A small gallery of edited photos from this years Sandhill Crane migration in Monte Vista, Colorado.
We had pretty good weather this year. Morning temps were hovering just below freezing but rose to the mid 50’s during the day. On the second day we had some high winds which kept the birds from moving around much, but when they do decide they want to move, they will gather in small flights and take off.
The real trick is to position yourself in such a way as to catch them taking off with good light and a good background. Easier said than done, as they will adjust their direction based on where people are located.
On the last morning in Monte Vista, we found thousands of cranes and geese gathered in a large field near a road. They were far enough from us to allow them to make their exit route in our general direction, thus giving us the opportunity to photograph many of the flights with great morning light as they rose up into the sky near our position.
My primary photographic mission on this year’s trip was to get photographs of the cranes in flight. On that account, I call this year a major success.
The results from the Nikon D500 were very good. I’m not used to using a high frame rate camera and the D500 was ripping off shots at 10 frames per second. The end result was to generate 20-30 photo bursts of just about every scene and the photos added up quickly. In four sessions I managed to accumulate just about 7,000 photos. Weeding them down, I found about 200 images that were out of focus, mostly of the flying birds where the camera never got a really good tracking result. Another 200 or so images of the birds flying with part of the animal clipped off in the frame to do my sloppy tracking as they flew by, but that’s kinda normal.
I’ve got the base catalog down to about 6,500 images now and have been mining the best shots for the stock portfolio. In general terms, I normally like to get between 5-10 usable shots from any given session. I count sessions by morning or afternoon, so we had two morning sessions and two afternoon sessions.
Most of the photos were taken using a tripod and gimble head, but I did manage to do some hand-held work. While it’s obvious that the 36 megapixel Nikon D810 was pulling in more resolution, the 20.7 megapixel D500 made up for the difference by providing a lot more in the way of frames to choose from due to nearly double the frame rate with an effective focal length out to 750mm.
I used only 2 lenses on the trip. The Nikon 200-500mm ED VR, mounted on the D500 most of the time and the Nikon 70-200mm f/4 mounted on the D810 for the wider shots. I never felt lacking for reach or versatility. I’m fairly satisfied with the kit I was using and it should continue to serve me well into the foreseeable future.
My friend Jim was using a Sony A9 II mirrorless with a 200-600mm lens. From what I observed, it too was quite up to the task, though I think Jim was still playing with the setup, image quality and functionality as a wildlife camera appeared to be quite good. Shooting at 20 frames per second, I’m quite sure Jim has a few photos to sift through as well.