Picture of the week

Nov 13, 2016

Sandhill cranes flying in front of the Super Moon

Cranes over the moon

A pair of sandhill cranes flying in front of the “super moon” while coming in for their evening roost at the Staten Island wildlife preserve (as managed by the Nature Conservancy).  To get this shot, I first scouted the location a couple of days earlier, looking for a location where cranes would be roosting for this night, while having an open view to the east for the moon rise.  The ideal lighting conditions will be about 15 minutes after sunset, such that there is still some light on the birds, but the moon has started to be become brighter relative to the sky.  To magnify the size of the cranes relative to the moon, a 500mm f/4 super-telephoto lens was used as mounted on a Canon 7D mark II.  The trick is to pick out some cranes that appear on a flight path in front of the moon ahead of time sufficiently far away, focus lock on them, and then time the shutter release as they pass in front while panning.  Ideally you need a shutter speed fast enough for this movement and an aperture tight enough for a range of depth-of-field good enough to also cover the moon. This can take some practice and multiple tries before getting a keeper.  In the image above, I was still not able to get the moon in focus while still keeping the cranes sharp due to constraints on available light with respect to the aperture (settings were: 1/500th sec, f/8, ISO 3200).  As it got darker, my ability to achieve good results got even harder.

Additional images are shown below of other images captured out at Staten Island that evening, and a previous foggy morning while scouting the location. 
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