Friday, January 21, 2011

Back Yard Photography and Short Ear Owls

This time of year is great for viewing and photographing Short Ear Owls, Long Ear Owls, Northern Harriers, and Rough Legged Hawks that have migrated to our area for the winter.  As I talk with photographer friends I hear many languish about it being winter and cold and they are planning their expensive trips to Yellowstone, Alaska and other far off places.  I certainly dream about visiting those areas again-but Joan and I have looked at what we can do with short, local trips and have many more opportunities versus focusing all the resources on one or two trips.  The ability to locate and photograph migrating birds in our area is an example.  We have been driving about 3 hours each way on day trips to see and photograph Rough Legged hawks, Short ear Owls and long Ear Owls.  Recently a friend birder -Joe Demarco-clued me into short ear owls on a farm less than 10 miles from where I live.  Three trips to that farm this week yielded great pictures of the short ear owls and also the opportunity to see rough legged hawks and a first for me-dark morph rough legged hawks.  I need to spend more time around that farm to be bale to get quality pictures of the rough legged hawks, but our opportunities for the short ear owls have been great.  Photographing them can be a challenge as they normally come out near dark and/or on overcast days in late afternoon.  It requires use of high ISO and careful attention to the histogram on back of camera to make sure the pictures are being exposed to the right to keep noise down. One effect as a result of this type of photography is that the images have a slight blue cast to them--it can be corrected in photoshop-but I prefer to leave it as it is what I saw with my eyes.

Canon 1D MK IV, Canon 600mm f4 @ f7.1 1/500 ISO 1000 EC+1 about 30 yds
The next one is an example of where the high ISO was absolutely necessary to get shutter speed up for inflight.  Even at 2000 ISO I was only at 1/1000 shutter speed which is usually marginal for in flight shots-however, owls glide and I caught him in almost a stall so he came out crisp!
Canon 1D MK IV, Canon 600mm f4 @ f5.6 1/1000 ISO 2000 EC+1 about 60 yds

Patience often pays off with a special shot such as this next two images.  However, at 9 degrees F in blowing wind-it can be tempting to get back in a warm vehicle!

Canon 1D MK IV, Canon 600mm f4 @ f5 1/1000 ISO 2000 EC+.67 over 100 yds 

Canon 1D MK IV, Canon 600mm f4 @ f5 1/2000 ISO 2000 EC+.67 over 100 yds

Canon 1D MK IV, Canon 600mm f4 @ f5 1/1250 ISO 2000 EC+.67 over 100 yds 
Canon 1D MK IV, Canon 600mm f4 @ f5 1/1600 ISO 2000 EC+.67 over 100 yds 
Canon 1D MK IV, Canon 600mm f4 @ f4 1/1250 ISO 2000 EC+.67 over 100 yds 
Canon 1D MK IV, Canon 600mm f4 @ f4 1/1600 ISO 2000 EC+.67 over 100 yds
The following is a documentation picture-it is not as sharp as I want-nor is the composition what I like-but I am using it in my personal bird album as documentation of a dark morph rough legged hawk

Canon 1D MK IV, Canon 600mm f4 @ f5.6 1/800 ISO 12500 EC+1 over 100 yds

Until Next Time

Jim Borden


Passinthru Outdoors said...

What a series. Just incredible.

Thanks for sharing.

Kimberly said...

Beautiful birds! Thank you for sharing these great photos.

Matt Elder said...

Amazing Photos. I love the second one with mouse. Very cool.

Coy said...

Incredible action shots Jim! Your persistence certainly paid off!

Capturing the owl with its prey, Awesome!

Brk Trt said...

I just found your blog and I want to tell you its wonderful. Your photography puts you right there.

I have hunted and fished the wild trout streams of Northeast PA for many years.

Sarah @ The Strength of Faith said...

Jim these photos are beautiful.

I am like you - part of me wishes I could throw money into a big trip, but the other part just wants to stay local so I can make more short trips and shoot all the time.

John S. Mead said...

Wow...Just Wow! How great to get so many shots of this owl in action and even greater that so many of the shots were so crisp & sharp in difficult lighting conditions. I love seeing the images and am impressed by your skill! KUDOS!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos, Jim. Amazing detail!

Willard said...

Amazing photographs, Jim. The new equipment is working out well and you are doing an excellent job of operating it.

Ritchie said...

Hello all,

Beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing it...
Wildlife Photography

Anonymous said...

It makes me shiver. Literally.
Such captures.
I wonder if you would take a look at a close-up of Owl claws that by coincidence I posted today. (link in the name.)

Adrienne in Ohio said...

Beautiful series, Jim!