Sunday, December 4, 2011

Snowy Owl

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 w2xtc @f9 1/1000 ISO 640 EC-.67

Joan and I had never seen a snowy owl and for the past few winters we have been watching bird lists for sightings that would be a reasonable drive.  To our surprise one had been sighted within two hours of us in November and it was still there.  We took the drive on Saturday December 3.  We walked about 1 1/2 miles to the area where the owl is staying and set up to take photos.  We had bright skies and it was cold with gusty winds.  The owl was about 150 yards from us and there was no way to close the distance without potentially disturbing the owl.  There were large rocks between us and the owl and with the sun beating on them it made for lots of mirage so getting decent images was very tough.  Compounding that, I found that I was not getting sharp images not explained by the mirage.  The lens/camera setup had been calibrated at about 70 degrees F and I had used at 50 with slight shift in focal plane.  Now at 40 F the lens was very badly back focusing.  So, I  kept adjusting the lens ma on the camera until I got sharp images and was able to get some decent shots. The following is an example-it has been severely cropped due to the distance away. I had to move the lens ma setting from a +2 to a -5!
Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 w1.4xtc @f 1/800 ISO 1250 EC-.3

This morning (Sunday December 4) I left early so that I could be there at first light to reduce mirage. I had found an optional place to park last evening to cut the walk from 1 1/2 miles to about 1/2 mile and to also provide an opportunity to get closer to the owl without disturbing it.  When I parked, I found the remnants of a dead coot that was not there last night.  It appears the owl had duck for dinner after dark last night.  I was able to get in better position for her today and the air and ground temperatures were closer to being the same which kept the mirage under control.  I installed the 2X TC on the lens and calibrated it on the owl by taking a few shots. The image at the top of the page was done with that setup at about 50 to 60 yards. The following image was one of a series of bursts that I did when he was scratching the back of his head.  If you look closely at this image and the image at the top of the page, you can see blood in his feathers around the mouth-I am quite sure it is from his duck meal.  

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 w1.4xtc @f6.3 1/2000 ISO 640 EC-.67
This was a lifer for me!

Until next time

Jim Borden
Click here for more camera critters


Jay said...

Very nice.

Matt M said...

Great Pictures. I especially liked the last one.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the lifer - what a special one this is! These are wonderful captures!

PaWingers said...

You should be very proud of these images as they are excellent. The feet and claws are huge on this bird.

Willard said...

Interesting encounters and impressive images, Jim. That last is exceptional.

Mirage can be a real problem with the big lenses and it can be especially bad with the XL-h1 and the big telephotos since it has a 7.2 multiplication factor. Also it is interesting how the correct ma can vary. I ran into a similar situation one evening last summer where this was particularly noticeable with the 500mm.

Home Computer Repair said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ritchie said...

Hi Dude,

Snowy owls have incredible vision. They can see from high up in the sky and swoop down silently to capture their prey. Like all owls they have good night vision. They are nocturnal and diurnal hunt at night but in the Arctic it doesn't get dark in the summer so the owls hunt in the daylight too. When the owl gets food it swallows it whole or tears it into large pieces to swallow. Thanks a lot.....

Wildlife Photographer

JRandSue said...

Stunning images,amazing captuers.
Superb photography.

Aaron Smith said...

These are amazing shots. I also photograph along the Delaware River and reservoirs near the Lackawaxen River. I was really wondering what bird list you watch.

JimB said...

Email me at jim at

Marci said...

Amazing photos, Jim. I would love to see a Snowy Owl!! You were fortunate to have this encounter! Thanks for sharing.