alanpeterson
alanpeterson

Great Gray Owl Face



The Great Gray Owl visiting Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park perches on the fence near the road and scans the embankment for voles....
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The Great Gray Owl visiting Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park perches on the fence near the road and scans the embankment for voles.
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4 Comments | Report
talk2suemac PRO+
 
talk2suemac January 27, 2017
Join the conversation. Add a comment or even better, a critique. Let's get better together!
talk2suemac PRO+
 
talk2suemac January 27, 2017
Write a comment
talk2suemac PRO+
 
talk2suemac January 27, 2017
Gorgeous shot!!!
Eddieuuu071 Platinum
 
Eddieuuu071 February 21, 2018
Thank you for submitting your wonderful photo to my Owl Challenge! Best of luck!

Behind The Lens

Location
This photo was taken at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in California. The Great Gray Owl is seldom seen in the redwoods, and this one was the first to be documented in the area since 1982.
Time
This encounter happened during the mid-morning. The owl had made a couple unsuccessful hunting attempts near its roost at the edge of the forest, then flew in close when one of the morning's first active voles started nibbling in the grass right next to me.
Lighting
The sun hadn't quite risen above the treetops around the elk meadow, and small banks of fog were floating by the edges of the forest. This created a light that was soft, but still strong enough to allow for good exposure. No artificial light was used.
Equipment
This was taken on a RED Epic-X camera with a Sigma 300-800mm f/5.6 zoom lens on a Cartoni FL-7 tripod.
Inspiration
Raptors are my favorite subjects to work with, so I made a point of visiting the Great Gray Owl in the elk prairie as soon as I could. When I set up my tripod at this location, I was hoping to capture the owl flying low and hunting in the field, but by dumb luck I happened to set up next to the burrow of one of the morning's first active voles. As soon as the vole started to emerge and nibble on the grass, the owl flew in and perched on the nearby fence for a close inspection. I thought that would be my closest encounter with the owl, so I left the camera rolling whenever it looked like the owl would move (which is when this frame was taken). It dove and caught the vole right in front of my feet, well inside my lens's minimum focal distance, so all I could do was stand there and film it on my cell phone (It looked concerned when I started to move, so I didn't want to scare it off by moving the tripod back). It flew off to eat the vole on a concealed branch in the redwoods, leaving me standing there with my heart racing.
Editing
I made basic color balance adjustments, boosted the saturation a bit and altered the contrast curve to bring out the details in the owl, then exported a 3:2 crop of the image.
In my camera bag
While filming wildlife, I usually keep the Sigma 300-800mm zoom mounted on a RED Epic-X camera and mount it on a Cartoni FL-7 tripod. I also carry a Tamron 24-70mm for wider shots.
Feedback
While this close encounter involved a lot of luck, I usually get my best shots of raptors after I've observed their hunting habits and the activity patterns of their prey. If you can set up in a spot with a clear view and good light before the raptor arrives, then remain still and silent, you're much more likely to get some closeup action shots. On the Humboldt County coast, the California vole is a favorite meal of many raptor species, and can be found by looking for small runways and tunnels worn along the ground in grassy areas. It has activity periods in the late morning and during the last couple hours of daylight, which draw out raptors for great photography opportunities.

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