Larry Treadwell  

Untitled by Larry Treadwell

October 2021 - Untitled

About the Image(s)

Barred Owl in Flight
ISO 800, Nikkor 200-400 f4 lens at 450mm (tc1.4) 1/2500, f6.3 panned using monopod with gimbal head while in a boat

I arrived in the predawn by invitation of a Florida Fish and Game agent at what shall remain an unnamed Florida lake. Several nesting pairs of barred owls had been observed living among several miles of bald cypress trees and we were there to document their presence. Our boat left the loading ramp in the dark and we sailed to the selected destination to be on site for daybreak. The owls were without chicks that had been raise during the summer and had since departed for a life of their own. The adults, who had spent the night hunting would be returning to their nest site at daybreak. The plan was to sight them as the returned to the cypress. Then took short flights from tree to tree before darting back into the dense stands of trees where they would roost until nightfall when they would again be on the hunt. The trick was to find them perched on the outer trees and then capture them in flight as they flew from tree to tree and finally vanished into the dense trees. I shot, using manual mode starting at ISO 2500 in the dimmest light and regularly reducing the ISO as the sun rose. I didn’t want , or need Auto ISO because the birds stayed about 20 feet above the water with dense trees as a background. My exposure was for the owl d I did not care about the background. Tracking the bird in flight while in a gently rocking boat was the challenge. Shooting in short bursts (3-4 shots) I took just over 300 shots in 2.5 hours and kept 27. Note the owls were flying from tree to tree and the trees were covered with draping Spanish Mass that often hid the birds from view. While I like this shot (mostly because of the background) I really wish he had flown the opposite direction so the sunlight would have hit his face and not glanced off the wing from behind. Still, I did get some light on the eye.

Minimal processing in LR, mostly opening shadows with hand edited noise reduction on the background and some of my special sharpening settings : Amount 47, Radius .5, Detail 88

6 comments posted

Jason Stewart   Jason Stewart
Can i start by saying your really making me want to find owls? I think the nail on the head for this is the lighting on the animals back.   Posted: 10/07/2021 08:54:13
Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
In any photo, it is ALWAYS about the light/ No light --no image. However it is how we as photographers manage and use that light. Used well, we have magic, without it--ho hum. There were little bits of sun rays breaking through the clouds, by moving the boat to a position to maximize the light rays--all I needed was a bird to fly in the right direction.

Good luck on your search for owls...   Posted: 10/08/2021 13:08:52

Bev Caine   Bev Caine
(Groups 48 & 80)
The owl in flight is a great image; however, I feel that an bird in flight should be flying in the sky, so I replaced your background with a sky. I'm not great at arranging and re-arranging light, but I think this might be an improvement.   Posted: 10/10/2021 14:36:09
Comment Image
Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
Hi Bev. Thanks for your comment and efforts. I will agree that the owl looks quite nice on a "sky" background. However allow me to note that barred owls very rarely fly high or very far. 30 -40 yards is a LONG flight for them. These owls life in dense forests and really only fly in short hops, tree to tree or to pounce on prey. I spent hours shooting these owls and do not have any sky (except through some trees) in any of the images. One male owl did land in a thick cypress and was lost from sight, then hopped out to a limb for a better view---some sky was behind him---but then he hopped right back into the foliage.

Maybe I should show the owl your edited version. Hopefully he will get the idea and take on some longer and higher flights. ThenI could get shots like yours. :-)
During most of the flights I saw the owl was no more than 10-12 feet above water or ground.   Posted: 10/10/2021 14:57:47

Michael Weatherford   Michael Weatherford
Wonderful shot captured under challenging conditions! Clean and clear. Good light. This is like saying your Ferrari is too red, but I would try lowering the saturation a bit on the greens/yellows in the background.   Posted: 10/12/2021 10:57:00

Robyn Carter   Robyn Carter
(Group 89)
Love this image, and love owls. You've caught it perfectly. i think the background is great as well. I have a family of little German Owls just around the corner from me, I must go down and see if they are now outside for photography!   Posted: 10/14/2021 00:44:49


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