Sandhill Crane on Launch - Bosque Del Apache NWR, NM
Bosque Del Apache NWR is an amazing place to do in-flight bird photography. The best time of the year is in the late fall when the birds are most dense. The shooting experience has changed a lot over the years. In some ways, it's not nearly as good as it used to be. At least, not as good as memory serves. Last year, the refuge loop changed for the first time in 20 years so a whole new area was open to the public. It included its most northern section. While last year this little change wasn't so profound for improving the shooting experience. This year, totally different experience. A whole new crane pond.
One of the sure things at Bosque is shooting the Sandhill Cranes on the cranes ponds at sunrise and sunset. Except for a couple of years in the early 2000's, this was always the thing to do. While the crane ponds were always a great place to shoot, after being there about a hundred times, all shots begin to look the same. This year, with the new open section, things were different. There was a "new" crane pond.
I looped the road like I normally do, this time chasing friends in a photography group. The stopped in the very northwestern portion of the new loop on a pond with several cranes arriving about an hour prior to sunset. After shooting these birds for a while, it began to dawn on us these birds were going to spend the night in this pond. Something totally different than the normal crane ponds located just at the refuge's northern exit.
What was most different about this location was the road wasn't nearly as high. In other words, photographers could shoot almost as water level to the birds. Also, the background was completely different than the traditional crane ponds. Both of these elements made profound differences with shooting cranes.
I shot this image the next morning, just after sunrise. Everything was perfect. The birds were very cooperative, and there were lots of them making lots of shooting opportunities. The light was outstanding. All these characteristics added up to an excellent morning shoot.