I've got a new photo of probably my favourite bird, the great grey owl.
I took this photo last year, and have spent several months debating the visual style I wanted for it.
Originally, when I took it and first processed it, I was after a photo of this beast-of-a-bird, in the classic low-key style, on black. I've decided to include that original-intention version here also, in case you're interested. Normally I prefer this 'studio portrait' look, but with this photo, I prefer the version with less contrast and a hint of it's woodland context. You can decide for yourself whether I've picked the best one or not.
Great grey owls are largest species of owl by size, and they live in all the cold parts of the world that capture my imagination such as Scandinavia & Canada's boreal forest. I've been fortunate enough to see this 'phantom of the north' in the wild a couple of times. Both in Finland and both unfortunately only brief, road-side sightings. This photo is of a captive bird, in the UK, that I photographed at a UK conservation centre, but I'd love to photograph one in the wild some day.
I thought while I'm sharing that new one, it was a good time to share some more owls from over the years. This first one is one that never fitted into any previous blog posts. It's a barn owl from Teaching Talons; a local animal encounters & education company. Previously I shared the low-key photos I took of their animals, but as a high-key portrait, this one never got it's moment in the spotlight. I like it though. It has a kind of graphical quality to it, like a Ben Rothery illustration, whose work I adore.
Sticking with Teaching Talons for a moment, this is a Southern White Faced Owl. I got a good set of photos of this one owl, who seemed to be loving the opportunity to model for us.
Back in 2014 I was living the dream on a photo day at the British Wildlife Centre, photographing this long eared owl in a bluebell wood. As the light dappled through the woodland canopy, a spotlight passed over this bird as he perched on a wood stump, leaving the background in relative shadow. If you follow this blog regularly, you'll know that this situation is like catnip to me, and I quickly snapped away. Props to the bird for the death-stare too. You wouldn't want to be a vole in that woodland.
Another shot from that same day at BWC, and a close-up of another native species; the tawny owl. This time he's perched in a hollowed area of a tree, keeping an eye out.
I'm pleased to say that a similar photo of mine features on the home page for New Woodlands; a charity supporting tree-planting in the UK. Check out their website for more information and why this is so important.
I'll finish with this guy. He's an African Spotted Owl. I love the expression on him, and his nonsymmetrical 'ear tufts'. I normally strive for symmetry and 'perfect posture' in my portraits, but it really does help when the subject presents themself in a different way, compelling the final image to reflect their own personality.
They're not ear tufts either. Like all owls, his ears are on the side of his head underneath his facial disc feathers, which act like a satellite dish funnelling sound to the ears. You can see that 'facial disk' in all owls, but most clearly in the great grey owl - the best of all the owls.