Posts from the ‘Sandhill Cranes’ Category

Late-season Cranes at Crex Meadows

I hadn’t been out shooting with Ryan for a long time. You know how it is…life gets in the way. So on Friday we headed down to Crex Meadows near Grantsburg, Wisconsin for a little “target practice.” Sandhill Cranes stage here in late autumn to fuel up for their next stage of migration. The cranes feed in area corn fields during the day, but return to roost in the safety of Crex Meadows marshes just before sunset.

When Ryan pointed out the rising moon, I knew what photo I wanted. It’s easy to get cranes flying in front of the moon…The hard part is getting enough depth of field for both to be in focus and yet have enough shutter speed to stop the motion of the flying cranes. So I stopped down to f16 and set the shutter speed to 1/500 and set the ISO to “Auto.” You need a fair amount of light to do this so it must be when the moon is rising before the sun sets but before it gets too high in the sky. Also the cranes need to be not too close and not too far away. It all came together in this shot, though the ISO did have to range up to 1250.

The trip was mainly about just getting out with a buddy…We both have more crane photos than we can count…We’ve been to Crex many times and also spent a glorious five days in New Mexico’s Bosque del Apache, a major wintering area for Lesser Sandhill Cranes (and they are even more tame than these Greaters).

Long story, short, I have some very nice Sandhill Crane portrait shots (sharp, beautiful light, etc) So, with the pressure off, it was time to experiment. And this may be my favorite photo from the entire trip (all 6 hours of it!). I slowed the shutter to 1/15 of a second and panned with the flocks as they came in to roost. I cropped it and converted it to black and white. It is the “essence” of crane flight. I love the abstract flow and motion, and the way you can almost see and feel their wings flapping. We joked with Sridhar, a fellow wildlife photographer from Minneapolis, about our mistakes becoming “fine art” photography…but this one was intentional…I promise!

A line of Greater Sandhill Cranes coming in from the west, flying through a streak of color as the sun set.

Top: Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f/16 at 1/500 second at ISO 1250, tripod
Middle: Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f/32 at 1/15 second at ISO 100, tripod
Bottom: Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens and 1.4x teleconverter; f/8 at 1/200 second at ISO 500, tripod

Found Treasure

I love it when you go back through photos you took a long time ago and find a hidden gem…an image you bypassed in the first round of editing. In this case I was looking for photos of my eldest son when I came upon images from a trip to Crex Meadows with Ryan Marshik in October of last year. Not sure why I dismissed this image at the time, but now it is one of my favorite all time Sandhill Crane photos.

In order for the moon and the cranes to be in focus, the birds had to be a long ways away. This was shot at f8 so there was enough depth of field to keep both sharp. This is NOT a double exposure or computer generated image. Maybe it would be better if the moon was in the upper left and the cranes were in the bottom right….But I don’t know, I kind of like the feeling that the cranes are MOVING…Migrating south…They’ve put the moon behind them and they have a long journey ahead.

Canon 7D, 400mm lens, f8, 1/1000, ISO 400, tripod with Wimberly Sidekick

Crane in the Clouds

The Sandhill Cranes drifted in to their night roost in small flocks of three to a dozen or so. Ryan, Chris and I were shooting with our longest telephotos, isolating single cranes in flight. Then as the light started to fade I switched to a wide angle lens to shoot video, panning as they glided in not far over our heads. An interesting cloud formation had formed so I also took a few images with the camera set to stills. I didn’t think much about the image on the back of my camera, but as often happens, it became a favorite once I viewed it on a larger computer screen. I like the juxtaposition of the crane small and centered in the frame against a symmetrical backdrop of softly lit clouds. The vignette was added in Aperture.

We were at New Mexico’s Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. It is a refuge for thousands of migrating Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese, Ross’s Geese, Northern Pintails, Northern Shovelers and dozens of other species including many birds of prey. There is no shortage of  subjects here! Mammals include Elk, Coyote, Mule Deer, Bobcat. It is a place I would like to return to someday.

Canon 7D, Sigma 10-20mm at 20mm, f8 at 1/350, ISO 250, handheld

Landing Gear Down

Previsualization is important, but the truth is—to quote the Rolling Stones—you don’t always get what you want. On this evening I wanted a nice full frame head-on shot of two to four Sandhill Cranes coming in for a landing, legs lowered, wings out. They would be in beautiful evening light. Didn’t happen. They all landed far out in the marsh.

But when reviewing  the images on my computer I found one photo with five cranes with their landing gear down…Yes, it was a mile away and in terrible light, but I made lemonade out of lemons. By tightly cropping the image and performing some extreme color shifts in Aperture, I created a pleasing (to me) graphic creation. Is it still a photograph? Sure. Is it faithful to what I witnessed that evening in the marsh? Not totally. Do I like it better than the original shown below? Heck, ya!

Canon XTi, Canon 400mm f5.6, f5.6 at 1/1600, ISO 400, Tripod

The original below: