Saturday, February 4, 2017

Hushed Calm, Perfect Light

Barred Owl Portrait                                16 July 2017

Barred Owls are largely nocturnal, but July is a month of hungry fledglings.  While participating in the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II, I happened to catch a glimpse of this Barred Owl hunting for small mammals along the forested edge of a small lake. Backlit by the rapidly rising sun, I knew the owl would present some exposure challenge.  Luckily, the owl was not at all worried about me and remained cooperative!  To make the exposure, I used my Canon 7D's Live View mode and spot metered on the owl's face. The spot-metered reading resulted in overexposure of the "average" by 1 and 2/3 stops.  The deliberate overexposure kept the owl nicely exposed, and it also kept the image free of digital noise at ISO 800.  Despite a very long time spent with the bird, I only managed to make a couple of truly meaningful images.  I feel the character of the light, and the beauty of the trees really make the image work.  Rim-lighting, apparent on the leaves and some of the larger branches, can be very pleasing and makes a back-lit subject a refreshing change from a world of direct front-lighting norms in wildlife imagery. While photographing this bird, the forest around me echoed in the Neotropical songs of Yellow-throated Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Hermit Thrush, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Scarlet Tanager, and Pine Warbler.  Perhaps the quality of the light and old character of the tree speak to those songs as well.

The image was made with a Canon 7D, Canon EF400mm f5.6L lens, Gitzo Basalt GT1932 Tripod and Induro BHD1 ballhead.

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