Monday, March 30, 2009

A Hooter Family Portrait


I noticed an article in the local paper last week about this family of great horned owls living high up in a eucalyptus tree at the lake/reservoir just a few miles from where I live.  So, I ended up making 2 trips to the lake this past saturday, once in the morning and again in the late afternoon. The morning session didn't produce much... they weren't very active and the light was in the wrong direction, too.  I was determined to get a least one decent shot and knew the light would be more favorable near the end of the day, so I went back for another try and spent close to 2 hours just watching and waiting.
After nothing at all for a while, they started to move around and Mama was ripping off bits of what looked like a rabbit and feeding bits of it to the youngsters.. really fascinating to watch, but they don't exactly cooperate by standing up on the edge where you can see them well, and one was completely out of site most of the time. 
I'm not really equipped to do this kind of work properly; this is just at the edge of what my gear can do. These guys are 40-50 feet up in the tree and the tree itself is further up on a hillside with restricted access, so to the naked eye, the nest is just a dark spot way up there in the branches. Even with my 400mm lens which is the longest I have, this is about a 50% crop!  Add in the wind blowing things around and the birds total unconcern about performing for their fans on the ground, and I now realize why I don't do a lot of wildlife photography. I do love animals and I love to photograph them, but in the wild, the logistics of it all are tough and you need extreme patience. 
I was just praying that they would somehow all get together for a few seconds and finally they did, almost like they were saying: "Alright.. here you go. Take your shot and get out of here!" Right after, they hunkered down again and I decided to call it a day.  Since I now know where they are and the best time to watch, I'll probably go by a few times a week to see how they grow.

19 comments:

Megan Bayliss said...

Every time I vist your blog it takes my breath away....every time I visit I immedately go to hit the green thumbs up stumble button and each time I am dissapointed that I have already stumbled you. I wish there was a thumbx10 button.

I love your photography. Thank you so much for taking the time to share.

Megan from Australia

betchai said...

oh, so lucky you!!!! this is really a great picture, now, I do not have 400 mm lens :( huhuhu, so I will just look at your picture. this really is so breathtaking. i may go there and just use binocular instead to look for them :)

tstreasures said...

What a brilliant photo. You did a great job no matter how long it took...sooo worth it!

storybeader said...

you are very patient. And it's so clear! They are adorable, and I think the image is worthy of a nature magazine!

Patrick said...

Very very beautiful shot Mark. The light makes me think to a little (and well done) fill flash but not sure :)

earthtoholly.com said...

Oh my, what an excellent pic! It looks so perfect I would never guess that these guys were 50 ft. up and it was such work to capture. Quite amazing and despite your troubles, it was worth it!

p.s. When I first saw your title, I couldn't help but wonder how many Google hits you're gonna get! ;o)

christydekoning said...

wow - most impressive! How gracious of the owls to finally pose for you - it's a magnificent shot, after describing the distance and limitations you suffered!
Christy

Amy Lilley Designs said...

What a handsome family...they really posed for you...the nest is an amazing structure...great, great shot!!!

Michelle (artscapes) said...

Hmmm - He's too big for dinner....

Fantastic shot....!

roentarre said...

Incredible capture here. All these baby owls on the tree! I would love to have this opportunity to take this shot

wayne d said...

Mark, a fascinating shot with an interesting storyline to match......well achieved.

Chrissy said...

Mark, I just love it. What is more after spending 3 hours on Sunday trying to get an image of a treecreeper (which is such a small bird) with a 300mm lens, I understand the patience required...but it is an awesome and the outcome is worth the wait, I love the fact that you have them all looking your way, superb.

Andy Richards said...

Well done, Mark. I have a number of bird shots myself and the best of them are of captive animals at a rehab center that lets us shoot them for a reasonable fee (which goes directly into their operations). As you perhaps know, they are allowed to keep animals with no chance of rehabilitation into the wild, by special license, as teaching animals--and they have a couple that are so accustomed to humans that I swear they pose for us. When you see how close you need to be to get a frame-filling shot even with a 300 or 400 mm lens, it is humbling. I have great admiration for those who have been able to do that in the wild. It takes lots of preparation, patience, and ability to accept failure, get back up and try again.

Good catch, here. This is more than just your typical "portrait" shot, as it shows behavior. Very cool!

Mark Alan Meader said...

Megan: I'm glad you enjoy looking in here and thanks for the kind words.

Betchai: Binoculars work really well and there is usually someone there with a telescope willing to let you look also. Try to get over there if you can. Tonight (Wednesday), there was only one chick left in the nest. Other observers said that one left the nest Mon. or Tue. and is now out in the cold world.. although the person that told me said one of the adults will stay close by and try to help it along until it can fend for itself. I will try to find out more about what is going on. I was kind of bummed out to hear that news, actually.

Deb: maybe not magazine quality because of the distance involved, but this may be one of the last if not the last of them all together, so I am very pleased that I captured this moment.

Patrick: no fill flash from this distance! Only the sun:)

Holly: I thought of some even more clever titles, but decided to go the more tasteful route;)

Chrissy: I don't think I have the patience to photograph birds on any regular basis!

Andy: As usual, you raise a good question, and one that I was thinking about while writing this post.. are photos of captive animals "legitimate"? I have many technically good and interesting photos of animals in zoos and from the wild animal park here locally (that is truly a world class facility), but I don't really show them off because I haven't answered that question yet in my own mind. I go back and forth on it. Another post subject, me thinks?

And, many thanks to you all for stopping by and for the nice comments.

Anne Vis said...

Sensational capture, beautiful blog!

Lynda Lehmann said...

Wonderful Hooter Family portrait, Mark, well worth the wait.

Wildlife are difficult to capture, as are most pets and people. Ever notice how many couch-potatoes become hyperactive when you want to photograph them? lol...

Getting good quality shoots is a goal and a challenge. But for blogging purposes, we can compromise for the sake of illustrating our posts. And that's fine since we can only post low-res images to Blogger, anyway!

Mook said...

Nice one!!

I have had a barn owl check me out by hovering 4foot above my head for about 30 seconds. Since then I've tried for a year or more to get a snap worth posting, but he won't stay still long enough in the half dark grrr:(

evensteven said...

Patience pays off my friend. Killer shot!

Mark Alan Meader said...

Lynda: You're right.. some less-than-perfect images can find new and useful life in this environment. And some are quite good, just not as prints, which I am normally concerned with. The throw away nature of images on the web kind of bothers me, but it's the current and future reality, so might as well get used to it I guess.

Mook: Thanks, and keep trying. He's just testing you to see how bad you want it! Hope you have a fast camera and lens, though.

evensteven: Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.