Last night, I went out and was able to take some photographs of Tawny Owls. Sat there, in the dark, unable to speak for fear of scaring them away, low whispers and pitch black in the hide, staring at the pole on which we hoped they’d land – before moving across the area where a couple of flash guns were set up, to land on the target.
I’d envisaged what I wanted – the subtle background of trees in the dusk – the owl in flight moving across the glade on silent wings – me with the remote clutched in my hot hands – staring at that first pole, as the light fell, and fell – a tiny light illuminating the top of that first pole so I’d be able to make out the owl as she landed. The strain of the eye – was that a landed owl, or was I imagining things?
The picture was in my mind – but the reality was twofold.
- The owl landed on the second pole straight away – took the bait and cleared off.
- The owl went straight for the food and didn’t land on anything.
- (OK, threefold then), the owl landed on the first pole, flew to the second as planned, but did it not in a straight line, but in a curve, and so was too small in the frame.
It’s so frustrating – nature at its very best, I love it.
Then the conversation later about how to tackle the low light, the bird, and the background. One point of view was to keep everything as dark as possible, as tawny owls hunt at night (unlike barn owls which I see fairly frequently in daylight hours). On the other hand, they do hunt at dusk, so some background would be inevitable.
Shooting with flash (and that’s the only way to illuminate the bird), means the background is black anyway. So what’s the answer. Maybe a second light on the background permanently, so as to illuminate both things at the same time……… or
Two images, one of the background with a longer exposure, but still dim, and the second of the bird, in flight, or stationary on its post.
OK, well the downside to this is that I can’t use a composite image in a nature competition. The rules generally say I can’t do this, so back to plan A.
The reality of things like this, is you have to take an image to please yourself, and not for the competition. If you like it, then that’s all there is to it – but in the meantime – here’s a couple of owl images that I like, and you can work out for yourselves how I did it…..