Foraging Sandhill Crane

Usually you see the Sandhill Cranes foraging in the grasses for meals, but here they are foraging in the waters at Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge. It was fun to see them in a different setting!Sandhill_Crane_Forading_v2_LW_560mm_100-400_1-4x_Y9F8431Sandhill_Crane_foraging_v2_LW_1_400mm_1_4X__Y9F8433Sandhill_Crane_v3_lw_1-4mm_1_4X__Y9F8318

Flying Sandhill Crane Panorama

As we were walking the trails at Lake Woodruff NWR we saw these Sandhill Cranes flying by. I wanted to get the whole group in one image. I was using a 300mm lens, so I shot 5 images in a quick series to combine into one Sandhill Crane flying panorama. I could not let Photoshop align and blend the panorama because of the movement of the wings confused Photoshop auto alignment of images. I used a series of soft masks to blend the images manually in the panorama and spaced them by the spaces between the Cranes.Sandhill_Cranes_flight_v1_MG_9542

More Sandhill Crane Mult-Image Panoramas

On our visit to Lake Woodruff NWR in DeLand Florida, it was amazing how the Sandhill Cranes seemed to not be bothered by people. But then again there were not many people around. So maybe they were just curious. We did not try to get close to them, but they walked right up to us as to check us out. We were a little nervous at first but they just seemed to be checking us out and went on their way foraging in the grass. It is a little intimidating to have such a large bird get that close to check you out. They are about 4 ft tall and have about a 7 ft wingspan. The trouble was I had to shoot series of panoramas to get the entire Sandhill Cranes in. Usually you can never get close enough to fill the frame with birds! The featured image is made from 2 images, @ 300mm and assembled in Photoshop. The amount of images per pano is also a guide as to how close they were to us! The more images per panorama the closer they were!

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Sandhill Crane 2 Vertical Image Pano, 300mm Close Focusing lens

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Screen Grab of Initial Setup letting Photoshop align and blend 5 handheld images before Photoshop filled in the blank areas with content aware fill feature.

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Final Image With content Aware Fill added and other adjustments for density, etc. added.

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Sandhill Crane 8 image Panorama, 300mm lens

What Big Eyes You Have

 

It seemed the first pair of Sandhill Cranes were quite curious about us. They walked right up to us and sort of stared at us as if they were checking us out. We were a little nervous at first as they were that close and they were very large birds. But after that they sort of kept up with us as we were walking in that area and we welcomed their company as we walked. Then they went off on their own in a different direction.Sandhill_Crane_Portrait_v2_7D_300mm_MG_8234-RecoveredSandhill_Crane_Headshot_v1_300mm_7D_076A2494

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Foraging Sandhill Crane Panorama

I am still working on images from our trip to Lake Woodruff NWR in Deland Florida. But I thought it might be interesting to show how I am working on hand-held multi-image stacked panoramas of moving Sandhill Cranes or other moving subjects. This panorama of a foraging Sandhill Crane is made from 5 handheld images, assembled & aligned manually in Photoshop. Sometimes Photoshop does a good job aligning them automatically, but for handheld I tend to align the layers manually. Then edges are blended with soft edge masks in different layers to blend images to fit. On moving subjects you need to shoot more images than you normally use so you have a choice of areas to blend in for the final since the Crane is moving. Blank areas are  filled in with the content-aware fill feature in Photoshop. Images were taken with a 300mm f/4 lens. Final image is 22″ x 26″ @300ppi. Once you do a few you get a better idea of sections you need to photograph and how much overlap you need. For the Cranes I concentrated on photographing the head, neck & legs for one main area and then a couple more shots for the bulk of the body. I let Photoshop align & combine the head and leg images, then the bulk of the body. After that I aligned those 2 main sections for combining into the basic full image. There were some blank areas in the background edges, so I used Photoshop’s “Content Aware Fill” to fill in the main blank areas. When first starting it is best to shoot more images than you need. This gives you more options for the panorama. It is better to have too many images than not enough. After practice you will see that you get a “feel” for how many images you need. On a moving “subject” I concentrate on leg areas and then head & body areas. On this example it is more legs & head, then body areas since the head was angled down.

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Screen grab above showing area to be filled in using content aware fill.                        Below are images that made up the final Panorama. The first 3 are for the head & feet, the last 2 are for the bulk of the body and top background area.

