The elegant Red-crowned Crane is a symbol of peace, happiness and longevity in Japanese art and culture. I was born in Japan, and spent much of my childhood there, so when I travelled to Hokkaido to photograph wildlife in the winter, I felt a special connection, and I fell in love with the cranes. They look especially beautiful in the snow. On winter days in Hokkaido cranes move between roosting sites on the rivers, and feeding grounds in open fields nearby, where I often waited, trying to get flight shots of incoming cranes. I regularly tried this on snowy days, hoping to create an atmospheric image of these beautiful birds in flight through soft falling snow. Everything came together one day for this shot: a crane with wings open wide coming in for a landing with nice out of focus trees in the background, and just enough snow in the air to capture the mood without obscuring the bird. As I panned with the flying crane, I used a moderate shutter speed that would keep the bird sharp, while allowing some motion blur in the snowflakes for the nice soft look to the image. The result was one of my favorite images, published as a two-page spread in National Geographic, and also a winner in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
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