One in a crowd

Photographing large groups of people is usually a bit of a gong show.

It’s almost impossible to get a lot of people looking reasonable before someone starts blinking, getting annoyed or crying – and that’s just the adults!


If you’re trying to show chaos, this photo of sandhill cranes does the trick … but it I think it lacks focus.

With wildlife, it’s sometimes a different set of problems but challenges remain. Flocks of birds may make impressive photos for showing off sheer numbers but on second glance it’s hard to differentiate them from a mess. I guess that’s why good photos generally come with a focus!

When I find a smaller flock of birds, it’s hard to create a composition that doesn’t behead or remove significant body parts. Trying to crop around the crowd often ends up in a composition that looks ridiculously unbalanced.

The photo below tries to get the best of both worlds. By highlighting one sandhill crane in a crowd it somehow seemed OK to crop off a few body parts on the edges since it adds to the feeling of flying in close quarters. What do you think?

Just watching these large birds in close quarters made me quite impressed with their navigation skills. And I thot it got crowded during Christmas shopping!


With a little help from the light and selective focus, I find this a much better image. It gives the viewer a view of the crowd from the perspective of one sandhill crane.

Krahnpix note: I found a great article on sandhill cranes if you want to learn more about these remarkable creatures.

Latest Comments

  1. Scott Marshall says:

    yes the crop particularly against the neutral field makes it pop then the remainder add to the scale and event


  2. Jeff | Planet Bell says:

    I like them both the same, but for different reasons since they show a different view. Part of the fun of shooting wildlife like that is getting home and seeing what you actually got.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Yes the unpredictability of wildlife makes for a lot different views and you’re never quite sure what you got until you get home to see it. I am a little surprised (though I should know better by now) that the a number of people like that first photo a lot better than I do. I come into this with a lot of biases and opinions.


  3. Dick Trew says:

    Lyle, I chuckled when I read your description of flock images with marginal body parts missing. I smiled as I remembered early attempts at hanging wallpaper, aligning “matches” that really didn’t and so on.
    On a much more meaningful note, I am moved to explore the second image again and again. It is quite spell-binding. Thanks. I very much appreciate the Smithsonian article and have book-marked the Rowe Conservancy webcam. Unfortunately, it’s after dark and I am getting a good opportunity to hear that the report is accurate–they continue to vocalize at night. This continues to be an educational venture. Thanks again.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I don’t have very many positive many memories of hanging wall paper so that’s an amusing memory for me too. I’m glad you enjoyed the photo and article. The sandhills continue to amaze me.


  4. Marcia Boland Photography says:

    I don’t know…. I LOVE the second photo! But I don’t think I love it more than the first! 😉 You’re right, you can definitely see more detail. I think I miss seeing the upward pointing wings, though. If I were to enlarge and hang this on a wall (Which I totally would do! It’s truly a fantastic capture), the first encompasses more of the… magnitude and majesty of the scene to me. Does that make sense?? lol Either way, an absolutely gorgeous shot!


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      It’s always fascinating to hear how other people view the same photos so thanks for sharing that. I can certainly understand your perspective and it makes sense. We all come with interesting biases to the photos and one of mine is that I tend to like the closer view – unfortunately that end up costing me more money in lenses! I have tried to take more larger views for comparison lately so we’ll see if it changes. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos.


  5. sagescenery says:

    I like the crop because I can see the red head marks, and gorgeous wing colors so much more clearly!! Beautiful!!


  6. Cornel A. says:

    As a viewer and crane lover, both photos look very nice. And as a photographer it’s obvious that second photograph has something special: focus+composition+colors.
    🙂 Do you have any video with their flight?


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      That is a good observation that photographers probably look for different kinds of details than others. I don’t have any video. I used to take video years ago but found it awkward trying to do both. I am still enamoured with catching that split second in time.


  7. westerner54 says:

    Brilliant. Thanks for the link to the article, too – I enjoyed it.


  8. Garden Walk Garden Talk says:

    Very nice, I too love the second shot.


  9. judysbirds says:

    Love the second shot! Everything about the composition draws my ‘eye’ to the crane in the middle. Just beautiful!


  10. ehkstream says:

    Very nice!


  11. Phil Lanoue says:

    In that second shot you absolutely picked out the winner in the bunch and that made the whole shot a real winner. Good job.


  12. whichwaynow101 says:

    I like the crop but I had to look at them both several times to make up my mind. Beautiful!


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