« Another Capable Camera Hits Rock-Bottom Closeout | Main | Open Mike: Cabinet Collections and the Apple iPad Air »

Friday, 08 November 2013


Mike said,

"I'd like to see something more mysterious, maybe of one of them barely visible in the darkness."

How would that be different than one of your regular photographs?

(I'm sorry, I couldn't resist -- it's not often that you see somebody tee himself up like that. 8-)

I got lucky last week. I was walking a trail at Point Lobos State Reserve at about 2:00 in the afternoon when I heard the distinct hoot of a Great Horned Owl about 20 ft behind me. I went back up the trail and spent a good 5 minutes looking before I finally spotted something that didn't fit.

Great Horned Owl

It is the first one that I have seen in about 35 years. Why it hooted at 2:00 pm after I had walked almost directly under it, I don't know.

i think this is the best i've got in the "barely visible in the darkness" kind a shot:
night owl redux
think i went a bit overboard with vignetting in post, haven't printed yet. it was darker in reality than in the picture, which is hard to capture while maintaining visibility at web sizes.

sadly, in all my daylight pictures of owls they just look sleepy.

One the highlights of 8 years living in country Victoria, Australia was the calls and occasional sightings of owls around our 40 acre block. The most memorable occasion was observing, slightly bent over, through the eyepiece of my 12" "dobsonian" telescope. I felt the downdraft as an owl (probably a tawny frog-mouth) swooped over my head. No contact, no sound, but a glimpse of a dark shape against the sky as I straightened up.
No photograph, of course, but then no photograph could do that experience justice.

In Finland it is now the season of owl (Surnia ulula) migration to south. One had fallen in a lake in the middle of dense fog, and a man out kayaking saved it from the water. It may have been tired of the migration and thus got lost in the fog.

Check out the photographs of the saving of the owl. Text is in Finnish, title is "Tired swimmer".


If you can find a copy, read "An Eye for a Bird". It's an autobiography of a bird photographer who lost one of his eyes from an attack from an owl.

It has been a memorable read for me.

I've never seen an owl that wasn't in zoo.

thomas hobbes, I like that a lot.


Here's a Great-horned owl waking up at dusk in Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year.

As a follow on to my barely visible owl (the featured comment !) I was thinking how fortunate I was that owls can stay very still (I don't remember the shutter speed on 400/4.5 but it had to be 1/30s or below). I had another encounter with an even more cooperative owl.
I've been driving the same commute for 20 years now and carry a camera most days but rarely find anything new. Now & again I get inspired to carry a bigger camera and one year I was carrying my tele zoom back & forth. I got this shot:

It almost never pays off, but one misty morning, I saw, through the trees on the side of the road, a huge owl perched on a post overlooking a public swimming hole, presumably watching for mice or other breakfast. (It was early and nobody was around). I stopped the car, put the camera on the tripod, and did the time honored technique of shooting, moving closer, shooting again, moving closer. I kept getting closer and it never moved a muscle ! I got through the tree line onto the property near the swimming hole, looked through the viewfinder, and saw that I'd been successfully stalking a plastic owl.
I then did the time honored technique of hastily looking around to make sure nobody was watching, then hurrying back to my car, as nonchalantly as possible with a camera on a tripod.
As one final aside, I always liked that shot of the coyote with the deer in the background. But it's an example of how context can change the meaning of a picture. The field was next to a 55mph road and the coyote was walking with a limp.

"I think it would be quite a project to get a picture of one...maybe of one of them barely visible in the darkness, or gliding from one darkened tree to another...When they leave, all the rabbits are gone."

How about an even bigger challenge, Mike? Show us your image of an owl swooping down and *eating* one of those rabbits. ;-)

[I think I'd rather accept the challenge of a snack and a nap. --Mike]

Paul Bass –

thanks! it was an incredibly lucky shot. i was driving home from marin headlands in the SF bay area after shooting some of the old bunkers there at dusk (seen in the background of the owl). i saw the owl land on the power line and pulled to the side of the road immediately. i had two cameras on the seat next to me, stuck my head out the window and a took a couple shots with each hoping my hand would be steady enough for a decent shot. i started digging out my telephoto and tripod, but when i looked up the owl was gone.

