Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

F-4 Phantom

F-4 Phantom
F-4 Phantom

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sandhills in the Snow

Sandhill Cranes are an ancient migratory bird with fossil records going way back.  I first encountered them during a late season waterfowl hunt on Oklahoma's Canton Lake in the northwestern part of the state.  All morning long I kept hearing some gosh awful chattering noise and couldn't figure out what it was.  The hunting was slow so my partner and I started investigating what that noise was.

The lake was very low that season with large mudflats being exposed.  Across the lake about a quarter mile away we spied a great spiral of large birds circling and settling onto the mudflats.  There were thousands of them.  We had no idea what they were.  Using my canoe, we paddled across the lake and pulled ashore a few hundred yards down from where the birds were settling.  Using the high grass as cover I worked my way as close as I could and eventually moved to point only yards away from the outer edge of where the birds were settling. The noise was tremendous and I was forever fascinated by these magnificent birds as I sat there and watched them circle high about and settle onto the mudflats in front of me.

When we moved to Kentucky a few years ago, I discovered that a large flight of Greater Sandhills migrate through the state and often winter over not far from my home.  The last three seasons I've made an effort to photograph these birds and last year we had a larger than normal snow.  What great fun it was tracking these birds in the snow and then being able to photograph them.  Turned out to be more difficult than I thought, but I eventually managed to discover an area that a large number were using and there was good cover around the parameter offering an effective vantage point from which to photograph.

All in all, these ancient birds offer one of the best opportunities for nature / wildlife photography.  Check out the my Facebook video about these fascinating birds:

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