New Owls / by Conor Cunningham

Having been defeated the previous day by nature and its evolved camoflauge, I returned to the area where I had been told the owls lived. A family were staring into some tall trees in the area and I politely inquired as to whether they had found any owls. The answer was a resounding, yes.

The three new owls. 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6 and 1/800

Perched high in one tree were three young Tawny owls. Their mother was in a tree close by, albeit sleeping. Dad was nowhere to be seen.

Mother owl. 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6 and 1/500

Shooting the owls was difficult. Bright daylight, dark shadows in amongst the many branches and not to mention the wonderfully camoflauged owls made for a challenging shoot. I struggled getting a nice sharp focus due to all the brances and manual focus was tricky as I was at least 10 metres away and the owls are the chicks are probably only 20cm tall.

Two of the three chicks. 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6 and 1/500

I dropped my aperture to f/5.6 to get a greater depth of field should I miss focus. I used a single focus point and did the best I could. The chicks were moving quite a bit, so I bumped up the ISO to 800 so I could get a fast(ish) shutter speed.

See, owls really can turn their heads 180 degrees. 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6 and 1/400

These images came out better than I had hoped. A little bit of development, and a lot of cropping and I'm happy enough. I certainly don't think however that they would stand up to the rigours of printing given the crop factor.

This wee one appeared to be the smallest of the three chicks. 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6 and 1/800

Not a clue what they were saying. 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6 and 1/400

Ideally I like to shoot in manual mode to control the exposure when the frame is so heavily back/side lit, but given the shadows and the movement of the chicks I opted for AV as I still wanted to control my aperture.

LIke me, they were getting a little tired.

Hopefully you're not doing what the owl on the right is whilst reading this. I think it nodded off not longer after I took this image. Hope you enjoyed the owls.