Saturday, 12 September 2009

Sunset cranes

I promised to post a couple of pictures from yesterdays swamp meet and write a few thoughts on cranes. Let's start with the pictures:
The first picture gives an idea on how hopeless our situation was for photography. With the cranes at such a distance from us there was not much hope of getting the type of pictures that I was aiming for. The picture was taken with a 400mm lens and has not been blown up at all.

The second one I feel is beautiful in its own way, with a purple shade of the sunset and a flock of cranes flying towards the camera. A sight like that causes a photographers mind to start racing and heart to pound with excitement. Will the cranes land close or just fly by? If they land, how will they be situated in relation to the hide, will the background give maximum effect to the pictures and so on. The list of thoughts racing thru a naturephotographers mind looking at a sight like that one is almost endless. Yesterday they flew right by us.

It has been interesting to notice how differently cranes act at the swamp compared to when they are at fields nearby. A flock of cranes on a field could not care less if I walk to the edge of the field to take pictures. At the swamp, the slightest sight of a photographer at the edge of the swamp causes the flock to move farther away and at the swamp the distances in question are much greater from the beginning. Cranes landing on a field do circle the area before they land, but very seldom change their decision to land, even if they do spot a human somewhere close to the field. At the swamp the birds will pull up immediately if they spot any movement at their intended landingsite, as was the case with our group yesterday. Once landed, a few birds will keep their head up at all times, monitoring the surroundings. If any movement is seen, the entire flock will know about it immediately, most often resulting in having all the birds look first at what is happening and then the entire flock rising to their wings. It would be rather easy to take note of which fields are used by cranes during the ongoing fall migration and then pick out a suitable ditch at the edge of the field and lay there under camonetting taking pictures. I just don't feel that it would be the same. Difficult and challenging way of getting it is what makes a good picture all the more valuable for me personally. Besides, my goal at the moment is to capture life in the swamps in pictures, so I can't really go take them in some field, can I?

Friday, 11 September 2009


It went just as I feared it would, the cranes fooled us. Three photographers sitting around in the "west wing extension" of the hide and the cranes were nowhere to be seen. Or to be precise, we saw them. They flew right past us or then they were out in the distance. A small flock was approaching with intensions of landing close to the hide, but two birds at the edge of the flock caught a glimpse of us and right in the middle of their landing turn called out a warning. This resulted in the entire flock banking hard to the left and flying away. The cranes disappeared behind the small patch of forrest close to the hide.

As a desperate last ditch effort we decided to try and take a look at the other side of the patch of forrest, if the cranes would have landed close enough to the trees for a few pictures from behind the bushes. There were quite a few birds visible on the other side of the forrestpatch. The only problem was that they were resting at the far end of the swamp from us. Disappointed, we were heading back towards the hide and the gear we left behind, when we saw a much larger flock heading towards us. We took a quick sprint of about 60 meters in the swamp, trying to get under the cover of the trees. The cranes flew right past us and landed with the rest of their kind at the furthermost corner of the swamp. As the evening grew darker, we picked up our gear from the hide and headed back to the city.

I'll post a picture of two here tomorrow with a few more thoughts on cranes and photographing them.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Scouting trip to the tower

I went for a quick trip to the birdtower at the edge of the swamp. I wanted to see if the cranes were still in the area and if so, where. My big mouth had got me into trouble again, I had bragged to Jussi that I could get him "close enough" to cranes for a pictureshoot.

As always, the pride goeth before the fall. The cranes that landed at the swamp (a few hundred) seemed to be enjoying themselves at the northwest corner of the swamp area. Distance between the nearest birds and my hide was about 600 meters. Not good. Now I'm faced with a tough choice of moving the hide, putting up another temporary one, or just hoping that the cranes will move closer in the couple of days we have before our photo outing. I really need to know where they are going to land in order to be at the right place when they arrive. Trying to crawl close enough is tough at best and hopeless most of the time.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Cranes, cranes and ever more cranes

Our photographer meet at the swamp never came about as one by one everybody cancelled. I had reserved the afternoon and evening for being out in the wild, so I decided to head out on my own. I didn't do the walk-about as planned for the meeting, but opted to head straight for the hide instead.

As I was unpacking my gear at the hide, a flock of a few cranes decided head away leaving me quite alone at the swamp. When I had all my gear set up I sat down, had a cup of coffee, ate a few sandwiches and just enjoyed the silence. Then I could hear a few crane calls from far away. Moments later the sound came closer and a flock of about ten cranes landed close to the hide. The cranes were going about their business and calling out every few minutes. As the evening progressed more and more calls sounded as more cranes landed. The cranes came in in mostly small groups but sometimes as a flock of 20 or 30 birds at once. Just before sunset there were so many birds around that the calls seemed to be continuous and coming from every possible direction.

As I was waiting for something to happen, I decided to take a "selfportrait".
I guess it tells something about the nature of my hobby:
I took this one with 70-300/5.6 zoom lens, with the focal length at 200mm. Posted her just as proof that nature photography does not always require those long lenses that cost a fortune:
Small groups like this one kept coming in all thru the evening:
At times the airspace over the hide was rather crowded:
Some groups arrived in nice, neat formations:
Just a pic of a few cranes feeding and one keeping watch:
A crane pic loaded with photographic cliches:
A "feelings pic" from underneath the camonetting:

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


I went out for a quick visit to the swamp this morning. I put up the extension to the hide in preparation for our photographers meeting on saturday. A warm, sunny morning was ideal for a quick walk-about in the boonies. Along the way I managed to take a few snapshots: