Sandhill Cranes

Location: Kearney, Nebraska

Dates: March 2020

Deposit: $500 / Tuition: $2,595

© 2017 Howard Arndt © 2017 Howard Arndt
© 2017 Chema Domenech © 2017 Chema Domenech

Come Fly Away!

 Join elite nature and wildlife photographers Michael Forsberg, Melissa Groo, and Dave Showalter along the Platte River in Nebraska to photograph one of nature’s oldest and largest migrations; the Sandhill Crane migration.

For millions of years, Sandhill Cranes have migrated through North America on their way to breeding grounds up North, and the Platte River in Nebraska has long been one of their landing destinations. The hundreds of thousand of cranes that travel through Nebraska every late March create an absolutely stunning sight for photographers and nature-lovers alike.

What To Know

 In this workshop, you’ll be immersed in blinds along the Platte River to get an up-close look as the cranes dance, sing their famous “Crane Song”, and do other fun things that make for extraordinary pictures!

The workshop hotel and classroom is the Fairfield Inn in Kearney, Nebraska.

This workshop will provide opportunities to photograph sandhill cranes from group blinds on the Platte River as the cranes come back to the river roost for the evenings, and when they leave the river at first light in the mornings. In the mornings we will be up early and get to the blind and be settled in an hour before sunrise and will not leave until the birds have left the river. In the evenings, we will arrive to the blind about two hours before sunset and will not leave until dark. Between blind trips, we will download and edit images, have a group critique session of selected images, and provide opportunity to learn more about the Platte River Valley, its conservation and the wildlife it supports. There may also be opportunities to photograph these birds and other migrating waterfowl midday from county roads while they are feeding on waste grain leftover from in farmers fields from the previous fall harvest. Waste grain provides and nutrients from prairie grasslands and wet meadows provides fat reserves they need for migration and their early stages at the nest.

Photographing cranes in Nebraska’s Platte Valley is a very different experience than photographing cranes on wintering grounds or other migratory staging areas in the continent like Bosque Del Apache NWR in New Mexico or the San Luis Valley of Colorado where they are acclimated to human presence. This crane population in the Central Flyway is hunted in every state and province along their migratory pathway, except in Nebraska. Therefore the cranes are very skittish when they arrive here and usually do not tolerate human presence at less than several hundred yards unless you are in a blind or a vehicle. And while there are many protected areas for cranes and other wildlife along the river, central Nebraska is not wilderness. It is countryside, mostly in private ownership, and ranks as some of the most productive farmland in the world. Finally, the cranes and their daily rhythms and patterns change constantly, dictated by weather, water levels and disturbance, which are ever changing along the Platte. In late March, it can be 80 degrees and shirt sleeves one day, and 15 degrees and a blizzard the next. Together, this makes photographing these birds very challenging. Photographing here is a practice in patience, persistence, and acceptance of what it gives you, but it can also be very rewarding and the experience itself and its sight and sound is unforgettable.

 

What you’ll learn:

History of the Sandhill Crane Migration
How to Photograph Cranes/Birds
Photographing From a Blind, Blind Etiquette
Nature/Conservation Photography Techniques

Topics We Will Cover

Conservation

Photography

Storytelling

Nature

Photography

2019 WORKSHOP INSTRUCTORS

Michael Forsberg

Workshop Faculty

Mike is a senior fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers who has focused his career on North America’s Great Plains, its prairie wildlife, and watersheds. His work has appeared in National Geographic and Outdoor Photographer, and his books on On Ancient Wings and Great Plains – America’s Lingering Wild have been turned into documentary films for PBS. Mike is co-founder of the Platte Basin Timelapse Project, and currently serves as faculty with the University of Nebraska.

Melissa Groo

Melissa Groo

Workshop Faculty

Melissa is a wildlife photographer, writer, speaker, and educator. She's a contributing editor to Audubon magazine, writes a column on wildlife photography for Outdoor Photographer magazine, and is an Associate Fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers. She speaks and writes extensively on issues of ethics and conservation in wildlife photography, and leads workshops in the U.S. and abroad. Chair of the Ethics Committee for the North American Nature Photography Association from 2014-2018, she remains on the committee as a member, also serving on the Conservation Committee. Melissa has received awards and honorable mentions in photography competitions including Audubon (2015 Grand Prize winner), and Nature’s Best. Her work has been published in numerous books and magazines, such as Smithsonian, Audubon, National Wildlife, and Natural History. Melissa is represented by National Geographic Image Collection and has a long-term gallery at Audubon Greenwich in Connecticut.

dave_showalter_bio

Dave Showalter

Workshop Faculty

Conservation photographer and author Dave Showalter is based in Colorado and focused on the American West. Dave is a Fellow Photographer in the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP), and works in partnership with numerous conservation groups, including Audubon Rockies, The Wilderness Society, and Sierra Club of Wyoming.

Chris Steppig

Workshop Director

Chris runs the annual series of workshops and is in charge of all workshop operations, scheduling, logistics, faculty, social media, marketing and sponsorship. Chris has a passion for conservation, travel, and education and the workshops are a dream platform to help others reach new heights as not only photographers but as people. Chris is also an affiliate of the International League of Conservation Photographers. The iLCP is a U.S. based non-profit whose mission is to further environmental and cultural conservation through ethical photography. This affiliation provides a tremendous opportunity to help deliver great content and also be an advisor on matters large and small.

Workshop Information & Itinerary

Trip Highlights:

Observe and Photograph Hundreds of Thousands of Cranes

Learn Firsthand About Crane Biology and Conservation Issues

Ample time with faculty for guidance and portfolio reviews

 

Costs Included In Tuition:

Transportation, Welcome Meals, Refuge & Blind Fees

 

Not Included:

Hotels, Meals. Flights

Workshop Itinerary

SANDHILL CRANES DAY 1

5:00pm – Depart Fairfield Inn

6:00pm – Welcome Reception

8:15pm – Opening Film “Crane Song”

 

SANDHILL CRANES DAY 2

5:20am – Depart Fairfield Inn

6:30am – Positioned in Blinds

7:32am – Sunrise

10:00am – Depart for Fairfield Inn

11:00am-3:00pm – Lunch/Download/Downtime

3:00pm – Image Edit/Critique

4:00pm – Presentation

5:30pm – Depart Fairfield Inn

6:20pm – Positioned in Blinds

7:53pm – Sunset

 

SANDHILL CRANES DAY 3

5:20am – Depart Fairfield Inn

6:30am – Positioned in Blinds

7:30am – Sunrise

10:00am – Depart for Fairfield Inn

12:00pm – Lunch

12:30pm-3:30pm – Field Work

4:00pm – Return to Fairfield Inn

5:30pm – Depart Fairfield Inn

6:20pm – Positioned in Blinds

7:54pm – Sunset

 

SANDHILL CRANES DAY 4

5:20am – Depart Fairfield Inn

6:30am – Positioned in Blinds

7:28am – Sunrise

10:00am – Depart for Fairfield Inn

11:00am-3:00pm – Lunch/Download/Downtime

3:00pm – Image Edit/Critique

4:00pm – Presentation

5:30pm – Depart Fairfield Inn

6:20pm – Field Work

7:55pm – Sunset

9:00pm – Farewell Dinner