A couple of couples of cranes

My enthusiasm for wildlife photography has been sidelined by basically crappy weather all during the month of April. If it hasn’t been freezing it’s been windy. If it hasn’t been windy it’s been deeply overcast or raining. If it wasn’t raining it was snowing. April is a torture sometimes. This time last year we had early wildflowers and unfurling ferns. Oh the joys of the northern Wisconsin spring.

But I did get out one day when it only rained on me in the afternoon. I did get a few hours out and about in and near Bitzke Waterfowl Refuge in Marathon county. I’d been to this nature preserve before and knew it had a series of ponds within easy walking distance with good trails, benches, boardwalks and a viewing platform.

Even though I didn’t get a ton of shots, it was a learning experience. I brought too much gear and too little. Had my hide, but didn’t set it up. Had my bucket stool, but hardly sat. Had my tripod, but shot handheld the whole time.

Partially it was the weather. The wind picked up and would shake the hide a lot so I didn’t bother with it. But sitting out in it for any length of time was cold so…it wasn’t great for basically anything. So I walked and scouted and planned for another visit. The trails all intersect and I could probably sit unobtrusively by a pond or two or set up the hide to see what comes my way. Like this little muskrat –

I spied him while walking back to the car and could get reasonably close. The light wasn’t really great so the ISO got cranked a little. I ended up running things through Topaz Sharpen and used masking to limit the sharpening to the critter. It was doing weird things to the grasses in the front. I have almost completely stopped using Denoise because I find there’s too much detail loss. But if I do a little sharpening and some noise reduction in Lightroom before sending to Sharpen, that usually knocks the noise back to a reasonable level and sharpens nicely. I’ll keep experimenting.

Oh and look at this baby!

I’ve never done a good job with vultures in the past so when I saw this one in a field I turned around and went back. It wasn’t really close, but not so far that I couldn’t get it with reasonable detail. Plus it wasn’t on a carcass, so that was a bonus. I’ve never noticed they have iridescence on their feathers, so that was a nice surprise. I wonder if that and the extra bright head are hallmarks of the mating season. Plus I think this one has some mites on its face, probably a side-effect of their feeding habits. I was so lucky to get some eye contact here. This and its partner were totally aware of me even though I was in the car using it as a blind of sorts. Again I ran it through Topaz Sharpen with just the bird masked to leave the grasses softer. It’s a pretty substantial crop, but holds up fairly well. The trick is to expose properly or even over-expose a little. That way plenty of light get into the sensor and the camera doesn’t have to fill in with noise.

And for the grand finale – some courting cranes!

Again on the roadside in a field. They are so wonderful the way they sing and dance together. I was out of the Jeep for this one, leaning on the hood to brace the camera. I got a few shots of the flapping, but this one is the best for sure. The wing position and the fact that the female is facing me are what makes it. That and those open beaks, singing at the top of their lungs.

Hopefully when it warms up I can head back and see if I can do better. Although I am pretty happy with these images, I think if I had better light I’d get better shots. Always comes down to light. And patience. So wish me luck!

3 thoughts on “A couple of couples of cranes

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  1. You got some wonderful photos here! It must have been a bit of heaven to see all these lovely creatures. The dancing crane must have been amazing. April did live up to TS Eliot’s “April is the cruelest month . . . ” – but you got some prizes, anyway.

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