I have always had a fondness for owls, not sure why but I am sure it dates back to reading many english childrens fantasy books growing up:) Once I got more interested in photography I joined several online forums, most of which are based in the US and started to see photos of a huge variety of owls. They come in sizes ranging from small (Burrowing Owls) to quite large (Snowy Owls) and lots of variations. What never changes is their amazing huge eyes.
That fierce totally focussed look from the raptor is the expression I find most fascinating. So attending the Currumbin Free Flight Show and getting up close and personal to these lovely birds was a real treat. We only have one native owl in NZ – the Morepork and my chances of seeing one in the wild are not that good (owls being nocturnal critters). I was excited at what we were going to see.
They had two owls on display – the first was a lovely white Barn Owl that made its entrance out of a hole in a gum tree at the back of the stage
They had a handler on the stage doing all the talking and one at the back, and the birds flew back and forth over the audience between handlers, when sent. They seemed to delight in flying as low as possible as well 🙂
I was surprised at how small this owl was, which is silly given that the morepork is (I think) even smaller. I didn’t know that the distinctive feather pattern around the eyes is designed to reflect sound the best way for the owl to hear it.
In the shot above you can see the wingspan. I know nothing about the physics of wing ratio to body size but they seem to be a good sized wing. You can also see one foot raised and the span of the talon (and their size) is also impressive. I am not sure if this owl could take something as big as a rabbit but I certainly wouldn’t want to argue with it in any way!
The other owl was the Barking Owl, so called due to its distinctive cry. Another small bird, but this was my favourite bird of the presentation. There is just something about their incredible intense yellow eyes and lovely grey plumage that really appealed to me.
Technically the photo below isn’t very good, but what it does show you is the amazingly fierce and intent look on the birds face as he takes off across the audience to the second handler. I also like how it shows the wings meeting at their highest point as he is just about to leave the hand on the downstroke.
I didn’t get a chance for a good front shot of this bird, as they had released the Wedgetailed Eagle for her entrance, and the Barking Owl knew she was up there and was madly scanning the sky, keeping an eye on the superior predator.
From a photography POV these shots were challenging as it was in the middle of the afternoon, in full sun with no cloud or tree cover to filter the light. The sun was high up on the left as I was shooting, so the skin tones on the handlers are a bit overexposed. I ignored them, focussing on the birds, trying to get them as well as I could. There was a sun canopy over the seats, but I chose to sit out in the front to get an uninterrupted view of the show and the sky and as close to the action as I could. All shots were hand held, way too much movement to use a tripod, using my 70-400 F4 IS L lens on the 40D. I probably used P mode with ISO at 100.