A pair of Great Horned Owls had built a nest at a local park, close to the parking lot. That area gets flooded on many years during the spring for a couple of weeks in late March/April, rendering the area inaccessible by car during that time, including this particular year. The nest was already known before the flood of that year, therefore it was still being monitored by some locals that ventured out on foot so it was well known that the nest looked to be successful.
The month of May rolled around and the floods had receded a few weeks prior. On a Saturday evening just before going to bed I received a message from a friend that one of the owlets had branched out and was grounded (which is normal). This was the weekend, so that meant I knew where I was headed early the next morning, and it was not work! It also helped that this park is a short five minute from home.
When I woke it was very foggy and very wet – it had rained, actually poured, all night. I started searching the area close to the nest and not two minutes in I found the owlet perched eight feet of the ground, and looking as soaked as it could be. Even better, despite how grumpy and it looked it was unperturbed by my presence! The fog was still too thick and the light very dim to make any meaningful images. This gave me time to setup for the best spot and angle – which included dragging a picnic table over to stand on for a perfect eye-level perspective. I placed that table next to a large tree so I could brace myself on it for extra stability in that low light. Exposure set, vertical orientation determined to be the obvious choice of composition, focus point moved up in the frame to make sure critical focus is on the eyes, and a few initial pictures were taken just in case the owl decided to move away form the perfect spot it was at.
The fog dissipated, but light rain began to fall on and off again, and just then the owl started to become a bit more active by yawning, preening, scratching, and shaking off water canine-style. Just after one of those scratching sessions the owl held the pose with its’ talon raised as you see in the featured image for a few seconds. This was perfect, as it meant no motion blur on the foot, and a perfect way for the owl to seemingly say “hello”.
A few photographer friends soon showed up, and then some curious onlookers. All happy to have come face-to-face with one of the great, and seldom seen from so close and so long, inhabitants of the forest.
Great Horned Owl, fledgling, Canon 7D + 500mm f/4, manual exposure, evaluative metering, 1/160s., f/5.6, ISO 800.