“The owl,” he was saying, “is one of the most curious creatures. A bird that stays awake when the rest of the world sleeps. They can see in the dark. I find that so interesting, to be mired in reality when the rest of the world is dreaming. What does he see and what does he know that the rest of the world is missing?”
― M.J. Rose
Today’s post is inspired by a fellow photoblogger, Victor Rakmil and his latest post, featuring a Barred Owl and his own experience photographing these lovely creatures.
Above is a photo I made a few years ago, but one of my most prized ones. Those of you who lean towards wildlife photography will understand why this is so. You see, most of those spectacular images you see in National Geographic and other similar magazines are the result of hours of preparation, and many, many failed attempts to even find the animal, and then, get the shot right. Because, there is seldom a second chance.
Owls, are especially elusive, being night dwellers, they tend to perch high up in trees, under dense cover. So, even when you are looking for them, they are tough to spot. On rare occasions, they remain in the same area for some time and a fortunate birder or photographer happens to find it.
That’s what happened here. A photographer friend of mine began posting images of this Barred Owl on his Facebook page. The images were quite spectacular and made from a fairly close distance. So, I asked him where the photos were made. Reluctantly, he told me, asking that I not share this information with others, which I agreed to.
The next day, I set out to the ‘secret place’ to see if I could spot the owl. Well, about twenty other photographers had already heard about the place and were gathered around the owl, which was perched and sleeping, in an apple tree. We were all happy to see the owl this close up, but disappointed that it was not opening its eyes, despite the commotion around it. I was also pleased that nobody was stupid enough to throw something to wake it up (one guy suggested it and was quickly told “No!”)
I made several photos, just happy to have seen an owl in the wild, that close up. They are spectacular creatures.
A few days later, I returned, during a weekday, and found only a few photographers and birders present and the owl awake. It had just flown to the ground after a mouse and proceeded to eat it, as the cameras snapped. Then, it flew back up into a tree and rested, satisfied with its morning meal.
That’s where this composition came to life. The owl chose, for a change, to sit in the open, perfectly lit, and wonderfully framed by the branches, soft green cedars in the background. I think I made about fifty images, not wanting to miss this opportunity. The image above is my favourite and I still look at this branch, sans owl, whenever I return to the ‘secret place’, but I’ve never experienced this moment again.
Now that I have a bit better equipment and am more comfortable with it, I’m hoping to catch one in flight this year. Fingers crossed.
Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G I AF-S VR Zoom @ 300mm
1/60 sec, f/5.6, ISO 220