Getting the Shot with the “Sigmonster”

Guest post by Scott Bourne, founder of

Cranes In The Fire Mist Photo Copyright Scott Bourne
Here’s the story of my image “Cranes in the Fire Mist” Photo © 2008 Scott Bourne. All rights reserved. 1/4000 F5.6 ISO 800, Sigma 300-800mm F5.6 EX DG HSM at 800mm on Nikon D3.

Around 20 years ago, I saw an image by a friend that contained a lake full of cranes and geese, backlit by a blazing, golden sun.

The image struck me to the point that I spent 12 years trying to re-create my own version of it.

In the image I pre-visualized, there would be one or two birds flying into the pond while the others waited to take off. It’s an almost impossible scenario because a number of factors have to converge in a perfect storm for it to work.

Here’s what had to happen for this image to come about.

1. Travel to New Mexico
2. Be there in the winter
3. Find the right pond – one that allows an eastern exposure
4. Hope for fog/mist
5. Make sure that you get the right mixture of birds
6. Hope for no clouds
7. The birds have to wait for the sunrise before they fly-out
8. Wait for birds to fly into the scene before the others leave
9. The winds have to come from the west or northwest

One other critical piece of gear for this shot was a very long lens. I had tried it with a 600mm lens with no luck. Enter the versatile and amazing Sigma 300-800 F5.6 EX DG HSM lens. The “Sigmonster” as it’s called was just long enough and fast enough at f/5.6 to give me the look and feel I wanted.

I sat the Sigmonster on a gimbal head and sturdy tripod. I extended the big zoom lens out to 800mm, took a deep breath, assumed the best shooting posture I could, and said a quick prayer to the photo-Gods, reminding them of all the time I put into getting this shot over the years, asking that this time, all things could come together for that perfect moment. What you see here is what happened.

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