The other night my wife saw this uncommon looking duck at Belmont Lake State Park. She asked me to try to get a "record shot" to help her identify it. I took some quick record shots, but it was far away and not very photogenic from my point of view. Nevertheless, I kept watching it through the viewfinder, and luckily, the duck started to get closer. Now my thoughts switched to "ok, how can I make this look good". The sun had just about set, so there was not much light. I rarely use ISO 1600 on my Canon 40D, but I figured now would be the right time. I pulled the 580 EXII flash out of my bag and dialed it down to -1 in ETTL (II) mode. This would be just enough for a little fill without overflashing the scene. I was using a Canon 400mm at f5.6 mounted on a tripod. As it did last week, the flash performed miraculously, and I shot many RAW files in high speed burst mode. I got the shot I was looking for when the duck swam in an area where it's reflection was clearly visible in the dark, still water.
When I got home and processed the image, it was a bit "noisy" due to the ISO 1600. Yet, the noise was brought well under control with the Neat Image noise reduction plug in for Photoshop. It's not the first time this software has helped me clean up a noisy image.
The next challenge was figuring out what kind of duck it was. In our bird books, the closest we got was "The Ruddy Shelduck" I posted the image on my camera club forum at Photo Migrations. Someone commented that it looked like a Paradise Shelduck. This was helpful, as my web research on the Paradise, led me to what I now believe is actually the "Cape Duck", also known as the "South African Shelduck". It is very unusual for this bird to be on Long Island. My wife is discussing this image with an ornithology expert at her University. It's a good thing I got that "record shot" after all.