooting into the light early or late in the day. Their bright eyes also stand out fantastically against dark backgrounds. One image I am still trying to get is the perfectly timed diving shot – where the tip of the beak is just touching the water, with a perfect reflection!
I use continuous autofocus (as birds are very rarely stationary for long) and the fastest frame rate. The latter is more important if you’re hoping to photograph them flying or diving. I also use singlespot autofocus to minimise the risk of focusing away from the eye. Their high- contrast plumage can pose problems in exposure, resulting in potential loss of detail in blown- out highlights or dark shadows. By shooting early or late in the day, these problems can be reduced as the light is not as harsh. Given the potential difficulties with exposing for their plumage, you may want to consider using manual exposure if the light is constant. With this method, you can take an exposure reading off a neutral colour, such as grass, then dial it in and adjust as required by checking the histogram to ensure you’re not losing detail.