My Grey Owl Experience
February 15th, 2013
My Grey Owl Experience:
I was walking deep in the woods today after a fresh snowfall when I heard a terrible commotion. Winter is a unique season in part because of the quiet. To hear birds is sometimes even a rarity. Usually is just that winter hush and the crunch of the snow under your feet. But not today!
A huge squawking began to fill my ears, at a distance, but getting closer. I stopped to listen. A murder of crows was squawking in a very aggressive fashion… they were getting closer.
I turned to look, and saw a large streak through the trees in the direction that the noise was coming from. As it tracked closer, I saw that it was a very large grey owl, soaring silently low through the trees with the squawking crows in pursuit. He went to roost somewhere ahead of me and to my left. I had never seen an owl in our woods, and was excited to try to find him, particularly considering the size. I moved off the trail into the woods, although here I was moving through snow that came up above my knees. As I approached the general area and began to scan the trees, I suddenly saw him. My eyes at first passed over, because in the shadows of the trees with the contrast of the bright snow he looked like nothing more than a gnarled bit of stump. But then they tracked back, and I was able to focus on him. I moved a bit closer, wondering if he would take to wing. There was a small stream between us, but while he did look briefly at me when I closed to about 15 yards away, he was much more intent on looking above as the crows continued to stalk overhead and make their noise.
I lingered for about 5 minutes, moving around a bit and snapping a few different angles. I was very happy to have a telephoto mounted (Canon’s excellent EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS) and it did a great job resolving this difficult scene. One small complaint – I don’t know if Canon’s IS system doesn’t like the cold, but I was surprised that I had quite a few shots with more blur than what I would expect with a static subject at 1/40th second (250-300mm). I have worked with the Tamron 70-300mm VC in the past, and that scenario is child’s play for the VC on the Tamron. If had known I would have cranked ISO a little higher. Still, I captured some shots that I was really pleased with. Take a look at the gallery below!
It was a pretty cool moment for me, so I just wanted to share.
P.S. I am impressed how that even at a small aperture (f/5.6) the 70-300L continues to have nice bokeh rendering. This is one area where it has a huge advantage over the Tamron. I will write up a more thorough comparison of the two lenses in a couple of weeks.