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Tips for full-flavor J-P crane photos
by DNR photographer John Maxwell
Photographers should be able to get their best sandhill crane shots at J-P’s Goose Pasture Viewing Area around sunrise and sunset, when flocks of cranes fly in and out of the pasture. Cranes are extremely skittish birds, and will usually fly at any hint of human presence. However, cranes seem comfortable at Goose Pasture with people nearby.
If you have a 35 mm SLR camera, try a 300 mm lens for colorful silhouette photos of flying cranes at dusk or dawn. The sun is behind photographers at sunrise -- giving good light for detailed specimen photos. Focus on the crane’s eyes, hold your breath and squeeze the shutter. Or pan the camera with flying birds and silhouette the flock against pink western clouds.
Goose Pasture photographers are looking into the sun at sunset. Again, try silhouette shots against colored clouds. Be careful panning across a clear evening sky having a sun unfiltered by clouds. A flash of full sunlight through a telephoto lens can wreck an eyeball.
Photographers with shorter lenses can also get good pictures of crane flocks on the ground socializing in Goose Pasture, or get artsy and try some half-second exposures on a tripod. Deer and coyotes can often be spotted ambling across Goose Pasture during dawn and dusk.
Greater sandhill cranes are often seen feeding and dancing in harvested farm fields near Jasper-Pulaski FWA during the day. Sandhill cranes outside of Goose Pasture are wary. Opening car doors will scare birds close enough to be photographed. Try finding a safe place to pull off the road and take photos from inside the car. Cranes outside of the fish and wildlife area are on private land.
Crane roosting marshes within the fish and wildlife area are closed so migrating cranes can rest without human harassment.