Sandhill Symmetry


I love the impossible symmetry of these two sandhill cranes.

On one fabulous day last fall, I took 1,800 photos of sandhill cranes. Time has not dulled the fondness of that memory.

When I take that many photos, I create a huge job of sorting and processing that turns out to be a lot less fun than being there. Initially it was easy to delete hundreds of out of focus shots – one of the hazards of shooting birds in flight. I could defend myself with the number of times the camera chose to go rogue on my carefully placed focal point … but I digress.

I still had far too many photos remaining. I scanned through a number of times looking for the pearls. I kept thinking that this should be quick and obvious but it wasn’t then and that is not unusual. Then a few contenders appeared. Their stock rose and fell as I found and become enamoured with others before I cycled back through again.

What I was hoping for was the one special shot that’s head and shoulders above the rest. It was nice there were a number of good shots but I wanted one shot to rise to the next level. I’d learned to pay attention to the time I spent on certain photos and how often I went back to them. After a number of rounds, I noticed one flight shot had begun to emerge. A contender in the second round had continued to rise.

Months later I can confirm the photo above is my favourite from that day. There were photos that were sharper, many had more pronounced fall colours and some were more dramatic. But none could match the impossible symmetry of those sandhill cranes flying against a muted background as they symbolically head toward the smattering of yellow leaves with their faces glowing in the sun.

Yes, this one I like.

Latest Comments

  1. Judy says:

    I also find sorting later daunting sometimes but I love the joy of the ones you remembered through the viewfinder and wanted to be great, that turned out , …..and the serendipitous views you were shooting just to hang on to focus which had some magic you could not have planned when viewed on a computer. Everything is so fast in the field sometimes. I think these synchronized Sandhills have that magic.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      You described the process exactly of finding this photo. It was like – where did that come from. It’s a good observation that the speed in the field in inverted on the computer. I appreciate the comments.


  2. idiotphotographer says:

    Love this shot!
    I hear you on the sorting and resorting. My friend and I have now have a policy to not look at our photos until 24 hours after the shoot, and after the first pick through we give it a week and go again. Seems like the very best photo always emerges on the second or third go round.
    Also, my brain is still fizzling at the thought of going through 1800 photos from a single shoot. It takes me 4 or 5 hours to go through 300.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Thanks. Fizzled is a great word to describe my state when I was going through them all! So apparently I’ve got good company in dealing with the process after getting the photos.

      I have tried to not look at the photos immediately after I take them but the temptation usually proves too much. I like your 24 hour and week rules. I know that would be a good way to do it. It still seems counter intuitive to me that the best shot doesn’t rise to the top sooner.

      I appreciate your great comments.


      • idiotphotographer says:

        I’m not sure about you, but for me the best shot doesn’t surface until later because I’m looking more at the shots I had *hoped* would be the best ones. No matter how I try to avoid doing so that is just how my brain my works. So when I go back through after I’ve already picked over my presumed best I am then able to look at the rest with a much less biased eye. That, at least, is how my brain works, your mileage may vary.


        • Lyle Krahn says:

          That’s interesting because, now that you mention it, that’s exactly what I do. I typically know exactly which photos I want to turn out and will work hard to make them the best. It’s only when I go through the disappointment stage that I look at the others in a more unbiased way.


  3. Gunta says:

    I tend to weed through any number of times. If I hesitate, I keep the image. The next time around when there are fewer to select from, it might be easier to compare and choose. Rinse and repeat….

    Your shot in the this post is simply marvelous. Breathtaking as a matter of fact. I bet that was some day, actually watching these marvelous creatures.


  4. Phil Lanoue says:

    This one truly is special I’m with you there.
    And your caption sums it up perfectly… “impossible symmetry”. Yup perfect.


  5. hannele says:

    Great way of explaining why the time it takes to make a photograph is so much longer than the actually pressing of the shutter button… One thing I’ve noticed with these kinds of situations is that it’s really great to go back to the photos a couple of months later. I assure you, new favourites will emerge. Not to say that this one isn’t awesome! It takes my breath away. You really managed to capture something special there.


  6. Ad-libbed says:

    Crisp, clear, and amazingly timed. Stunning shot.


  7. vanbraman says:

    In the spirit of the recent Olympics, they win the Gold Medal for synchronized flying.


  8. gimpet says:

    It is so crisp against the background, every detail so fine, that it almost looks photoshopped!


  9. babsje says:

    A remarkable photo indeed, Lyle, I had to look twice to see there were two. Such synchronization, such harmony as they match each other, wing beat for wing beat. Lovely.


  10. Mind Margins says:

    Very beautiful. I think this photo captures the true essence of the sandhill cranes.


  11. whichwaynow101 says:

    If I hadn’t read the caption I wouldn’t have realized there were two!


  12. Victor Rakmil says:

    Wonderful capture. I know the pain of choosing among many. I often go through my galleries in smugmug, wondering if I made the right choices.


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