Choices, Exposure & Composition


The experience included hundreds of sandhill cranes flying overhead, with some landing in the field below. Their sounds waft in the air, like a light trill. Unlike ducks and geese, the cranes seem to fly without formation, and their flight is affected by wind gusts.

At a distance, it becomes easy to place hundreds of these amazing birds into a single frame. The photo above is taken with a 600 mm lens. The challenge becomes “how are the birds placed in the frame?”


One thing to remember is that these birds are not small. There size ranges from 3 to 5 feet tall (depending on sub-species and male/female), and their wing span ranges from 5 to 7 feet across.

The photo above is a grouping of 3 birds against the sky. Light is important in all photography, and especially important when photographing birds. The light in this image is late afternoon sun, and it casts a warm glow in these cranes. It is important to light up the head (or face) of the bird.


In this photo, the light brings the cranes out from the blue background. Without the sunlight, the birds would blend into the background, and be more difficult to see. As for where to focus. it is good to select an area with a large concentration of birds. It is easier for the camera’s auto-focus to actually focus on the subject.

As for exposure, expose for the birds. The background isn’t as important as the cranes, and it’s okay for it to go light or dark. The shutter speed needs to be fast enough (1/250 sec or faster) to keep the cranes from blurring. At a distance, an aperture of F8 should offer enough depth of field to keep most of the birds is focus.

Tip – Use the available light. Set the shutter speed to stop the action, and the aperture to keep most of the flock in focus.

Visualize ~ Create ~ Evoke

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