Ultimately, you get realistic content presented with a Ukiyo-e technique. It’s interesting to notice that the trend in graphic design and computer art (in this early milleniuim) is something somewhat reminiscent of Shin-hanga. If we were to speculate on why, it might be because computers are particularly well-suited to producing contour lines and enabling the creator to use the “fill” feature to paint them quickly. If contemporary designers in advertising and design wanted to take what’s quick and make it magnificent, they’d do well to look at Shin-hanga works to get a sense of the best non-realistic 2d work has to offer.
As for Ohara Koson’s “Crane Over His Nest,” the main thing that makes this stand out amongst “crane pictures” is the feeling of weightlessness. Part of this weightlessness seems to be accomplished by three things. One: that almost the entire picture is sky. More than 2/3 of the picture are open sky compared to about 1/3 peachy-dawn. If you squint your eyes you’ll see more easily where the peach-gradient ends and “open sky” begins.
Two: the relationship between light and dark and assumed weight. In other words… in life, things that are lighter in color tend to be perceived as being lighter in weight. For example: consider a stormy sky, dark gray and black clouds appear heavy with water (partly because they are). Fluffy white clouds seem light and weightless. To further illustrate the point as a matter of perception… consider how commercial airliners receive a lighter paint-job than military planes which are sometimes even painted black. Consider Japan’s bullet train which is painted white and contrast your impression of it with a Wild West Locomotive that’s an iron-black. In this picture, the crane is objectively the lightest/brightest object in the painting. When you contrast it with the black, brown, and grey of the tree which its perched upon it seems even lighter.
Three: the relationship of the father crane and his young as well as the father crane and the tree-branch. To the extent that the father crane’s wings billow out (inferring a balancing act to the viewer) the young crane “cranes” its neck upward from its green sanctuary. As for the father crane and the tree-branch, the crane’s body and the tree branch almost mimic one another… so much so that if the crane and the branch were substituted with a white line and a black line, that the black line would appear almost as a shadow of the white. To be more specific, the contour of the cranes upper wing is almost the same as the top part of the branch its perched on. The neck and beak also maintain a consistent distance from the branch as they make their downward motion.
It’s also worth noting that the speck of red (the largest concentration of red) in the picture appears on the crane’s head almost as a reference point for when looking at the picture.