A photograph by Michael Forsberg of sandhill cranes flying near the Platte River at sunset will be used for a U.S. postage stamp celebrating Nebraska’s 150th birthday as a state.
The stamp is part of the Postal Service’s statehood series and Lincoln Postmaster Kerry Kowalski said it will likely be available in March, Nebraska’s birthday month and the official beginning of the state’s sesquicentennial celebration.
Forsberg, a Lincoln conservation and wildlife photographer, said the photograph was shot about 15 years ago near Wood River.
These cranes were among the first wave of the evening landing on a sandbar. Once one group lands, others decide it is safe to land and join them, Forsberg said.
He said he wanted to make a picture that was different. He used a wide angle view that included the prairie, "where it sort of feels like you are hunkered down in the grass right next to the river and the birds are part of the landscape."
"It took several nights to make all that come together because it is not easy. But you get lucky once in a while. This was a special picture for me."
The Postal Service wanted something with the Platte River, which is fitting, said Forsberg. "The Platte is our lifeline.”
Forsberg, who said he is honored and happy with this stamp, pointed out some of the symbolism in the image.
The image gets to what Nebraska really is, he said, "a place of prairie grassland and a place with this beautiful braided river" that is the ecological and economic artery of the Great Plains.
The cranes have been moving north and south through the heartland for a lot longer than we have been here, he said.
"The picture shows the nexus of an east-west road, and a north-south road. One is in the sky and one is our river.
"And we have arguably the best sunsets in the nation."
"I hope we can maintain everything we see in that image for another 150 years. It’s going to be a big challenge. But I think we are up to it.”
This is the second time the Postal Service has used a Forsberg photograph for a stamp. An international airmail stamp issued in 2001 used a photo he shot of Nine Mile Prairie outside of Lincoln.
Both times the Postal Service approached Forsberg for an image, he said.
It doesn’t happen often, but there are a few renowned artists who have had a picture or images used for stamps on more than one occasion, said Postmaster Kowalski.