Long-tailed Water Landings

This article shares a selection of photographs of long-tailed duck water landings captured handheld at the Burlington lift bridge. This  species of duck visits our area for a short time in the early winter months. When possible, I try to photograph them a number of times during this time frame.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-6400, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3164 pixels on the width, subject distance 64.9 metres

Photographing long-tailed ducks in-flight is always an interesting experience as they are pretty quick flyers.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1600, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 4243 pixels on the width, subject distance 38.5 metres

When long-tailed ducks attempt water landings they initially drop their feet down to help reduce their air speed and to create drag on the surface of the water.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-2500, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3250 pixels on the width, subject distance 57.5 metres

Then they do a belly flop and skid across the surface of the water head first, often creating very dramatic sprays of water.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-4000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3271 pixels on the width, subject distance 56.3 metres

Depending on their air speed and angle of decent, it is quite common for long-tailed ducks to bounce on the surface of the water. If a fast frame rate is used, it is possible to catch them in mid-bounce, as we can see in the photograph above, and in the five images that follow.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-5000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3703 pixels on the width, subject distance 70.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-5000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 4039 pixels on the width, subject distance 65 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-5000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 4519 pixels on the width, subject distance 67 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-5000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 4495 pixels on the width, subject distance 43.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-5000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3709 pixels on the width, subject distance 68.3 metres

I find that photographing long-tailed ducks doing water landings is more challenging than capturing them in-flight. My eye/hand coordination and shutter release timing need to be more precise. Resulting images of water landings are more rewarding since the photographs are more dramatic than a simple in-flight image.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-4000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2664 pixels on the height, subject distance 37.4 metres

Long-tailed ducks congregate in good sized flocks sometimes measuring several hundred birds, or more. This can create a lot of opportunities to photograph them doing water landings.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-5000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 4590 pixels on the width, subject distance 38.4 metres

It is important to study the birds for a few minutes to identify flight paths, congregation areas, and wind direction. When doing water landings the ducks will often fly head-on into the prevailing wind to help reduce their air speed.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-5000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3970 pixels on the width, subject distance 55.8 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-6400, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 4902 pixels on the width, subject distance 63.3 metres

It is quite common for long-tailed ducks to do water landings in pairs, or small groups. In these instances I try to focus on the duck closest to the focal plane of my camera.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-5000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 4650 pixels on the width, subject distance 47.5 metres

Long-tailed ducks will often do water landings in very close proximity to other ducks. In these situations my goal is to lock continuous auto-focus +tracking (i.e. I use Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking) on an incoming duck when it is still about a half metre  above the surface of the water.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-5000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 4590 pixels on the width, subject distance 37 metres

All of the photographs in this article were captured using an E-M1X with a combination of Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking and Pro Capture L. I shot at 18 frames-per-second using Continuous Auto-Focus +Tracking with silent shutter. I had my Pre-Shutter Frames set to 10, with my Frame Count Limiter turned off.

All of the photographs in this article were captured handheld using a focal length of 560 mm (efov 1120 mm).

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1250, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 4327 pixels on the width, subject distance 63.3 metres

I spent a little over 2 hours on the pier at the Burlington lift bridge to capture all of the photographs in this article. It turned out to be a very productive and enjoyable outing, even though it was cold and overcast. I ended up with far more photographs than I could realistically use. Suffice to say that my computer’s delete key got a really good workout!

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-2000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 4039 pixels on the width, subject distance 41.3 metres

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Crops are indicated. This is the 1,100th article published on this website since its original inception.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-5000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3696 pixels on the width, subject distance 37 metres

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OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-4000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 4710 pixels on the width, subject distance 50.9 metres

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