A few days ago, Serbian photographer Dejan Valek shared a series of crane photos he recently took, showing cranes and a sunrise above a frozen lake. They’re not only magnificent, but they’re proof of why early bird photographers get to capture the perfect sunrise and the photo exactly as they’d imagined.
One of the photos completely stole my attention and made me return to it dozens of times. As I always love sharing photos like this, it’s what I will do in this article. I chatted with Dejan a bit about how he took this splendid photo, and he kindly shared some interesting details with DIYP.
Dejan is a photographer based in my hometown, Novi Sad. We met each other through a local photography club, and I have followed his work since then. Last weekend, he and Petar Holik, another friend from our club, embarked on an adventure: they wanted to take photos of cranes in one of few spots where these birds still can be seen in our province.
Both Dejan and Petar are quite adventurous – I’ll just tell you that one of their many hobbies is paragliding. So, waking up and packing to photograph cranes in the middle of February was nothing for them. They woke up around 4 am, drove for an hour, walked for another half an hour, set up their gear, and took photos – all at -9 °C. Easy-peasy.
Joke aside, taking this shot took quite a lot of preparation, planning, and patience. Dejan tells me that he had planned this photo for a while, ever since he first visited the location. However, in order to take it, many things had to fall into place. “I had to wait for a clear day without any mist, and the temperature had to be below zero so that the lake and the boggy area around it would freeze,” Dejan tells DIYP. “Otherwise, there was no way to approach the lakeshore.” Since we’ve had an unusually warm winter, this could easily mess up his plans.
“I arrived at the shooting location about 20 minutes before sunrise. I prepared all the gear and waited for the sun to show up behind the horizon and wake up the cranes. As soon as the sun peeked, the birds started to bustle, and they soon began to fly.”
Dejan had already set his camera on a tripod and framed his shot. Now all that had to happen was for a crane to fly in front of the rising sun and for him to would press the shutter at exactly the right time.
“The rising sun moves across the sky really fast so I had very little time to take the photo. During the sunrise, this was the only photo I took where the cranes flew directly in front of the sun! They were constantly flying either above or below it, and I started to worry that I wouldn’t get the shot I’d had in my mind. But I got lucky. All of a sudden, my camera display showed the photo that had only existed in my mind until that moment. My efforts weren’t in vain!”
As for the technical details, Dejan used a Sony A7III with a 200-600mm lens, and his camera was on a tripod. This show was taken at the aperture of f/16, 600mm focal length, and at the very fast 1/3000 exposure.
As I mentioned, the morning of the shoot was very cold with the -9 °C temperature. But Dejan tells me that both he and Petar were well dressed and prepared for the cold, both mentally and physically. “As my friend says, ‘there’s no bad weather, only bad clothes and shoes’,” Dejan says with a smile. So, if you plan to take photos in extreme temperatures, make sure to plan and be well prepared.
Speaking of planning, Dejan has some advice for photographing wildlife, especially if you’ve already imagined the photo you want to take:
“Try to plan your image ahead so you can determine the exact time and place to set up your gear. When shooting photos like this, there are many unpredictable factors, so planning the shot highly increases your chance of capturing the right moment exactly as it occurs.”
People often say that the Northern part of Serbia is boring and monotonous because it’s flat. But I think Dejan’s photo is a great reminder that beauty is everywhere, you just need to know how to look for it! Make sure to check out more of Dejan’s beautiful work on his website and follow his adventures on Instagram and Facebook.