Thursday, September 19, 2019


In a recent blog post from Outdoor Photographer, writer and photographer Russ Burden spoke about leading photography safaris and how each morning tour members would ask, “What are we going to see today?”  He went on to say how difficult it was to answer that question because, in nature, conditions vary due to weather, light, time of day, and other factors.  He now urges his tour members to live more in the moment, and, instead ask, “What will I be given?” on any given day.

As Gracie and I left for our photoshoot on a beautiful Monday evening, I tried to set out with this attitude of openness.  But truth be told, I was hoping to see the Sandhill Crane family that I’d been photographing over the last month.  To me, they are my fall favorites, and like Snowy Owls in winter, I can't get enough of them.  I saw them almost immediately, and I was amazed at how much the juveniles had grown.  They now are as large as their parents!

Almost immediately, the male adult crane threw his huge wings back and began moving into a dance.  I wondered whether this would turn into a lesson for the young ones.

One of the juveniles quickly joined in, raising its wings until it was completely off the ground.  The female adult watched but didn’t join in.

It wasn’t long until three of the four cranes were involved in a magical dance.  Their contortions were amazing.  As they bobbed and bowed, jumped and levitated, they reminded me of the beautiful Native American dances I'd seen at local pow-wows.

I noticed that the cranes danced either in pairs or threes, never all four at the same time.  This fact puzzled me, and I wondered why the whole family wasn't dancing together.

Then it dawned on me.   The outlier was hanging back as part of its job.  It was acting as a sentinel,  watching for danger.  I guessed the dancers had become so involved in their dance that, perhaps, they were in an altered state.  The sentinel was there for protection of the family.

The cranes had mostly come out of their dance mode and they’d danced themselves up to a shed that was part of some kind of drilling rig.  I had been hiding behind that rig and was shooting from there, mostly hidden.

Sunset was approaching, and I lacked the light to get the exposures I wanted, but I watched and clicked away anyway, as the cranes pecked the ground for insects and other edibles at the edge of a cornfield.

I know cranes love the dregs left after a cornfield has been plowed, but I didn’t expect them to do what they did.  One by one, the cranes crouched down and entered the edge of the cornfield.  One of the juveniles was the last to enter, and you can see the top of the head of the other to the left.  Perhaps, this was a first-time event for the colts.  And, yes, I was delighted at the gift I'd been given this evening.


  1. Wonderful captures, Karen!
    I think the cranes were dancing for you!

  2. Thanks, Jan. Whomever they were dancing for, it was great to watch!