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Picture this: ten to twelve thousand sandhill cranes squawking, foraging, and flying all around you. Now imagine swinging your super-telephoto lens into action, catching all the excitement. This thrilling picture was reality for the thirty-three participants at the Sigma-sponsored Goose Pond FWA photo workshop near Linton, Indiana.

Sandhill Cranes were everywhere around Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area, just outside Linton, Indiana. Approximately 10,000 to 12,000 cranes were in the area during the workshop. Photo by Dave FitzSimmons. Sigma 500mm f/4.5 EX DG APO HSM lens, f/8, 1/160 sec., ISO 100.

Superbly organized by Robert’s Imaging of Indianapolis – a tip o’ the cap here to Jody Grober – the workshop featured almost three dozen eager and knowledgeable participants. We split up into three groups: one group led by expert ornithologist Eric Ripma, one group instructed by Goose Pond Area Manager Brad Feaster, and one group focused on bird photography with me.

What a great group of birders, photographers, and all-around naturalists! Pictured in the front (left to right) are our fearless leaders: Brad Feaster, Goose Pond Manager, Eric Ripma, birding expert, Jody Grober, Robert’s Imaging workshop organizer ( and all-around nice guy), and me. Photo by Dave FitzSimmons. Sigma 18-125mm F3.8-5.6 DC OS HSM lens. f/5.6, 1/80 sec., ISO 100.

The day began with the sandhills playing hide-and-seek. Early in the morning Eric scouted the red-capped giants, finding that the birds had roosted overnight at Beehunter Marsh, but, by the time we arrived at the wildlife area, they had flown to forage elsewhere in and around Goose Pond. When we eventually found them, the seeking was well worth the wait. The cranes were spectacular: Hundreds and hundreds flying in, giving great opportunities to shoot flocks soaring in the air – practicing panning techniques – and many landing on the ground.

Throughout the day we saw other birds, including Canada geese, greater white-fronted geese, a variety of ducks, and a rare pair of whooping cranes. Late in the afternoon two groups photographed a spectacularly beautiful short-eared owl.

Workshop participants lined up to photograph a pair of whooping cranes. The pair of rare birds kept their distance, so Sigma’s long loaner lenses, such as the ever-popular 150-500mm, came in handy. Photos by Dave FitzSimmons. Sigma 500mm f/4.5 EX DG APO HSM lens.

Classroom sessions were held at the incredible Carnegie Heritage & Arts Center in Linton, Indiana. The fully-renovated historic building was saved from demolition by a group of dedicated locals and now serves as the city’s cultural hub. The Carnegie Center provided great classroom space for our instructional sessions. Lunch was at the Francisco De Borja Coffee café, a gem of a restaurant. The food was exceptional, from soups and sandwiches to casseroles and cake (not to mention that the deluxe faire was included in Robert’s registration fee!).

Sigma provided a variety of lenses for participants to try out, including two extremely popular lenses: the Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM zoom and the Sigma 18250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM lens. These worked out great for capturing flying whooping cranes, foraging sandhills, and the short-eared owl.

Thanks to Sigma, Jody Grober of Robert’s Imaging, and our other workshop partners, Lowepro, NEC, and Red River Paper, for putting together this great event! And stay tuned for next year. We are already planning the 2012 event.

Short-eared owl at Goose Pond FWA, Linton, Indiana. Photos by Dave FitzSimmons. Sigma 500mm f/4.5 EX DG APO HSM lens. f/11, 1/15 sec., ISO 100, mirror lock-up.

For those of you looking for a something sooner, here are some upcoming events:

Dave FitzSimmons SIGMA Photography Workshops

Apr. 7 & Apr. 8 Smoky Mountains, TN w/ Discover Life in America/ATBI
Apr. 30 – May 1 Ithaca, NY w/ Cornell Outdoor Education
May 20 – 22 Kelley’s Island, Ohio w/ Art Weber
Aug. 2 – 4 Telluride, Colorado w/ Telluride Outside Outfitters & Ah Haa School for the Arts
Oct. 8 – 9 Ithaca, New York w/ Cornell Outdoor Education

Click here for a PDF of Dave’s 2011 photo workshop schedule.

For more details, to register for an upcoming workshop, or to see more of Dave’s work, visit

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3 comments so far

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  1. Hello Dave,
    Thank you for putting up this blog. Thanks to everyone involved for putting on a great workshop!

    A few of my favorite shots from the day are:

    I hope we can get together and do it again.

    Mike Hannum

  2. Hi Dave, I really enjoyed the workshop. The cranes were spectacular, and the owl as a finale was a real treat. It was great to meet you too. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event!

  3. Mike,

    Great shots! The whoopers were so much fun, and nice portrait of the short-eared owl. Looking forward to next year’s workshop!