Bet You Can’t Count All the Birds in This Insane Photo
This extraordinary photo would make the world’s most maddening jigsaw puzzle. It captures nearly 300 waterfowl—sandhill cranes, mallards, and pintails—taking flight at once, each bird in perfect focus.
Sandhill cranes, pintail ducks and mallards take off at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.Dale Erickson click to enlarge
Colorado photographer Dale Erickson snapped it in 2014 at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, where the birds stop to fatten up on corn, chufa, and milet during their annual migration. He’s visited nearly every winter since retiring 12 years ago. “I just like to be there out in the wild,” he says.
Erickson stood on a wood viewing ramp in a cornfield with the sun at his back, watching thousands of birds about 100 yards away. Suddenly, a bald eagle circling overhead sent the flock aloft with a deafening sound. “I never saw anything like that happen before, and I don’t know if I ever will again,” Erickson says.
He started photographing birds 20 years ago, and didn’t want to miss the shot. In the minute it took the birds to scatter, Erickson snapped a couple dozen images with his Canon 1D Mark III, using a 500mm lens with a small 7.1 aperture at 1/1250 of a second. The shallow depth of field and fast shutter speed captures each bird against a blurred golden backdrop. The final image required nothing more than a bit of lightening in Photoshop.
Erickson’s photo was among the 2016 Audubon Photography Awards: Top 100. He hasn’t ruled out making it into a puzzle.