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Sandhill Crane 5 Image Panorama

Another panorama from Lake Woodruff NWR. This time is a 5 horizontal image panorama, stacked for a vertical image.  I was using a 300mm Canon f/4 lens. It was strange on this trip that they seemed to not be wary of people. They would walk right near you as they were feeding in the grasses or walking by. It was definitely a fun trip!

Sandhill Crane Panoramas From Lake Woodruff NWR

On our trip to Lake Woodruff NWR in DeLand Florida we were hoping to see Sandhill Cranes. They did not disappoint us. The only problem was it was a spur of the moment trip so I traveled light and only chose the lenses I thought would be best. I did not want to load up the car with too many lenses to carry once we got there. So for long lenses I brought a 300mm with a close focusing capability and a Tamron 150-600mm zoom for versatility along with teleconverters. Usually the Sandhill Cranes are in large flocks or off in the distance. The first walk in to the trails, 2 Sandhills landed right by us within a couple of feet. They stuck with us for quite a while giving me the opportunity to get a lot of portraits. But to get the whole Sandhill Crane in, I resorted to shooting panoramas of them. All panos were shot handheld and assembled in Photoshop. The featured image is only 2 vertical images blended because the Crane was a little further away from me at this point.

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Sandhill Crane, 2 Vertical Image Panorama, 300mm lens

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7 horizontal images, handheld panorama, 300mm lens

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Sandhill Crane,  2 Vertical Image Panorama, 300mm lens

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Sandhill Crane Panorama, 7 Horizontal Images, 300mm

Sandhill Cranes Flying In

When we first got to Lake Woodruff NWR we started down one of the paths to one of our favorite spots to photograph. These 2 Sandhill Cranes landed right in front of us. Then to our surprise they started to mate right in front of us. They were so close I had to backup to get them in the frame. I was using a 300mm lens so I had to back up multiple times to get them in the frame. Then I just decided to shoot multi-image panoramas to get the whole crane in because they stayed so close to us as we walked the path. They stayed with us for about 20 minutes. It was strange that they walked right up to us within a couple of feet and sort of stared at us.  But I was able to get full frame head portraits! Luckily my 300mm lens had very close focusing capability!
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Sandhill Crane Portrait

We decided to go on a quick trip to Florida to one of our favorite NWRs, Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge in DeLeon Springs, Florida. We were only there for a few days, but it was an amazing spot for photos of wildlife and landscapes. The Sandhill Cranes and River Otters were not disappointing! As we were walking the trails, Sandhill Cranes would land right in front of us giving us fantastic photo opportunities. Sometimes it was strange to have them land & walk right up to you. They would just stare at you checking you out! We were traveling light and most of the time I was using a 300mm or a 150-600mm lens. For detail or landscapes I used my iPhone 11Pro. Since I was traveling light, a lot of my images of Sandhill Cranes I had to shoot a series of images for a panorama to get the whole Crane in. Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge is not one of the NWRs that gets a lot of visitors or attention. You are pretty much on your own except for a few locals walking or birding there.  But for us it is one of our favorite NWRs to visit. It does not have a visitor center and has a small parking lot down a small road that is only wide enough for 1 car. So if you meet someone going the other way you have to pull over so 1 can pass. The 22,000-acre refuge contains a myriad habitats: among them are marshes, swamps, creeks, hammocks and uplands. We only found it years ago because there was an accident on Route 95 that closed the highway overnight. So we had to stay at a motel and at breakfast the waitress asked where we were going. We said we were going to Ding Darling NWR for photography and she said we should go to Lake Woodruff NWR and might like it better. She was right! Sometimes you really feel quite alone when walking the trails, except for the wildlife.Sandhill_Cranes_Portrait_v1_LW__7D_300mm_MG_7978

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Pair Of Sandhill Cranes in Flight

I was going through old images on backup Hard disks and found this image of a pair of Sandhill Cranes in flight at the Lake Woodruff NWR in Florida many years ago. Photographed with a Sigma 300-800mm f/5.6 zoom lens. The Sigmonster as it was called was an interesting lens. Very Sharp at all focal lengths but TOUGH to carry around a large Refuge at 12+ lbs and then the tripod and camera body, but you could really work an area and get some Great Images!

Below is an image of some Whooping Cranes that stayed with that flock of Sandhill Cranes at Lake Woodruff that year.

Sometimes it is fun to go through old images.  Hopefully it shows your photography is getting better over time!

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