Richard Matheny  

Barred Owl by Richard Matheny

May 2023 - Barred Owl

May 2023 - Richard Matheny


About the Image(s)

I photographed this Owl at the Francis Beidler Audubon Forest. The area is the home of several Barred Owls and I see them there often. I first saw this Owl just a few feet off the raised boardwalk and it was too close to get a full shot of the body. I was using a prime lens, so I used my telephoto feet and backed away from the Owl enough to get the complete body of the animal. I took a couple shots of it in the small tree and then it flew out of the tree and out of my sight. I thought it was all over and lo and behold it returned even closer to me than before. This time it landed on the railing of the boardwalk just a few feet in front of me with a crayfish or what I call a Crawdad depending on what part of the US you live in. I had to engage my telephoto feet again and back away. I actually have a whole series of images of this guy that I may post later. There is one shot of it upchucking an Owl Pellet that is interesting but disgusting at the same time. But I was pleased with this shot because of the crawdad in that left talon.
My equipment was the Nikon D500 and the Nikon 300MM PF lens and a 1.4 teleconverter. It is rather dark in the is woodsy swamp, ISO at 4000, 1/1000 sec, f5.6 and with the converter on the focal length was at the equivalent of 630MM.

12 comments posted

Susan Sayshi   Susan Sayshi
"telephoto feet" <<smirk>> They do come in handy with a prime lens! It's nice seeing owls doing what owls do. . .and in their natural setting; if it's a bit dark, it's because that's what it is supposed to be.
  Posted: 05/03/2023 20:10:09
Richard Matheny   Richard Matheny
Thanks for the comments, Susan. I like the owls. I like where the live because it is usually in areas of swamps or at least close to the wetlands.   Posted: 05/18/2023 06:37:38

Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
I have long been a proponent of the art of "cropping with your feet" but I have never heard it referred to as having "telephoto feet" a phrase I rather like.

This is a nice moody owl shot as it shows the bird where it really lives, in a world of gloom and shadows. The bird's natural coloring speaks of living in a world of mottled light and the tonal range of the background perfectly shows this. Altogether it creates a beautiful setting. If anything,the background could be just a touch darker to better sell the natural environment.

The dynamic range of the D500 coupled with a fast prime lens for sharpness are the perfect tools to make this capture. The high ISO is handled quite well resulting in fine image.

If anything were to be changed I would like to see just a bit more space just to the right and below the tail feathers to keep the owl from being crammed into the frame.

I'll look forward to seeing yummy owl upchuck in future images.   Posted: 05/04/2023 14:04:13
Richard Matheny   Richard Matheny
Thanks, Larry, for your comments. I am always looking for things that tell a story and so many times Owls are just sitting and sleeping but the Barred Owl does feed during the day so you can catch some action. You are right about the right side being crammed up against the frame. I don't know why I did not think of using content aware to add some room there. I will try and add the upchuck in the June offering.   Posted: 05/18/2023 06:43:36

Cindy Marple   Cindy Marple
What a cool experience to have an owl this close, and with great behavior to boot! Good that you were able to back up without spooking it, because getting the whole bird in the frame really makes the shot. Yes a smidge more room right and bottom would be nice but...
I do like the dark tone to the image, it seems quite fitting for this habitat and species. Maybe it's just me but I'm seeing a slight greenish cast, especially in the railing, that I'd try to correct for.
I too would love to see more from this sequence, including the upchuck!
  Posted: 05/09/2023 14:50:44
Richard Matheny   Richard Matheny
Thanks for the nice comments, Cindy. There is some greenish cast. I think it comes from the dense green canopy produced by the environment overhead. If you look a lot of the tree and even the railing has some green fungi growing in the wet/warm environment. I am going to post the upchuck next month so I will try and get rid of the green cast in the areas that it should not be like on the Owl. I should have used content aware to add some space on the bottom and right.   Posted: 05/18/2023 06:55:42

Michael Weatherford   Michael Weatherford
Hi Richard, definitely crawfish or "mudbugs" in this neck of the woods. Great shot and very interesting showing the feeding action. I'm probably wrong as usual, but in processing I would have masked the bird and lightened it a bit, raising the white and maybe even adding some vibrance to make it stand out better and brightening the overall photo a bit. Also, I like the original shot without the crop - leaving all that space in front of the bird. You took good advantage of an excellent photo opportunity. I'll bet your other shots are great too!   Posted: 05/12/2023 11:42:26
Richard Matheny   Richard Matheny
Thanks Michael. I have never heard the term "mudbugs" before. When I was a kid, they were crawdads, and the tails made some good bait for fishing. I see what you are saying about making the image lighter, but I was really trying to keep the story part of the image as true to the environment of the Owl as possible. I think with my crop I was trying to get rid of the dark edge caused by the out of focus tree on the left. I may have been ok to leave it, but I didn't. Another Owl picture coming next month.   Posted: 05/18/2023 07:08:08

David Kepley   David Kepley
Like the others, I like the idea of telephoto feet!! Nice way to put it. Great captures. I had trouble figuring out what the prey was in this shot, so your explanation helped. I'd add a little to the right side and to the bottom. I'm OK with your crop from the left side. I'd also suggest you darken some of the bright spots to the right of the bird and above the bird's head.   Posted: 05/13/2023 10:18:29
Richard Matheny   Richard Matheny
Thanks Dave. I know what you mean about the prey bring somewhat hard to identify. Most folks are not like me and spend a lot of time in the swamps watching birds and critters. Seems easy for me because I know that it is a dietary staple of Barred owls when around water. I knew that the crawdad was an important part of the image, so it needed to identify it or at least be part of the title. Plus, the fact that you don't see all of it and there is no detail make for some confusion. Thanks for your comments.   Posted: 05/18/2023 07:19:39
Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
Richard, you are so right. Like you I study my subjects and know their diet, habits and the nuances of their lifestyle. Thus we can get shots that nature experts will note and appreciate while novices will miss these details. We get shots that please us because se know exactly what to look for. I wish you many more years of capturing shots like this. In PSA competitions I am always amazed how little some of the judges know about nature. It is always a great pleasure to work with the judges that are nature pros. I really wish there were more of them.

When we spend hours waiting for the shot sitting in a canoe of hiding in a blind the rewards are just wonderful. Keep shooting.   Posted: 05/18/2023 08:31:36
Richard Matheny   Richard Matheny
Thanks, for the encouraging comments Larry. I too get a little discouraged with judging, especially with some of the local clubs, when the judge has no knowledge of wildlife or nature and is brought in to judge a wildlife themed competition. makes no sense. I find the study of my subject as rewarding as the finished product. In fact, a lot of times I never get that acceptable image but it sure was fun trying. The journey is just as rewarding as the destination. Someone famous said that I think, I don't know who, but it is true.   Posted: 05/26/2023 19:04:11


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