For me, Canvasbacks have always been elusive. They are not common in southern North Carolina. To see them, I usually had to travel to Lake Mattamuskeet or Pamlico Sound. Even there, I'd catch a glimpse of them in the distance as they sat in large rafts on big, open water or racing across the sky at the edge of the horizon. Never was I close enough to see the red eye of the drakes or to appreciate the unique shape and large size of their bill.
Canvasbacks depicted in art are usually shown making their final pass at decoys, often catching an unwary duck hunter off guard, with rough water and the nastiest weather of waterfowling tradition. The art harkens back to a time when cans were the prized duck for hunters and for the table.
So when I found canvasbacks in a calm, sheltered cove off Chesapeake Bay, I immediately grabbed my camera. Instead of framing and pressing the shutter, I sat and watched them for the longest time. I admired the unique bill, the deep red-rust color of the drake's head, black chest, and contrast with their silvery back and sides. They were calm and stoic, a sharp contrast to the sporting art, and the color of their back feathers was so uniform that it resembled fabric. And those red, red eyes hardly seemed real.
I did indeed get around to the photography and enjoyed every minute of my time with cans.