Tower Grove Park – The Ducks

Tower Grove Park is located in the south city area of St. Louis and is comprised of 289 acres making it the second largest park in St. Louis. (The largest park in St. Louis is Forest Park with 1,293 acres. Central Park, NY is 843 acres.) The Tower Grove Park is in the shape of a long oblong, approximate 1.44 miles on the long sides, and just under 1/3 mile wide. The south end of the Missouri Botanical Garden abuts a small section of the park. Both the garden and the park were made possible by land grants to the city of St. Louis by philanthropist Henry Shaw (1800-1889).

I’ve been to the park many times for Food Truck Friday. On the 2nd Friday of the month from May through October approximately 20 food trucks line up single file on the south road near the west end. This is a shaded area with giant oaks and sycamores. There is a mix of trucks that their only business is the food truck and trucks from local restaurants. People bring their blankets, chairs, kids, dogs, and wine for a nice family event.

In mid-September I went to the park to take photos. A week or so earlier I had discovered an area with a fountain, pool, and pond that I hadn’t noticed before. I was hoping to get some good insect pictures, especially dragonflies or damselflies by the water. Didn’t happen, got ducks.

I have my Nikon D7100 set up with manual shutter speed and manual exposure. I have the ISO set to auto but limited to the 100 – 1600 range. The D7100 has 51 focus points that cover a very large portion of the frame. I don’t use them. I have focus set to a single, center point focus. This is good for landscapes and stationary subject. It is also good for people like me who still have not (despite the manual and a good third party reference book) figured out how to use all that cool stuff. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, I love the D7100 but it’s complicated.

When I arrive at the park the first thing I encounter is the fountain and the pool with ducks. (More on the fountain in a later post.) I had no intention of taking pictures of ducks nor any desire to do so. I’m not a fan of ducks. Nothing against them, they just don’t do anything for me. They were just sitting there in the water or, in some cases, somehow mysteriously gliding along expending no energy nor showing any means for propulsion, similar to the ballerinas with the big wide dress all the way down to the ground gliding across the floor.

I’m thinking, okay, I’m here, I have a camera, get over the ducks thing. So I sit down at the edge of the pool, point my camera at a duck, press the shutter button half way to lock focus and compose. I took the picture and I knew it was no good. I mean the exposure, composition and focus were all ok, but I want more than ok.

So I’m sitting there looking at the ducks when all of a sudden one started swimming fast past me headed for the far side. Before I know it he/she was running across the pool flapping its wings, and then was airborne. Wow that was fast. I then saw another duck start to swim fast so I put my camera up to my eye and started following it snapping pictures. Two other ducks also took off and I got a few pictures of them.

The photos below are a mix of the ducks, not a single one. I’m not positive but I’m pretty sure that what I have here are male and female mallards. I believe the male is the one with the green coloring on the head. I’m still not a fan of duck pictures but at least these were a little more interesting and the were fun to take what with panning to maintain composition and focus.

I will probably give it a try again next year.  If it turns out to be a fun activity, who knows, I may learn how to set the D7100 auto focus for fast moving objects and hopefully get some better pictures.

I believe these first 5 photos are all of the same female mallard.

I think these next 4 photos are all of the same male mallard.

I’m pretty sure this last photo is a different pair of ducks (not to be confused with paradox – something completely different).


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6 thoughts on “Tower Grove Park – The Ducks

  1. Your story of wrestling with your Nikon reminds me of a workshop I took last week. It was a activity led by a photojournalist. Such an exalted leader seemed like overkill for all us amateurs, but our host patiently explained ISO and white balance and shutter speed and aperture, and he did it without frightening any of us away. Can’t wait for his advanced class.

    ps – I love your duck photos. They’re way better than any of mine. But then, I am excited by seeing another squirrel in the ‘hood.


    • Thank you for taking the time to comment and I’m glad you like the ducks. It was a totally new shooting experience for me. Fortunately I learned the basics such as ISO (back then it was ASA), aperture, depth of field, etc. back in the film days when SLRs were much simpler so there was less one had to keep track of when trying to set up and take a picture.


  2. I’m hopeless with bird photos, but these look like pretty good duck shots to me. Regarding the focus point, if your shooting mode dial is set to “M” and if your camera autofocuses when the shutter release button is depressed halfway, then my guess you can use the directional arrows (the circular pad around the “OK” button) to move the focus point around. In my D5000 it lights up red to highlight the active point. I’m guessing they’re generally similar, though of course, that is not always a good guess.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Michael. I’m pretty sure you’re correct about using the dial but I would have to have 11 or all 51 of the focus points displayed. Right now I use just one and pan if there is movement I want to follow. I have a mental block about doing it using it with an array of focus points because I don’t think I’d be fast enough or coordinated enough switch from one focus point to another and I’d miss the shot. Probably what I need to do is practice on some robins around the yard.


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