Owl Chick

Great Horned Owl Chick

Great Horned Owl Chick

     This little Great Horned owl chick probably thought I couldn’t see him. I might not have, either, were it not for his big old mom planted right out in the open right next to him. It was god-awful hot and poor mom had to be facing the intense sun to be with her baby. She was panting heavily with her mouth open. Where was dad? I found him back on a nice shady branch right over some cool running water. He was cool as a cucumber.

     I used a Nikon D300 with a 600 mm VR lens and a 1.7x teleconverter. According to my EXIF file that equates to a 1500 mm lens in 35 mm speak. I like to give them a little breathing room, especially when they are already stressed by the heat. I also cut my time with them real short. I met a black and white fine art photographer while I was at Malheur. He said his longest lens is a 300 mm because he likes to form a close connection with his subject. That is close enough in most animals to create major stress, as well as unnatural behavior. My biggest compliment comes when critters ignore me and go on with whatever they are doing, which is what this chick and his mom mostly did. That makes for more natural natural history photographs as well. Otherwise they all just have deer-in-the-headlights expressions. 

     The above photograph is an example of how knowing a little bit about the natural history of your animal subject can make you a more productive photographer. I was driving by the place this was taken a few years back and I noticed that these trees were the only large trees for miles around, and they were surrounded by rodent-infested farm fields. I hypothesized that there had to be an owl in those trees. I was right and I have gone back for portraits of each generation since then.

     The bottom photograph was taken at Malheur NWR, also. It was taken so long ago that it was on film, which for me means before 2005. I scanned the slide back then and the quality was just not good. But I think about this photograph every time I pass this spot ever since then so I went back to the slide and scanned it again and voila! Either I didn’t get the scanner focused the first time, or the scanner software upgrades have helped, or I’m just a better Photoshop artist (likely all three), but now this photograph rocks my boat. It was taken in the fall when the big mule deer bucks, who know the meaning of the word refuge, all migrate into Malheur. They are a bit cocky and sometimes like to stand or walk in the road and hold up traffic just to remind you its their refuge (during deer hunting season no less).

Mule Deer Bucks

Mule Deer Bucks


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