Watching Sandhill Cranes taking flight just after dawn at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge has to rate as one of the great photographic moments of my time on the planet. It always gets to me. There is a posture that the crane takes as it is deciding to leave. The bird on the left has it. They lean forward and point to the horizon, holding that pose sometimes for a minute or more, and then slowly at first, step along the line of their attention, then faster, then faster, and then a hop and a flap of those great wings and they are airborne. Most often the intent is transmitted to at least a few birds around and a whole group comes up and wings away in a line. This shot catches just such a moment, though the bird in the background is away, while the bird on the left is still thinking about it, and the bird on the right is just beginning to wonder about it.
Sony HX400V in Sports Mode. 1/640th @ ISO 1000 @ f6.3. 1200mm equivalent field of view. Processed in Lightroom on my Windows tablet.
While watching the Snow Geese rise in a full blown panic, I could not help but notice the “mini-panic” in the large flock of Starlings feeding in the foreground. It looked like a curtain of living birds.
Sony HX400V in Sports Mode. 1200mm equivalent field of view. 1/640th @ ISO 200 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Windows tablet.
This is this year’s mandatory Snow Geese panic shot from Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge and the Festival of the Cranes. Appropriately it was our last afternoon tour of the loop around the refuge. In the morning I had filmed the best panic I have seen at Bosque ever…but I did not get any stills, so I was really hoping for this shot in the afternoon. (video at Snow Storm.)
Sony HX400V in Sports Mode. 1/250th @ ISO 160 @ f6.3. 1200mm equivalent field of view. Processed in Lightroom.
Yesterday promised to provide one of those amazing Bosque del Apache sunsets…there were just enough clouds along the horizon to light up as the sun sank behind the mountains. We set up at the ponds along Route 1 to watch the Sandhill Cranes fly in for the night, and to wait for the sky. Bosque performed as expected. This is a classic Bosque del Apache shot, with the Cranes framed against the flaming sky. There were probably 100 other photographers lined up along the dyke by the ponds trying for this, or a very similar, shot. And that was just yesterday. Hundreds of thousands of images of Sandhill Cranes against the sunset have been taken at Bosque over the years. I have taken quite a few myself Still, that does not keep me from trying again every chance I get. There is a beauty and a wonder that persists…that is just as intense the 100th time you experience it as was the first. A beauty and a wonder so rich and rewarding that you are compelled to try to capture and share it every time. Or at least I am. Moments like these put us in touch with both who we really are, and, as I see it, with the loving creator of all that is (including us). They are bridge moments…open window moments…moments of profound connection with all that is and to the meaning…the message being written…the life being lived. Beauty, wonder, and meaning written large and bold in Cranes against the sunset at Bosque del Apache. Happy Sunday!
Sony HX400V in Sports Mode. Processed in Lightroom.
The sun was fully on the newly flooded fields by Willow Deck at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge by the time we got there yesterday. We had been slowed down by a great gyre of Snow Geese settling on the ponds along Route 1 and, what with the Cranes rising as the sun hit the water, we were that late getting to Willow Deck. And that was okay. They had pumped considerably more water into the fields there overnight and there were hundreds of Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes and thousands of puddle ducks…mostly Pintail and Mallard. I was thinking it would be really nice if the puddle ducks rose in that lovely light, and I walked down the road toward a cluster of them close in. I had my camera already up and was scanning the clot of ducks when, in fact, right on schedule, they rose Glory!
Sony HX400V in Sports Mode at 1200mm equivalent field of view. ISO 160 @ 1/640th @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Lenovo Miix 2 Windows tablet.
Sometimes you are just gifted with birds. My friend and I stopped to photograph Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes in a field of alfalfa at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge yesterday morning, and as we worked, it became apparent that there were two small birds foraging in the reedy brush beside us, about 12 feet way. Eventually both birds worked their way more less into sight. Though the Bewick’s Wren never did show well, this Song Sparrow came out and gave us amazing looks and amazing photo ops. Just a gift.
Sony HX400V at 2400mm equivalent field of view. (1200mm optical plus 2x Clear Image Zoom). Shutter preferred. 1/640th @ ISO 160 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Lenovo Miix 2 Windows tablet.
One of the great things about being a photographer is that looking for things to put a frame around makes you pay attention to the details of action, form, texture, lighting that otherwise too often just become a blur of experience. Of course, as you get good at photography (or at least better at photography) you also begin to be able to share some of what you observe about action, form, texture, and light…to share little framed snippets of the life as you experience it. Like these two Snow Geese, coming in for a landing in close formation at Bosque del Apache NWR in Socorro NM. Such grace.
Sony HX400V in Sports Mode. 1200mm equivalent field of view. 1/1600th @ ISO 160 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Lenovo Miix 2 Window tablet.
When you manage the landscape for birds, of course manage the landscape for all kinds of wildlife. At Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge they manage for the Snow Geese and Cranes, but the refuge is also home to a sizable herd of elk, coyote, mountain lion, and lots and lots of Mule Deer. The Mule Deer is the counterpart to our Eastern White-tailed Deer, and is in all ways similar except one. Mule Deer are relativity easy to see in their habitat. White-tailed Deer, in most places, are very elusive. This young deer was a cross a dyke from the tour road, and even given that it feels safe on the refuge where hunting is at least predictable, it was still remarkably unconcerned with our presence in our cars just a stones-throw away.
Sony HX400V. 1200mm equivalent field of view. Shutter preferred. 1/640th @ ISO 160 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Lenovo Miix 2 Windows tablet.
I could not resist taking a few images with my Samsung Galaxy S4 out the window of our airplane as we cruised 30,000 feet above the unusual snowy landscape of Mid-America. The snow covered the country on our path from DC to Pheonix essentially from the Appalachians to the Rockies, making for a unique view. Besides the snow on the ground, it was a particularly clear day. There were a few clouds close to the ground, but I had a pretty much unobstructed view. Too compelling to resist!
The images were auto-uploaded to my Google+ account and then downloaded to my Window tablet for processing in Lightroom and assembly in Phototastic.
Just a quick post this am as I am on my way to New Mexico and the Festival of the Cranes. This is from the back yard on Saturday.
Sony HX400V at 2400mm equivalent field of view. Processed in Lightroom.