Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Snowy Owl Encounter

Snowy Owl: Canon 70D-Canon 600mm F4.0 IS - ISO 200-1/3200 sec.-f 4.5
A lot of attention has been directed at the Snowy Owl lately as another irruption is taking place this year.  This is the first time I can recall reports of sightings extremely close to home.  Coy of Country Captures located two owls in nearby Franklin County and I traveled with him on Saturday morning in hopes of filming and photographing these birds.

We arrived at dawn and saw an owl in a large complex of agricultural fields.  The outfit of choice for the morning was the Canon 70D and the 600mm F 4.0 as it seemed likely that most opportunities would be at long range and this turned out to be the case.  I used the video tripod as getting video clips was my main goal. A strong northwest wind was blowing and it caused the lens to vibrate severely and the image on the LCD was shaky--even with image stabilization engaged.  Eventually we moved the car a bit to shield us somewhat from the brutal wind and I lowered the tripod as close to the ground as I could get it and still shoot from kneeling position.  This gave some decent still photos considering the range, but the image had to be severely cropped to have any visual impact making it usable only for internet or newspaper purposes.  I got some exceptionally good video clips of this encounter with the exception that the video was too jumpy, even with IS engaged.  Luckily my video editing software, Vegas Pro 12, has an excellent image stabilization module which was able to process the video to the point that it is usable  I will not post any video clips today, but hope to do so soon.

Snowy Owl At Dawn: Canon 70D-Canon 600mm F4.0 IS - ISO 640-1/500 sec.-f 4.0
A bit later in the morning we moved on to search for more owls and found another one sitting in a field at very long range.

Photographing Snowy Owls: Panasonic GH3-Lumix 14-140mm F4.0--5.8-@14mm - ISO 200-1/400 sec.-f 13.0
This was when I took the lead-in photo for today's post.  I wish I had taken my range-finder along to see how far away the bird was.  I used the LCD for video filming of course and also used it for most of my still photos instead of the traditional eye-level finder..  The 70D has superb auto-focus in video mode until one kicks the 3X crop mode in and then it reverts to the slow hunting method of auto focus in video mode that has been the norm on Canons until recently.  When in crop mode, it is not possible to further enlarge the image for manual focusing purposes.  In this case I wanted to double check the focus and it is reasonably quick to turn the control dial to a still mode, zoom in, manual focus, and then turn the mode dial back to video and begin filming.  The point of this ramble is that I had just checked the focus, but the owl flew before I could shift back to video mode. I pressed the shutter release as he took-off, which  gave me a decent bird in flight photo.  I would have preferred to have had a side-view, rather than going away, but one has to take what they can get.

Snowy Owl In Flight: Canon 70D-Canon 600mm F4.0 IS - ISO 200-1/3200 sec.-f 4.5 
We called it quits in late morning and headed for home. While I would certainly had liked to gotten better quality dramatic close-up photos I was thrilled to have finally seen these birds that have the wildlife/birding community abuzz.

For more photos of owls, other species of birds, and some dramatic scenery please visit my daughter Amy's blog.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.