Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

April 5, 2010

Burrowing Owl in bad light

Filed under: Birds, light, technique — richditch @ 1:22 pm
Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Its been too long since I last posted here, but I just haven’t been getting out much and haven’t done much photography when I have been out. But there were a number of reports of a good movement of Swainson’s Hawks in Arizona on Saturday so I took a short trip south of Phoenix where I often see them to look for this year’s birds.

Sure enough I got to see lots of Swainson’s Hawks: sitting on the giant mobile watering rigs in agricultural areas, on distant fenceposts, and on roadside utility poles throughout the area. But none of them where I could get any good photos.

I made one detour before heading home, on a side road where I sometimes see Long-billed Curlews. There weren’t any this time, but I did come upon a group of three Burrowing Owls. I used to be able to find these interesting subjects in many areas around central Arizona, but they’ve become much harder to find as more fields got converted to urban development. These were the first of 2010 for me (in 2009 I didn’t see any until May).

I took my time pulling my Toyota off the pavement and across the grassy area to where this owl stood on a pile of dirt. Two other owls were farther away. After getting my car in position I shut off the engine and mounted my camera an lens on top of my monopod (which fits between my driver’s seat and door). I came home with 80+ shots of this bird, but the only variety in them was the direction the owl was looking. It was too late in the morning (9:42 am, so over 3 hours after sunrise) and the light was rather harsh.

Fill flash could have helped with the light, but I can’t use it easily from the car window, plus I don’t like using it anyway. The better course of action is to get back to this location a lot earlier in the morning, or a lot later in the day. I hope I can do that soon and that this bird is still willing to pose so nicely for me.

Nikon D200, 300/2.8 AF-S plus TC20E (2x), ISO 200, 1/320th second at f/8.



  1. Hi Rich,

    I have a question for you. Is it possible that there is a snowy owl wintering in Tempe? A woman that I work with SWEARS she saw a very large, completely white owl last night while she was walking with her children. Hmmm…


    Comment by Robin McEntire — April 7, 2010 @ 9:54 am

  2. A Snowy Owl in Tempe is not possible IMO.

    I’d suspect a Barn Owl – they look very white at night and are thought to be the source of all the claims of ghosts.

    Comment by richditch — April 7, 2010 @ 10:01 am

  3. Thank you Rich – that is what I thought as well. When I sent her pictures of a barn owl soaring, she said that was what she saw and recognized the heart shaped face. Have a great weekend! Hubby and I are going out to take pictures at the all-breed dog show at the Cardinal’s stadium on Saturday and Sunday! We can’t wait!!

    Comment by Robin McEntire — April 9, 2010 @ 1:30 pm

  4. Amazing shot

    Comment by Manoj Sadasivan — April 11, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

  5. Spectacular shot; burrowing owls are the best.

    I saw a barn owl only once at night in AZ, and it looked completely white from where I was. Probably that’s where she got snowy owl from?

    Comment by Kimberly Hosey (Arizona Writer) — April 12, 2010 @ 11:45 am

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