More From the Whooping Crane Trip

Once I had time to go through all the whooping crane trip photos from early January, I decided to offer a few more images here.  I hope you don’t mind.  I’ll be out looking for birds and landscapes next week, so the subjects will be a little different.  Let me know what you think about these.  If you like the idea of trying these birds, we will be running the tour in mid-December in 2013.  That should produce a little better weather and all the whoopers will be here by then.  Let me know if you want to join that trip and I’ll get you on the list.

Just click on any photo in the upper right corner area to make it open in a larger, sharper format.  Then you can advance or go in reverse for more photos.

Brown Pelicans loafing on pilings by the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.


Even with some rain coming down, several of us got this nice pose of brown pelicans on pilings.  By using a layer mask technique, I was able to brighten the birds and darken the gray sky a bit to help the birds “pop” a little more.  I keep a camera with the 100-400 mm lens on a sling around my shoulder for shots like this.  We approached the birds quickly but I was able to rip off quite a few shots as we passed them because the second camera was handy at arm’s length.


Goose Island State Park fishing pier after sunset.


By panning from a speeding boat, I was able to keep the focus point stable and get an acceptable shot of the Goose Island Park pier (above) well after sunset… 1/30 second, ISO 1600 with some noise reduction in Adobe Camera RAW.

Willet landing on oyster bar.


After a morning of crane photography, we worked our way back to the docks by drifting up to several oyster bars.  As usual, there was a the wide variety of birds watching the boat traffic.  As the shots above and below attest, we were able to get flight shots of willets and American oyster catchers.  I try to keep the shutter speed close to 1/2000 second when shots of flying birds are likely.  That is a good speed for stopping wing motion.

American Oystercatcher on take off from oyster bar in Aransas Bay.


The oyster catcher was photographed with a Canon 7D and 500 mm IS lens, hand-held.  With this type of shooting, it isn’t always possible to get the light and wind at optimum angles, but some really nice shots can result if things fall into place.

Turkey Vulture soaring over the Aransas Refuge marsh.


Whooping cranes were our the prime photo target, but most of us remained ready to capture a few images of just about anything within range.  This vulture glided past us several times.


Whooping Crane adult and young, 30 yards from our cameras on the last morning of the photo tour.


Whooping Cranes flying across the marsh in golden light.


A pair of sandhill cranes joined these whoopers at the roost.


As we watched their backsides from the south, this group of whoopers and sandhill cranes landed into the north wind, offering a shot that was far from ideal but, nevertheless, interesting.


Cranes landing in marsh well after sunset.


Shame on me for not being prepared for these whoopers (above) as they landed after sunset.  My ISO was still set at 400.  At ISO 1000, this could have been a very nice capture.  Note the stand of old live oak in the background.

Whooping Crane family flying low and close to our boat.


Several of you liked a similar shot in the last newsletter, so I decided to share another frame from that fly-by.  During this photo tour, we had a couple of evenings when the sky was incredible.  With 6 photographers keeping their fingers crossed as the sky turned to orange and gold, something good had to happen.  Patience paid off and everybody got a good burst of shots at these guys.

Thanks for dropping by to take a look.


Whooping Crane Photo Tour Completed

I just completed my 7th or 8th (I lost count) Rockport, Texas Whooping Crane Photo Tour with a wonderful group of photographers from Texas and California.  The tour always provides much more than just whooping cranes; certainly this year was no exception.  Below, you can see some of the many birds and landscapes we captured as digital images.  Many of the images were made from the deck of a chartered boat that took us right where we wanted to go and for as long as we wanted to be there.

When we weren’t photographing, we were eating seafood, comparing photography ideas, and swapping stories of past adventures.  Rain slowed us down a little on the first day, but the sunset on day two was well worth the wait.  After watching 11 whooping cranes fly in to roost, we were spellbound with the magnificent orange, red and yellow glow on a scattering of clouds as nightfall forced our retreat to the dock.

Whooping crane numbers were near record highs and the tall, white birds were sharing the marshes with many other species, so many photo subjects were always at hand.  Check out the photos below and plan to join me soon on a photo adventure to Block Creek Natural Area or Big Bend National Park.

Of course, it’s not too early to book for next year’s whooper trip.  Just visit my photo tour schedule at

To enlarge and sharpen the following photos for viewing, just click on the upper right area of any photo.  From there, you can advance through the other images.

Adult whooping crane wading the edge of Aransas Bay, Texas.

The photo below was made with a Canon 1D Mark III and Canon 100-400 mm lens, handheld.  All other bird photos were done with the Canon 7D and 500 mm lens from a Feisol carbon fiber tripod with Wimberley head.

Flock of white ibis flushing from the salt marsh.


Mom captures a blue crab for junior as a crane family feeds in the marsh on Saint Charles Bay.


American Oystercatcher stretching its wings on an oyster bar in Aransas Bay.


Osprey flying through fog with a sand trout.


Crested Caracara shaking water droplets from his feathers while perched in the Aransas NWR marsh.


Adult whooping crane approaching the shoreline while hunting for blue crabs.


Drake blue-winged teal bathing in fresh water at Aransas Pass.


Juvenile northern shoveler landing on a pond at Aransas Pass.


Brown Pelican flying across the salt marsh at sunset.


The rusty-orange head really shows on this juvenile crane taking flight.


Whooping Cranes headed for the roost.


Whooping Cranes and greater sandhill cranes landing in the salt marsh.


Sunset on the salt marshes as whoopers move toward shallow water to roost.


A pair of endangered whooping cranes flying into roost after sunset.

The following images was hand held using a Canon 5D Mark II and 16-35 mm lens.

Waiting for the last light means photographers experience some incredible sunsets on the edge of the bay.


I hope you enjoyed the images of a great trip to the Texas coast.