A year with the Little Owls.

A year with the Little Owls

Well, what can you say about the Little Owl. Of all our resident owl species, this owl has a unique character all of its own. The only way to describe them is " comical, charismatic, enchanting, and what I hear a lot - cute !! " You can't help but get drawn into their big yellow eyes and are a favourite amongst photographers and birders alike. In fact I don't know anyone who doesn't like a Little Owl.

( Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon 600mm Mark II, ISO 1600, F4, 1/1250 sec )

( Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon 600mm Mark II, ISO 1600, F4, 1/1250 sec )

As a wildlife photographer who spends every day out in the field, I never get tired of photographing them in the wild. Whether it's that cross looking stare they seem to give you or the fact that they have a tendancy to run after their prey, they never cease to amaze me.

Over the past couple of years, I've been very fortunate to have unique and sole access to a couple of Little Owl sites on private land which has allowed me to spend time with the birds with little disturbance, gaining their trust in me, which consequently has resulted in some memorable moments and images that have been intimate, unique I terms of perspective and a privileged to capture.

( Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon 24-70mm @24mm, ISO 2000, F8, 1/350 sec )

( Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon 24-70mm @24mm, ISO 2000, F8, 1/350 sec )

As with all photography, whether it be wildlife, landscapes or other subjects, it's not all about the kit you have but the photographer behind the camera. Lots of photographers can have all the expensive kit in the world, but that doesn't mean they will get the images they desire. Personally I'm a firm believer that capturing any wildlife images requires time and dedication in the field getting to know your subject and how it behaves. As an example, when I located these Little Owls back in 2016, I spent 3-4 months simply watching and studying their behaviour before I'd even pressed the shutter and took the first image. One major benefit of getting to know your subject in depth is that you'll be able to get in closer, filling the frame more even with shorter focal length lenses and ultimately gaining a better quality image.

Equipment used.

Saying all that, for those interested, here is the list of equipment I've used for these and most of my images. I have linked directly to the product page of the supplier I purchase ,soy my gear from.

Little Owl 1 - 8th June 17 Website.jpg

Canon 1DX Mark ii camera body.

Canon 600mm IS F4 USM mark ii lens

Gitzo tripod

LensCoat Throw over hide.

My 2017 goal. 

Compared to my 2016 season with the Little Owls, my main goal in 2017 was to capture images which showed them in a more intimate and dynamic way. To achieve this I decided to photograph them down at ground level, and capture images of them in mid flight or another action pose. And what a year it's been with them !

( Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon 600mm Mark II, ISO 1600, F4, 1/1250 sec )

( Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon 600mm Mark II, ISO 1600, F4, 1/1250 sec )

( Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon 600mm Mark II, ISO 4000, F4, 1/800 sec )

( Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon 600mm Mark II, ISO 4000, F4, 1/800 sec )

This was actually quite a challenge as most of the images displayed here were captured in the low light of the late where it was necessary to set the lens to the widest aperture of f4 and an ISO generally above 4000 to gain the required shutter speed. Fortunately, the Canon 1DX mark ii is an incredible camera for these conditions producing stunning results with little or no noise. 

When it came to photographing the Owlets, this was less successful compared to last year and in fact I never actually managed to get them in front of the camera which was a shame.

In 2016, once the owlets had fledged and started to branch around the nest site, they were still very dependant on the adults maintaining a regular feeding schedule which allowed some very close encounters. However, the 2017 brood appear to have been very confident directly after leaving the nest and within a day or so had become totally independent, feeding themselves elsewhere on the site. This was the only dissappointment from the year spent with them as I would have loved to have captured some images of those but there is always next year and I will be back.

Owl Photography Workshops.

( Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 600mm Mark II, ISO 3200, F4, 1/320 sec )

( Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 600mm Mark II, ISO 3200, F4, 1/320 sec )

To finish this blog off, I have received a number of requests recently from people that follow my work asking whether I can run photography workshops, especially when it comes to photographing owls. Due to the high level of security at some of the sites I have privileged access to, it has been not been easy to arrange. However, I am pleased to say that I can now offer 1-2-1 workshops for photographers, whatever their experience, who would like the opportunity to photography these and other owl species in the wild, learn the techniques and camera settings I use and follow up with some post production support in order for you to get the best final results from your images.

Please contact me HERE using the contact form to enquire and express your interest in attending a session.

Until next time - keep getting out there and good luck with your photography - Simon Wantling