Don’t get in a flap, photograph it instead

This is the second post in a series I’m doing called, How to Improve your bird photos.
This series will provide basic tips on how to improve your bird images.

In this post, we are going to look at how to create images that impact your audience.
There are many ways of adding drama or making dynamic images when it comes to bird photography this short essay is but one of many things you can consider.

Wait for something to happen

Really effective portrait shots of birds, especially of waterfowl can simply feature birds at rest on the water.
A good simple image, taken as close as one can get to the eye level of the bird that the terrain and conditions allow, shows the bird off in all of its splendour.

This is a male pāpango, Black Teal or best known as the New Zealand Scaup at rest and  relaxed


A male kuruwhengi or Australasian shoveler at rest. We have the profile, we have the colour but do we have impact?

Don’t get in a flap, wait for it

When it comes to waterfowl wait for the classic pose known as THE FLAP.
The FLAP is dynamic, it adds drama and often addition colours of the bird not available when the bird is at rest on the water.

Mr pāpango, in a flap


Mrs pāpango, might not have the colour Mr pāpango has, but she can flap with the best of them.


Mr kuruwhengi showing off his flashy wing colours that we would otherwise never see in a resting pose.


This kawau paka or Little Shag, going through its black morph phase can also lay down his moves.


Even Mrs kōtare the Kingfisher gets in a flap every now and again.

How to know its coming.

Water Fowl generally let you know when they are about to flap their wings.
The telltale signs that the flap is on the way is when they duck their heads under the water and extend their necks lengthwise, then lift that neck and head stiffly until up out of the water until upright.
Some say this is how they drink, but that does not explain why the flap nearly always follows immediately after the dunking.
I say its part of the bathing process and nearly always comes at the end of the bathing process.  Doing this weird display allows water to flow down the neck and on to the shoulders and the flap is their way of drying off.
Either way, look for the Ridgid neck and head ducking, you then know the flap is on the way.

With the colours Mr Wood Duck has to show off, flapping your wings is making a real statement.


Mrs Wood Duck might not have the colours Mr Wood Duck has, but what a magnificent chest she has. I suspect this is a power move lol

There you have it, how not to avoid getting into a flap while catching it with your camera sensor at the same time.

6 thoughts on “Don’t get in a flap, photograph it instead

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