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Festival of Cranes offers stunning visuals

SOCORRO – This is the week for bird-watchers, photographers, nature lovers and gawkers from around the country to descend on Socorro County for the annual Festival of the Cranes at the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge.

With the diverse bird life, the surreal and scenic landscape, the population of mule deer and coyotes, and the variety of native flora, the refuge gives photo enthusiasts more than 57,000 acres of scenery to capture.

The festival, which runs through Sunday, offers classes and seminars related to photography, including Point and Shoot Nature Photography, Designing Landscape Images, a Photograph Birds in Flight Workshop, and Making the Most of Macro.

A full schedule and information are available at friendsofthebosque.org.

Photographers from Albuquerque, South Dakota, and Florida take shots of snow geese and sandhill cranes at a previous Festival of the Cranes at the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge. The annual event a major attraction for photographers from all over the world. (Matt Bernhardt/Albuquerque Journal)

Photographers from Albuquerque, South Dakota, and Florida take shots of snow geese and sandhill cranes at a previous Festival of the Cranes at the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge. The annual event a major attraction for photographers from all over the world. (Matt Bernhardt/Albuquerque Journal)

Festival enthusiast and professional photographer Jack Panzeca, who won the photography contest in 2013, said the bosque is one of his favorite places.

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“Even without the photography, it’s such an astonishing place, and every year is different,” he said. “I remember my first trip there. About 20,000 snow geese take off right over your head. I’m standing there with my jaw dropped, and my wife is going, ‘Aren’t you supposed to be taking pictures?’ I said, ‘Not right now.’ ”

Panzeca has been a photographer for most of his life and has always been an outdoorsman. Although his work in the bosque and during the festival is some of the most highly regarded in America, he said he’s still stunned by its beauty and unpredictable nature.

“I’ve been so many years now, I’m not as awestruck by it, but it’s still just as astonishing,” he said. “It’s amazing. One year, it’s the number of birds; the next year, it’s the sunsets; the next year, it’s the sunrise. Every once in a while you get fog … it’s just wonderful.”

A flock of sandhill cranes takes flight at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. The annual Festival of the Cranes at the Bosque del Apache continues through Sunday. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

A flock of sandhill cranes takes flight at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. The annual Festival of the Cranes at the Bosque del Apache continues through Sunday. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

For novice and professional photographers alike, Panzeca has some sound advice one of his teachers once gave him: Never give up on sunrise, and never give up on sunset.

“Just when you think it’s over and you’re ready to pack up and move on, stay another 30 minutes,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen, especially at the crane pools. The sun can go down behind the mountains, and you think it’s over; then you get this gorgeous reflection that bounces off a cloud and it comes back to life. Never give up on it.”

Even if you’re brand-new at photography and can’t quite take a photograph to your liking, Panzeca pointed out that the festival offers much more.

“The festival is just wonderful. There are so many things to do, so many things to see,” he said. “You don’t have to be an expert. You can just go to the classes and the seminars, and you don’t have to know anything. You can still have a great time and see a lot of great stuff.”

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