Yesterday, I had much better luck photographing birds in then wild than the day before. I got the closest I have ever been to Common Cranes and gulls in the wild – although I need to add a qualifier to the gull statement: the closest I have ever been without food involved.
We were driving along the coast of the Baltic Sea when we came upon a field – corn I guess – that hadn’t been ploughed yet. There were about 20 cranes on it, and there was a small side road running along the field – small but paved and with little snow and ice on it, thus suitable for our car. It was situated above the field, which was not ideal, as it put us above the cranes. In my experience, 99% of all animals are more willing to tolerate your presence if they can look down at you, and more willing to flee when you look down on them. Still, I drove very slowly and didn’t get out of the car – another issue with most animals. All is fine if you fly by at 60 kph, but stopping is an “uh-oh!” moment, and getting out is usually a “run for your life”-trigger.
We got quite close, in fact close enough that I was able to fill the height of a landscape shot at 300 mm with the two cranes below, and I didn’t want to push it. Scaring big birds into flight in icy cold is not really nice, because it makes them waste a lot of energy.
One of the birds quickly began calling out to the others, who were warily watching us. I had prepared the camera by putting the big lens on and choosing appropriate settings, including ISO 400 (a compromise: not too high, so the pics don’t go too grainy, not too low, so the shutter time is good enough for big birds in flight; in the end it was the perfect choice), as I was hoping to find cranes during that drive. Thus, I was immediately ready to just roll down the window and start shooting. The cranes were on the driver side (mine), so it was as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.
Despite the warning calls, most of the cranes stayed, including the warner. One bird ran around a bit, then flew off, but it was much further away. I guess I get as close as 30 meters, and the one that took off was maybe 120 m away. One bird was standing in the road, so I stopped and decided that I would back out, which I ended up doing. But before I could do that, several birds came flying in, passing the cranes on the ground and calling out to them. One of the – close to me and luckily the one I had my camera on – decided to join them:
I guess it don’t get much better! :)