Larry Treadwell  

Frantic Escape Attempt by Larry Treadwell

November 2021 - Frantic Escape Attempt

About the Image(s)

Nikom D850, Nikkor 200-400 f4 lens at F7.1, 1/1600, ISO 800. Camera was attached to a monopod with gimbal head while sitting in a boat.

This month I’m featuring another of the Barred Owl shots from my morning on what shall still be an unnamed Florida lake. Although both the owls and I were out and about the lake before sunrise this image was captured mid morning on a very overcast day. As the sun rose it added a bit more light to the forest of cypress trees and the adult owls made a few last attempts at finding breakfast before heading off to sleep through the bright hours of the day. This female owl made a short flight (basically a hop) from a nearby tree to a cypress branch that was thickly draped with Spanish Moss. Upon landing on the branch she began to frantically scratch and root through the moss in search of something that had drawn her attention before she arrived at the branch. For the record, she can see a mouse at a quarter of a mile. If she found or captured anything during her search, I never saw it. However once she was satisfied, she tried to take flight and leave the branch. She didn’t make it. Her rooting in the Spanish Moss had left her draped and tangled in thick strands of the moss. After much flapping and several more attempts at flight she finally managed a lift off. Her get away was not clean and with much flapping and clawing with her talons she finally got airborn. This image I feel clearly shows her struggle to escape the moss as you can clearly see it tangled on her legs, head and wings. Clearly, the life of these powerful hunters is frought with danger and difficulty. It appears to be quite challenging to be an owl.

This round’s discussion is now closed!
14 comments posted

Cindy Bilinsky   Cindy Bilinsky
This is an incredible shot. The lighting really highlights your subject as she attempts to take flight through the tangled Spanish Moss. You nicely captured your subject in sharp focus. I like the space to the right allowing for ones imagination to visualize her forward movement.   Posted: 11/04/2021 12:31:04

Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
Thank you Cindy. As a Nature photographer PSA says the image must tell a story to be acceptable. Thus when I venture out to photograph wildlife I'm not just looking for a bird on a stick, or a simple flight image. I'm looking for something to happen. I thought this image showed the struggle for survival. I've never seen anything quite like this. You are right about the space on the right. I provided a place for the bird to get away into. Finding these kinds of images is hard, and I come home frequently without anything worth while. But that is part of the challenge.

If you want to see and hear how a internationally famous photographer manages this watch the video at the link below. You may not hae the budget to shoot exactly as he does---but he does offer some really great ideas that will help your photography.   Posted: 11/04/2021 12:58:45
Cindy Bilinsky   Cindy Bilinsky
I am not seeing a link to the video. I love watching and hearing how other photographers capture their images.   Posted: 11/04/2021 16:22:35

Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
Hi Cindy
Don't know what happened here is the link:   Posted: 11/04/2021 17:20:51
Cindy Bilinsky   Cindy Bilinsky
Wow. Thank you for this link. My take away on what David Yarrow was two-fold 1) We live in a world full of content rich information and I believe we are driven by that content to define who we are. We want to be entertained and we measure our lives based on what is put out there in the media. 2) As photographers/artists we have the ability and perhaps for some the responsibility to immerse ourselves into our subject's environment and tell a meaningful story. This was very inspiring for me.

I hope I have not bored anyone with my thoughts.   Posted: 11/04/2021 20:29:40
Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
Didn't bore me at all. Looks like you did a fine job of understanding the message that David is trying to convey.   Posted: 11/05/2021 10:46:02

Richard Matheny   Richard Matheny
Another great image of the Barred Owl. In motion no less, again! I find it very hard to catch these guys in flight because they make no noise in flight so you have to spend a tremendous amount of time watching an Owl setting on a branch doing nothing and hope you are ready to press the shutter at that exact time of it's departure from the perch. I too enjoyed the youtube with David Yarrow. Very dedicated to his craft and presents quite a challenge to us armature's. His approach to photographing animals reminds me a lot of Art Wolfe and some of his use of the wide angle lens shooting. Thanks for the lesson.   Posted: 11/06/2021 09:23:34
Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
David Yarrow has some interesting ideas. I have found that I can incorporate some of them to my style. I have used remotes to capture some shots. But this type of shooting takes real patience.

By now you know I really love owls. Flight shots take lots of patience. This is one of the reason I lug a monopod or a tripod with me. This guys, unless spooked may sit for an hour or more and I can't hold my camera all that time and thus the need for support. I usually take a quick perch shot and set of and wait for the flight. Knowing wind direction helps and knowing that before an owl takes flight they lower their body position so they can spring into the air. I always move my focus point on the side never the middle, so I have room for them to launch into. I zoom back a bit because they have huge wings and I don't want to clip them. In my old age I don't care about how many shots I get---I just want one good one.   Posted: 11/06/2021 12:57:27

Bud Ralston   Bud Ralston
Larry - What a privilege to have the opportunity to make this series of shots. I love following your journey with the barred owls.   Posted: 11/06/2021 11:48:47
Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
Thanks Bud. Owls are hard to find and when I do I'll wait forever if I have to. At least I have time to get my camera setting right. :-)

I might share a couple more of the owl shots.   Posted: 11/06/2021 13:00:38

Michael Weatherford   Michael Weatherford
Excellent image showing action and drama. Thanks for pointing out that telling a story is important. And patience is needed - my biggest challenge.   Posted: 11/18/2021 10:28:43

David Kepley   David Kepley
I think we are all enjoying your ventures on a lake that will never be named! This shot tells a great story about the owl trying to escape the spanish moss. You can clearly see it draped over the owl! Great capture and story. The only thing I would suggest is to tone down the bright areas below the owl. The tonality is very close to the owl itself. By making that background darker, you could help make the owl pop!   Posted: 11/22/2021 13:38:07

Jason Stewart   Jason Stewart
Upon first looking at the image, I feel that the story is very clear that she was caught up in the spanish moss. Then reading your caption confirms it. The background is nicely blurred but still seems a bit busy to me and blends with the owls patterns.   Posted: 11/25/2021 09:12:33
Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
What you mention is an on going issue with Nature quality wildlife images. We have become so attuned to seeing wildlife images with what are generally said to be "perfect" background with no clutter and beautifully blurred. While these images generally win photo contests may are not really representative as to what nature really is.

When I took this image I knew it would never be accepted for Nature competitions. Barred owls live is dense and very busy environments. This was taken at f7.1 but even if I had shot it at f4, the widest my lens 400mm lens can shoot, I would never achieve that beautiful bokeh. The owl was literally surrounded with leaves twigs and moss. I am perfectly OK with that. That is what nature is. I strive for the "picture perfect" image. But if I had waited for the owl to break free of the cypress tree, the moss would have fallen away as it was mostly attached to the tree and the story would have been over. Generally I like this type of image better than the perfect image that wins contests. To me this is real and doesn't look staged.

When I judge contests I move this type of image to the award round becasue I know what it took to capture images like. A this. And when I get nominate an image for a Judge's Choice award, I'll pick this type of image---why? Because the rules say the story is supposed to count the most. Most judges will not award this type of image.

Just my 2 cents. My employer bought a 16x20 for his office wall.   Posted: 11/25/2021 16:30:21