Year End Countdown # 4 — 28 Cranes
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I took tonight’s photo just last week and immediately vaulted it to the head of the class. It is, perhaps, my all-time favorite bird in flight photo.
Sandhill Cranes are a migratory species that winter in various venues in the southwestern United States. This includes the nearly flat inter-mountain prairies in the southeastern corner of Arizona. In some years these visitors congregate in gigantic flocks of tens of thousands of birds. They are impressive, particularly when they are in the air, and even more so when they fly in large numbers. They are among the largest birds in North America. A big flock of them can literally darken the sky when it passes overhead and the dramatic effect is augmented by the birds’ constant calling, which consists of a sustained high-pitched bugling sound. When a few dozen of them call at once the effect is pretty amazing.
One morning last week Louisa and I drove out to see these birds. We watched wave after wave of them flying in. I took a couple hundred photographs of the cranes in flight. Nearly all of them were mediocre images. But, this one image captivated me immediately. I was extremely fortunate to capture a formation of cranes, stretched out in a horizontal line. What really makes this image for me is not only the fact that I’ve captured all 28 birds in this flock in various flight poses but that the birds are almost perfectly situated between two layers of clouds. To me it looks almost as if these cranes were flying in a designated lane. I also like the harmonious colors in this image. It seems to me as if all of the blues and grays work together, but there are also these neat contrasting brilliant red accents on the cranes’ heads.
Capturing this image was sheer good luck. When the birds come racing by one really doesn’t have time to compose a shot. You just point your camera into the midst of the flock and fire off bursts, hoping for that one good image. And, one good one is all that I got.
Image made with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO, aperture preferred setting, ISO 500, f4.5 @ 1/5000.