The Story Behind the Image 4 – Great Horned Owlet After the Rain

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

Great Horned Owl, fledgling, Canon 7D + 500mm f/4, manual exposure, evaluative metering, 1/160s., f/5.6, ISO 800.


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  1. Terry Lee April 8, 2016 at 12:09 am #

    That’s just a great photo. I love that claw he’s showing you. The eye level shot is perfect.

    • Daniel Cadieux April 8, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

      Thank you Terry! I hope the images are displaying better now?

  2. John Rowell April 8, 2016 at 12:03 pm #

    “May the force be with you”, “Live long and prosper”. Very cool capture, and great story. TFS.

    • Daniel Cadieux April 8, 2016 at 12:33 pm #

      Hey John, having now just seen the first trailer for “Rogue One” I approve of your comment! 🙂

  3. David Tyrer April 8, 2016 at 3:42 pm #

    Daniel: As always, ever since I’ve know you, your photos are beautiful and to add the story behind the photos is wonderful.
    Keep up the enthusiasm and great work.

    • Daniel Cadieux April 8, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

      Hi David, it’s really nice to hear from you! Thank you for dropping by and for the kind comment.

  4. RIchard Gollar April 9, 2016 at 10:01 pm #

    Awesome shot and so sharp for 1/160th a sec.

    • Daniel Cadieux April 11, 2016 at 9:55 am #

      Thanks Richard. Good long lens technique, plus the amazing 4-stop IS really helps 🙂

      • Joe Tsang October 23, 2016 at 3:12 pm #

        I have the updated version 100-400 IS II lens and having difficult time hand held at 1/160 sec shutter speed. And you are using an longer focal length (sometime including a teleconverter). Any recommendation to improve my techniques? Thank you.

        • Daniel Cadieux October 23, 2016 at 8:38 pm #

          Posture is the most important thing to consider. Left hand palm-up under the lens barrel, at a point of perfect camera-lens balance. Elbows tucked in tightly against the body, camera pressed firmly against your face. Feet at shoulder-width stance, feet placed in a way that you can swivel your upper body easily. Think of an Olympic target shooter…basically the same. Practice, practice, practice!

          • Joe Tsang October 25, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

            Dan, Thank you again for sharing your experience. Also read one of your blog mentioning to shoot in short 2-3 frame burst, where the second shot tends to be the sharpest. I have been shooting too high of frame rates and not supporting the lens as you suggested.

  5. Joseph Przybyla April 14, 2016 at 8:42 pm #

    Hey Daniel, a short note to tell you how much I am enjoying your blog. Good information to learn from, wonderful images. Thank you for sharing.

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