Low-Key Nature Photography: Owls

Updated: Feb 27

It's time for some new low-key portraits! Here are five photos of a Southern White-Faced Owl...

Southern White Faced Owl, photographed low-key, on a black background
Southern White Faced Owl - On Black - Lean-In

He's part of the family at Teaching Talons; a local company working with schools and events to bring children in contact with animals. I don't think there's a better way to spark interest among young people, and inspire a wonder and respect for the natural world. I'm working with Teaching Talons to photograph their many and varied animals, so over time I should have lots of new photos like this, of all kinds of unexpected species.

Southern White Faced Owl, photographed low-key, on a black background
Southern White Faced Owl

So as you can see, this owl is quite a character. Perfect for an interesting portrait. He's called Pigwidegon; named after an owl from pop culture's "Harry Potter".

Southern White Faced Owl, photographed low-key, on a black background.
Southern White Faced Owl

Those eyes are just on fire, and they stand out brilliantly from his black, white, and grey feathers.


I've always used natural light for my low-key portraits in the past, but I've hinted recently that I'm finally learning to use artificial light, in order to create the studio conditions I want. Like most creative skills, it's a steep learning curve, and I still have a long way to go, but I'm getting there. I'm really happy with these photos, and my ability to create this look in-camera means that I'm not reliant on external conditions, so am much more able to achieve the photos I want in a repeatable way, with many more animals than I could previously.

Southern White Faced Owl, photographed low-key, on a black background
Southern White Faced Owl

I've always enjoyed the digital processing aspect of photography, especially so with the creative licence of my low-key images. But I have to say I'm enjoying the way in which these artificially-lit portraits come out of the camera almost ready-to-go, with relatively little work required in post.

Southern White Faced Owl, photographed low-key, on a black background
Southern White Faced Owl - On Black

Two of these photos have made it to my On-Black gallery. I could have picked more, but I probably should have just chosen one. I'm terrible at picking one photo out of a selection. On the surface these five are all very similar, but in reality they're all quite different; showing different sides to Pigwidgeon's character, and different graphical and aesthetic styles too. So I find it quite a minefield to just pick one. Do you have a favourite?


As I mentioned earlier, I'm photographing all kinds of animals at Teaching Talons, so I have quite a few to share in this vein. I'll be covering all the major animal groups from birds to mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects!

If you like what you see, then these and more in this style are available in print from my On-Black gallery now.


-

George


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Red Deer Roaring, photographed in black and white

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