Sandhill Cranes, Fog and Trees

Sandhill Cranes, Fog and Trees
Sandhill Cranes, Fog and Trees

Sandhill Cranes, Fog and Trees. San Joaquin Valley, California. January 212, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A group of sandhill cranes takes flight in foggy dawn light as others stand in a marsh with blackbird-filled trees beyond.

I almost feel like I know this group of sandhill cranes, as we have found them on several occasions in the same San Joaquin Valley location – and by this I mean in precisely the same spot along a levee and at the same time of day… and often in fog. The first time I “saw” them here I actually heard them more than saw them. It had been an extremely foggy morning, so thick that it was difficult to see any distance into the murk. We could hear lots of birds and certainly recognize the distinct call of the sandhill cranes. Occasionally a small group of them would momentarily emerge from the fog to pass overhead and just as quickly disappear.

On this January morning it was again foggy, but not quite that thick. When we arrived before dawn we were able to make out the large flock of the birds on the ground near the levee, though it was a bit too murky and they were too far away to get clear photographs. But as sunrise arrived, the cranes began to take to the sky in small group, sometimes passing over or near our position before departing. As this group flew across the scene, above other birds still on the ground, the faint light of sunrise managed to pierce the fog and case a bit of warm light on the flock.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

2 thoughts on “Sandhill Cranes, Fog and Trees”

  1. I really love this image, Dan. Not only for the beautiful light on the birds above and below, but also for the silhouettes of the birds roosting in the trees-a wonderful bonus that adds so much pleasure to an already fine image. The panoramic crop ties it all together.

    1. Thanks for noticing all of that, Craig! I had thought about writing more about what is going on in this photograph, but decided to just let it be what it is – but you seem to have figured out quite a bit of it.

      One way that I photograph wildlife (and do street photography, but that is for a different post) is that I find a “landscape” that seems interesting in and of itself and then consider whether it is worth exercising enough patience to wait for the right critters to appear in the right places.

      This scene had all of the elements for a few moments as the sun rose through foggy mist – the cranes settled in along the water, the further trees with birds sitting on the branches. All it needed was the right flock of cranes to fly through the scene. Fortunately, they were lifting off from a point to my right and then departing by flying across in front of me and then continuing to the left. So I waited… and tracked each group as it passed through the scene. Most passed as a single line of birds, but this group included the two individuals flying a bit lower, and I managed to squeeze off this frame as they were in the gap in the trees.


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