Hey All, I'm a newbie here, and was hoping for some critique. I'm finding myself enjoying nature photography quite a bit, so thought this may be the right place. I spent some time with ducks yesterday...
The second one is the best by far in terms of lightling and detail.
The first shot is a little dark on the duck which is a shame as it's a great action shot otherwise. It looks like your cameras metering has been fooled into exposing the background rather than the duck.
The third one is a nice composition but it feels a little empty to me. You could try cropping the image much closer to the duck so it fills the frame more. This would also get rid of some of the clipped reflection in the water.
This is a great time of year to photograph ducks - on bright days, autumn colours reflected on the water create a superb backdrop for the birds.
I agree with the comments from Andy and Chris. The middle shot is technically the best. The bird is 'static', but at least you've got the shot.
In the first photo, you've captured some action, which always adds interest. There's obviously the problem with the slight underexposure, but there are a couple of composition problems. I find the cropped female mallard at the bottom of the frame and the other two birds in the background distracting. Also, the shot isn't straight, and with photos taken by a pond such as this, it can give the impression that the water's flowing out of the frame!
The bottom shot has potential as well. I would have liked to have seen the cropping a bit tighter on the bird - this might be the limit of your lens though - and a vertical format would probably help here. As Chris indicates, the 'hot' overexposed water in the foregroud is a distraction.
You're on the right track though and you've picked a subject here that you can easily return to to improve your technique. I'd suggest finding the best background first - something colourful or a different tone to the bird that'll make it really stand out - but do consider an area that's not too bright or dark, so you can concentrate on composition rather than worrying too much about exposure. Arm yourself with some duck grub, and you can easily encourage the birds to the area you want to photograph them in.
If you're shooting with a digital SLR, use a tripod to stay focused on the photogenic area you've pinpointed. Try and shoot with both eyes open as well - your 'free' eye will allow you to spot any other birds that are about to skim into the frame and potentially take attention away from your main subject.
I agree with Marcus and the others. The one thing I would mention about the 2nd shot is that the duck is to central in the frame, you need more space on the left or less on the right. With birds you almost always need to leave room for the bird to look, swim or fly into.
Some bloody good advice on here WK... At the risk of repeating what's been said, number 2 is deffo the best - Tighter and better exposed.
All three have the individual components to make an award winning image if they were married together - Action, composition and animal behavior. It's the Holy Grail all nature photographers seek! Great start to your portfolio, keep up the good stuff and show us some more from another shoot!