Ralph Crane (1913-1988) was born in a small German town, the son and grandson of physicians. It was expected, of course, that he, too, would become a doctor, but instead he was drawn to a very interesting hobby of his father’s: photography. In the end, one of his father’s patients got the 18-year-old “Rudi” a job carrying equipment for the Wide World Photo agency. Crane moved to the U.S. in 1941 and started out with the agency Black Star (the source for many LIFE photographers). Much of the work he did for Black Star ended up in LIFE, which he finally joined as a staffer in 1951. A meticulous worker, he could handle any kind of story, always burbling with vitality and the hearty chortie that earned him the sobriquet Whooping Crane.
—Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers