There is an old saying that the key to photography is "f/8 and be there".
The first part of this statement, "f/8" refers to the aperture used to take the photo - the aperture is essentially how much light is allowed through the lens to record the image. A way to imagine aperture is to think about your own eye. If you squint you let in less light if you open your eye wide you let in more light - this is aperture.
While the part about aperture is important, the real key to taking photographs is to "be there". It is impossible to take a photograph of something you never see. This is good advice in general, even if you are not interested in photography.
You will never see anything unless you are prepared to see.
So what is the point of all of this discussion of "being there" and "seeing"?
Last week I had one of those opportunities to "see" something that most people probably would pass right by. I was at the the Mt. Pleasant City Hall to drop off some paperwork and noticed a flock of ducks in a small retention pond between the parking lot and the Chippewa River. At first glance most people would probably see a flock of Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) - this is not unusual, Mallards are our most common duck in Mid-Michigan.
However, one of the ducks was different than the others.
That duck in the center of the photograph is an American Black Duck (Anas rubripes). This is not the first time I have photographed a Black Duck in Mt. Pleasant - I also took photos of one in April 2013. American Black Ducks are not currently listed as endangered or threatened, but their numbers are on the decline throughout their range. It is always exciting to me anytime I see one.
Be there (wherever that might be) and be prepared to see. You might be amazed.