Fall Arts Festival: Gray Crane

“Medicine Bird” will be on display at Gary Crandall’s Gray Crane Studios.

It was 10 at night when photographer Gary Crandall flipped his truck in the middle of Nowhere, Nebraska.

All the windows and his camera gear shattered. Crandall escaped unscathed. But something else did, too: a framed photo of a raven a Native American gallery owner in South Dakota had recently dubbed the “medicine bird.”

“All the camera gear was busted,” said Crandall, the owner of Gray Crane Studios. “Everything was just trashed. Luckily, I didn’t get hurt.”

When he looked in the back seat, he saw that the frame was a bit nicked but still intact.

“The image was titled properly,” Crandall said. “It should have [broken]. It flipped around in that truck, you can tell. ‘Thank God for the medicine bird,’ we say now.”

That image is now the theme around which Crandall is building his Fall Arts Festival studio setup.

“This winter I’ve been lucky to get some really cool raven images up in Yellowstone,” he said. “We’re going to highlight those.”

Each year his studio prints a giveaway poster for the festival. Expect to see the raven image on it.

Crandall considers himself more of a wildlife photographer than a landscape photographer but does a little bit of both. His gallery focuses on scenes from the Yellowstone ecosystem.

You can find him, camera in hand, working on some of the region’s coldest days.

“The winter is my favorite time to go out,” Crandall said. “It’s kind of brutal, but to me it’s the nicest time of the year.”

The colors, the lighting and the critters — plus fewer people — appeal to him.

“I love the Tetons for the fact that I can strap on cross-country skis or snowshoes and go anywhere in the park in the winter,” Crandall said. “It’s pretty unique in that way, I think.”

As a self-professed “bird guy” Crandall also enjoys spring for the bird migrations, as well as the ever-fleeting autumn season.

The valley first hooked him, a Jersey boy, on a trip with his brother in the late 1970s.

“I always wanted to come out West,” he said.

Crandall recalled making the trip through the Badlands of South Dakota, then the Black Hills and then the Bighorn Mountains.

“It just gets more and more stunning,” he said.

Then they hit the Tetons.

“Holy cow,” Crandall said. “I never tire of seeing that range. It’s just such a beautiful one. I don’t even know how to explain it sometimes. You’re just in awe. ... It’s just something you never forget.”

He moved to Wyoming the next year with his Jeep, his malamute, some camping gear and a camera.

Crandall’s photography career developed over time from there, starting with distinctive tight, closeup vertical shots of wildlife and a lot of focus on the landscape’s trees. While he shoots the classic scenes, like the Snake River Overlook, Schwabacher Landing and the T.A. Moulton barn on Mormon Row, he much prefers finding new scenes and angles, and working with those.

“I just grab the canoe and float the Snake and just look at different spots,” Crandall said. “That’s a great way to find spots.”

If he invites you along, be wary. His camera gear will stay dry in waterproof cases, but you might not.

“Inevitably, I’m not paying attention and I tip the boat,” he said. “As long as it’s summer, it’s fun.” 

Contact Kylie Mohr at fallarts@jhnewsandguide.com.

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