2nd Annual Sandhill Crane Trip

For the second year in a row I headed down to the San Luis valley to photograph the sandhill cranes and brought along some friends, new and old. Like I wrote last year, the cranes stop off at the Monte Vista wetlands as they work their way north providing a chance to photograph them. Unlike last year, I extended the trip to 4 days and added a couple side trips to the Sand Dunes to the adventure.

In addition to Stepan and Oleg, who came with me last year, Jennifer Yu came with me to Monte Vista and proved herself to be an great traveling companion. I have heard that she is an excellent chef and seen the results in her equally excellent food and landscape photography. I met Stepan and his dad, Oleg, last year and was so happy they could come again. Stepan does some awesome development at Room 214 when he is not out climbing and shooting.

Like last year, ProPhotoRental.com was kind enough to let us use some of their professional gear including 500mm lenses for both the Canon and Nikon shooters. Without these long lenses getting close up shots of the birds would have been impossible. To be a bit more dynamic they also let me use a Nikon D700 and I've got to say that this is an amazing camera that I wouldn't normally get to use unless I started selling prints. I only tried out the Nikon gear and being able to see the birds up close using the 500mm f/4 without scaring them off was great. As great as the 500mm is there are times when that much zoom was too much, which is why we also had a 200-400mm f/4 and a 70-200mm f/2.8 to give us a huge range both of which were also amazing lenses. If your shooting wildlife or sports or that guy you're stalking that lives 3 blocks over I can't say enough good things about these lenses and you can use them for less than 5% of the cost with a rental service like ProPhotoRental.com. Stepan, while waiting on the birds to do something took this great shot of the Canon 400mm f2.8 that ProPhotoRental.com let him use.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Reflect by Stepan Mazurov"]Reflect by Stepan Mazurov[/caption]

I had two concrete goals with going to the San Luis valley this year; photographing the sandhill cranes and photographing the Great Sand Dunes National Park. I also had a couple of extra maybe goals of some sort of night shot and possibly going down to Colorado's oldest mission south of Monte Vista but between all day shooting and getting over a cold I was too exhausted to do either of the maybe goals. Jen and I stopped at the dunes Friday afternoon on our way to Monte Vista and shot in the park and then drove out to the outer edge to shoot the dunes and Mount Herald at sunset. Jen has an amazing shot on her blog of this. Saturday morning all four of us, bleary eyed and caffeine deprived, drove out to the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge and began a great day of shooting. Unlike last year, where we were snowed on at sunrise, we were treated to a great sunrise and plenty of sunshine all day. Our good luck lasted all through Saturday while we shot at a couple of sites and explored around for others and on Sunday while we all went out to shoot again.

Stepan, Oleg, and Jen all had to head back to Boulder on Sunday but I stuck around until Monday and, when it wasn't snowing, I spent more time shooting the cranes. Monday morning I woke up to a bit of snow covering the San Luis valley and decided to head back out to the Sand Dunes did some shooting at the snow covered dunes. I love finding these little slices in time where something like this happens unexpectedly.

I had a great time with everyone and think I'll be doing it again next year, hopefully bringing along old friends and finding new ones to join us. You can check out Jennifer Yu's work at userealbutter.com and jenyuphotography.com. Stepan posts his work on flickr and his dad, Oleg can be found writing about electronics and micro controller firmware design at circuitsathome.com.

As I look through the almost 4000 shots I took this weekend I'll be publishing one almost every day. You can find these here on the site as well as on my flickr page.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Sandhill Sunset by Jason Janelle"][/caption]

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