John's Journal...

Taking Great Waterfowl Pictures and Viewing Wildlife in their Habitat with Jeff Coats

Learn to take Great Waterfowl Photos

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Jeff Coats of Bel Air, Maryland, is a fantastic waterfowl hunter who guides hunters to sea ducks on the eastern shore of Maryland. But he also is an even-better waterfowl photographer. Here are some tips from Coats on how to take great waterfowl pictures.Click to enlarge

Question: Jeff, what lens do you recommend for a person who wants to photograph wildlife without having to spend a huge amount of money for a lens?
Coats: Since I shoot Canon equipment, I know that company has a nice 70-300mm zoom lens that’s not very expensive. Other companies may have similar lenses that zoom out to 200mm or 300mm. With a 200mm to 300mm zoom lens, you can get some really-good wildlife photos.

Question: How do you photograph those jump shots on ducks?Click to enlarge
Coats: There are two ways. First, you’ll need to keep the sun at your back. Then when the ducks jump off the water, the sun won’t only light them up, but it also will light the water so you can see the duck’s splashes. You also want the wind at your back. As the Click to enlargeducks come off the water, they’ll fly into the wind. Often getting both the sun and the wind to your back can be difficult. The easiest way to get this shot is to get a friend to get behind the ducks, and when you’re ready to photograph, tell your friend to flush the ducks. If you can’t get the sun directly at your back and still have the wind at your back, then try to get the sun to either the left or the right of you. When the ducks jump into the air, the sun will still light them up. To get really close, in-your-face shots, I use a 600mm lens. Even when I’m using the big lens, I use my binoculars to identify the ducks and look for the spots where I want to take their pictures. Then I can use my spotting scope or binoculars to choose the duck I want to photograph. With a 600mm lens, the closer I can get to the ducks, the more in-your-face photography I can shoot.

To contact Jeff Coats about his photography, write to 1522 Southview Road, Bel Air, MD 21015, or call (410) 937-4034, or email, or visit or

Tomorrow: How to Set Up for Wildlife Pictures

Check back each day this week for more about "Taking Great Waterfowl Pictures and Viewing Wildlife in their Habitat with Jeff Coats" "

Day 1: Learn to take Great Waterfowl Photos
Day 2: How to Set Up for Wildlife Pictures
Day 3: Taking Unique Shots
Day 4: The Exotic Sika Deer of Maryland
Day 5: Protect the Wild Horses


Entry 446, Day 1