Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

June 13, 2009

Fascinating Owls

Filed under: Birds, composition, light — richditch @ 1:38 pm
Great Horned Owls - adult and juvenile

Great Horned Owls - adult and juvenile

Great Horned Owl is a widely distributed species, occurring across North America in a variety of habitats. It is much more common than most people realize because few people are out when the owls are active.

Here in the sparsely vegetated desert of central Arizona there are plenty of owls, and with less cover for them to hide in during the day, they can be a lot easier to see. At least if you know where to look for them.

I was tipped off about a family of owls being seen in the East Valley of the Phoenix metro area by an email from a friend who’d heard about them from a local resident. The report that I received didn’t have any real details about exactly where they were or what time of day they might be active, but the report said they were photographable. That was enough to get me to make the 30 mile drive to look for them.

After trying to find them near the shopping complex mentioned in the email I’d received and a talk with a local policeman looking for speeders on the nearby expressway I worked my way to an obvious location: an open area of abused desert with a couple prominent large trees standing in the middle about a half mile away.

When I got there I found a friend had already located the trees and owls, and we spent an enjoyable hour taking more photos.

Great Horned Owl juvenile

Great Horned Owl juvenile

I limited my shooting to about 40 frames on the morning of June 11. At first I thought I’d use fill flash as my friend was doing, but it had been so long since I’d used the flash that the batteries were completely flat. No problem, though, as I am more comfortable shooting with natural light anyway.

The top image shows an adult (upper) with a juvenile (lower) on a twisty branch that could be straight out of a Harry Potter movie. The green bark makes me think the tree is a valo verde, but I’m not that great with plant identification. Nikon D200, 300/2.8 plus TC14E (1.4x, instead of the 2x I normally use for my bird work), ISO 200, 1/80th second at f/8, spot meter, natural light.

The second image is of the juvenile bird alone (this time with the 2x on the 300/2.8).

This session was a lot of fun, so I went back again this morning. I brought along fully charged batteries in the flash, plus 3 backup sets, but never used the flash at all. The light was wonderful, and the most developed of the three young birds was actively flying between the two large trees. I ended up taking almost 200 frames, so expect to see more here in a couple of days when I’ve finished editing the batch.

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