Like Mark Janness, Eric Hosking's autobiography (An Eye for a Bird) is memorable to me. Probably read it in the early 1970's (before my teens). The cover photo that I recall, was of the Tawny Owl that had attacked him (or one of the pair) - he'd been walking out to a hide that was overlooking its nest.

Certainly made me wary of approaching likely owl nest sites in the dark...

[URL=http://s1133.photobucket.com/user/Desertpupfish/media/GHOwl9363600x775.jpg.html][IMG]http://i1133.photobucket.com/albums/m585/Desertpupfish/GHOwl9363600x775.jpg[/IMG][/URL]This">http://i1133.photobucket.com/albums/m585/Desertpupfish/GHOwl9363600x775.jpg[/IMG][/URL]This">http://s1133.photobucket.com/user/Desertpupfish/media/GHOwl9363600x775.jpg.html][IMG]http://i1133.photobucket.com/albums/m585/Desertpupfish/GHOwl9363600x775.jpg[/IMG][/URL]This Great Horned Owl in Carmel Valley, CA allowed me to climb out the window of my Xterra and onto the roof that I might capture it at eye level from less than 20 feet away.

I know no one actually asked, but this seems like a good excuse to make images available in a comment... I hadn't tried this before.

Young owls at the campus of Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, a few years ago. We get a batch of 1 - 3 most years...




[I like those! --Mike]


Check out the work of Vincent Munier:

In particular, the Nebulosa gallery.

Beautiful Great Gray Owl shot, Dennis.

For the ISO challenged photographers remember that Short-eared Owls are diurnal (i.e. they're up during the day) over marshland (in the US and Europe).

Mike, are your owls Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl or Eastern Screech Owls? The mostly likely three in WI.


Species ID by ear is fun (and the easiest way to go owling!).

I think the Owl's would appreciate a barley visible shot too... I imagine a strobe flash to a pair of nocturnal eyes from close range would be quite distressing.
Besides the photo's here look much more natural and I guess the way we all visualise them...

I photographed this fellow in very dim light a couple of weeks ago. His location was revealed to me by a "mob" of small birds that had discovered him. He had apparently taken up residence in an empty squirrel box I put up a couple of years ago.

This screech owl wouldn't make a dent on the rabbit population because of his small size - about 7 or 8 inches high. Something smaller would be preferred.

Decades ago when I worked at a campground near Walpole Island, I had a large owl fly directly overhead. I could sense it before I saw it; it was totally silent and was one of the spookiest sensations I've experienced. I loved it.

I agree that owls are fascinating. As a city boy I vividly remember the first time I heard an owl while on a backpacking trip. I even recall what I said to my wife: "What the hell is that?!" (It didn't sound like any of the cartoon owls I'd heard on tv.)

Here's a fun tidbit about owls mainly for the many non-U.S. readers of TOP.

for any readers in the bay area interested in seeing/photographing owls, there are at least two pairs of great-horned owls that nest in golden gate park regularly: http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/great-horned-owl-chicks-a-hit-with-birdwatchers/Content?oid=2172879

in early spring it's easy to find them because whatever tree they nest in is surrounded by people with binoculars and big white lenses. ;)

i always forget to go when the owlets look like little puff balls, but i did run into them once soon after they fledged:
father and son

St. Louis's Forest Park has a nesting pair of Great Horned Owls that has been there for at least 10 years. Here's the local expert on the pair - if you stop by the park of an evening, he may be there to give you and others an owl tour.

We were visiting some family friends and were relaxing in the verandah of their house here in Goa, India when my wife spotted this little fellow peeking out of a hollow in the adjacent tree. I grabbed my old Sony H2 (which was my go-to digital camera at the time for meeting friends and family because it was smaller and lighter than my Canon 1000d and its zoom range). We took turns with the camera taking pictures (my wife only loves taking pictures when there's something cute in front of the lens). That should also explain the very loose standards in picking the best pictures to share! He went through a whole set of 'neck stretches' as I like to call them, before retreating back into the hollow.

DSC01847 copy

My friend's kids were totally shocked that they hadn't seen the owl right there in their backyard until then, and promptly proceeded to spend the next 5 minutes waiting for the owl to return. Needless to say, their patience wore out before the owl came out and they were back to their running around the house.

(link to the set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nyct0ph0bia/sets/72157626180084717/with/5542298094/)

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007