The perfection and beauty of Japanese Cranes in a courtship dance captured in a photo

Everything seems to come together in this photograph of Japanese cranes. The falling snow, the beautiful movement – it all falls into place. How did Roy Toft accomplish such a masterpiece? Here he explains…

Wildlife at It’s Most Beautiful

Roy Toft: With this shot of the Japanese cranes we’re going to shift and jump from Honshu up to the north island of Hokkaido. This is kind of following what we do in our workshop. We spend the first four days working with snow monkeys and then jump up to Hokkaido. This is the time of year the cranes are starting their courtship dance, in the middle of winter. (click the image for a larger version)

That’s when they start or are already thinking about courtship and what’s going to happen in the spring. This picture shows two different pairs, so it would be two males and two females. They kind of have a little bit of a little dancing quartet going on here — a courtship dance.

We spend four days with the Japanese cranes and we’re hoping to have one or two days when the snow is actually falling. In this shot, you see the snow coming down so it really all comes together and you see the wonderful courtship, very ritualized dance of the cranes. You also have a great feeling of the winter environment.

Audri Lanford: What kind of lens did you use here?

Roy Toft: This was probably a 100-400mm zoom. The Japanese cranes are not really shy. You just can’t work as close to them as you can the snow monkeys because they’re in an area that’s a little farther away.

You don’t have to have the monster lenses. You can be successful with a 100-400mm, especially if you’re getting multiple cranes in a shot.