Every time I had to test a new piece of photographic equipment, I found myself heading to the local duck pond. Thankfully, this made me realize the subject matter found there deserved much greater attention than simply being a testing ground. I found myself making early morning trips to get the best light. The location that once was reserved for testing became a favorite place for serious photography.
The first step in becoming a better photographer of any subject is getting to know it. This is where a bit of research comes into play. With regards to my local duck pond, this meant finding out what species frequent it during specific seasons. Some species winter there and can be found year round while others are found only at certain times of the year. Some migrate and their stay doesn’t last long. Research specie-specific behavior, seasonal plumage, birthing time, etc.
As with most birds, the males of water fowl are more colorful than the female. For this reason, the males are sought after as they yield more vividly colored images. Get to learn the differences of the males and females of each species to be able to identify your subjects. There are many guide books that help with identification.
My favorite time to photograph water fowl is in the late winter and early spring as their plumage is at its peak. Sunrise is the best time of day as the air is usually still allowing the water to act like a mirror creating beautiful reflections of your subjects. Combined with a clear blue sky, the color of the water is magnificent.