Many of the sandhill cranes have already up and flown away. Their wild call can still be heard but with a lower decibel. We got the lower lake ready in time to snap some shots before their departure and even scored some good courtship dance shots. They hop into the air and sort of look like they are attacking each other, but really they are dancing and bowing.
I have about two dozen of photos that look similar to this one. I was trying to catch them dancing or squawking with their heads tilted to the sky. I got a few but the low light of the morning was necessitating that I use a high ISO which means either lots of grain OR slow shutter speed and high aperture. Many of them are on the border of spectacular but there is just a little wobble, a mini blur, that knocks them off the pedestal.
I also got a coyote eating a crane (hopefully this doesn’t make anyone queasy). I just missed the actual take down, but saw the tawny blob from way across the field. I snapped a picture and then zoomed way in on the picture to find it was in fact not a piece of trash but a real live mammal. The sun was getting low which meant the only way to get closer was the most direct route. This was risky route because the coyote was likely to see me. I simply decided that there was no other way to get any shot, so I forged ahead trying not to hoist the tripod too high and stopping every so often to redetermine where my subject was hanging out. I made the amatuer mistake of not adjusting my ISO when I there was still a little light from 200 up to 400 or even 800 if it meant clarity. By the time I figured that bit out, the best light was behind me and so I took home some blurry images. One of which is below.
Today marks day 8 of the photo contest. I managed to pull my butt out of bed at 6 am about four days last week which might be a personal best. The thing is that getting out of bed is difficult, but the reward of seeing the sunrise and how the silence of the field gives way to the beginning of the day is really magical. The complete opposite of the zen that I feel at sunrise and sunset is my adventure in frustration today, as I am prepare for a long day at my desktop looking through nearly 2,000 images and photoshopping the best ones. It’s a frustrating process because it is tedious and there are many shots that are identical or nearly identical. I am also reminded of all the shots that could have been but because of focus issues or poor lighting or human error are just total shit. I haven’t even got to the actual photoshopping yet- where I long to see my image pop and bloom with the magic of the digital darkroom but usually I end up of with a grab bag of surprises. On the bright side, my pull includes deer, hogs, cranes, vermillion flycatchers, jays, ducks, cattle, landscapes, and one ahmazing owl shot.
My other reflection on a week of really getting down with wildlife photography is that I really need to learn some patience. We have blinds and I just can’t seem to sit there for more than about 30 seconds before deeming the area unattractive to all things living and pack up my stuff and creep quietly to find a bird in a tree or a deer over the ridge. I think this is hurting my capture of images. I am always scrambling to get some snaps before the animal sees me, or is frightened enough finally to scamper off. But sitting still feels like I am not even trying. Perhaps by week 8 I will have mastered this wandering spirit and found my inner sitter.
Before I go and begin to primp myself for the last night of 2012, I thought I would toss up this photograph of sandhill cranes flying in a V pattern across the sky. It was a dreary sort of day out here all day, so I may brew a cup of coffee for the road. I am usually full of my own unbridled enthusiasm, but today’s weather had me down and turning in circles. I hope everyone imbibes in merriness and gets lots of love at the stroke of midnight.
Winter is a stark and beautiful time of year at the ranch. Nothing seems to grow or shrink. Everything seems to be waiting for things to simply get less like they are.
Throughout the day the Sandhill Cranes fly over our house, calling out their wild song. Here is a link to what they sound like: Sandhill Crane Sound.
At our neighbors place across the road, about a million (more or less) cranes gathered for some rest, some water and some delicious bugs. I ran to the house and got my camera and headed over there for a few shots. Unfortunately my dude had drained my camera’s battery the night before and so I only got about 6 shots total before I packed it back up. The two below were my favorites of the group.