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.