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A hoary old relic...


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There is a bog in Northern Minnesota that hearkens back to the days just following the retreat of the glaciers. These things abound yet in Canada.. but across the border they are relics. And within these open expanses of peat-forming wet spots live relic populations of plants and creatures that specialize in the bog. One of these is the hoary old Wizard of the North... the Great Grey owl. It glides like a silent ghost at dawn and dusk over the frozen humps of dormant sedges looking for voles that have made horrible mistakes.

 

I took the family up to the Sax-Zim bog north of Duluth to look for these... and by the gods we found one. Up before dawn, driving slowly along the roads bordering and crossing the bog, keeping search images in your mind's eye .. irregular lumps in the trees, strange silhouettes. Our very last attempt before giving up... a big grey mass glides across the road. We all had a good look with a high power spotting scope and those eyes penetrate like daggers. I was only able to take one shot. I had my 400 telephoto f 2.8 ...an awesome lens but still not enough power. So this image was cropped into quite a bit.. but I was able to retain sharpness in the eyes.. which is really what counts. I did a black and white conversion and this is what I got...

 

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Anyway.. I'm still buzzing with excitement after seeing this fellow. To me it's like seeing a creature of myth with power flowing from it in waves. It's hard to explain. And for my kids it's another one of those moments they won't forget. My son came home and started his 'life list' of birds.

Edited by Scott A. Roush
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Very cool, Scott. There's something about owls that makes them fascinating. Maybe it's the look or possibly that we just don't see them often.

 

I hear them all the time but rarely get a look at them. I'm not sure if we have grey owls here. I only know about what we refer to as "Hoot Owls" & "Screech Owls". I enjoy calling to the hoot owls and getting them to respond. I've had as many as four answer the same call. I could do without the little screech owls. :) There call is pretty annoying.

 

Gary

Edited by Gary Mulkey
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Nice effect. 400 @ F2.8...

...sigh, I have lens envy...

Brian.. it's an old Nikkor I got through the used selection at B&H. I can't afford brand new lenses like this... but there are some wonderful old manual focus lenses that have amazing glass. Yeah it doesn't have all the cool new auto-focus tracking features... but the glass is clear. And if you haven't upgraded to a full chip D-SLR you can take advantage of the x1.5 digital magnification of the smaller chip and get even more zoom out of it.

 

 

@Gary... that reminds me of growing up in Southern ohio....

 

@Jim... yeah I was wondering how often people see them in their natural range...

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That's amazing. Owls are very mysterious, so maybe that contributes to the air of fascination that always seems to follow them. I hear owls in the trees almost every night, but I can't seem to find them very often.

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Brian.. it's an old Nikkor I got through the used selection at B&H. I can't afford brand new lenses like this... but there are some wonderful old manual focus lenses that have amazing glass. Yeah it doesn't have all the cool new auto-focus tracking features... but the glass is clear. And if you haven't upgraded to a full chip D-SLR you can take advantage of the x1.5 digital magnification of the smaller chip and get even more zoom out of it.

 

Good idea! I was going to do the same thing a few years ago for a macro lens, but I didn't think about if for a telephoto. I need to do that while my kids are still in school so I can get some shots of them in sports. The crummy kit lens that came with my DLSR is useless for tennis or diving! I see these dads with $2k F2 or faster lenses, and feel a bit envious :)

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Good idea! I was going to do the same thing a few years ago for a macro lens, but I didn't think about if for a telephoto. I need to do that while my kids are still in school so I can get some shots of them in sports. The crummy kit lens that came with my DLSR is useless for tennis or diving! I see these dads with $2k F2 or faster lenses, and feel a bit envious :)

Having a good long fast lens makes candid family pictures so nice... you are far away enough so you don't get fake reactions and the compression from the wide open aperture is awesome.

 

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Scott, I think that going to black and white on that picture really made it stand out as an owl in snow.

 

Doug

Doug it actually looked like that even before converting to b&w. He was back-lit by very early morning light.. and over cast. The exposure was taken for the brown bark of the tree and his feathers.. which caused the sky to be way over-exposed... and whitish. If I had not done that then he would have just been a silhouette against the sky.

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I seen the title and thought it read "horny old relic" and I thought you were talkin smack about me...I need to wear my glasses more

:0)

 

Awesome shots Scott

 

Too funny. :lol: You probably have a hunting season on these things where you live, eh?

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Nope, owls off limits country wide as far as I know, and if they are not, they should be.

If any place in the world would allow owl hunting.. it would probably be right here in Wisconsin. It wasn't very long ago they allowed snagging trout and salmon and we are one of the last to allow deer baiting.

 

I was kidding by the way.. I just figured that while these were rare down here.. they might be common up there?

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We can still bait deer where I'm at, even after EHD a couple years ago.

 

If you are caught in possession of even one feather of an owl though... you are screwed. It makes sense though.

Yeah I forgot about Michigan. We use corn.. you guys use piles of turnips and carrots. :-) At least that is what I see for sale at every gas station during deer season. I wish it would get banned so deer would start moving naturally again.

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  • 1 month later...

I've been studying Tsuba for a few days - your pic would fit right into the aesthetic. Awesome pic.

oh yes... that is usually what I'm thinking when I compose photos these days. I have some sumi sketches I've been playing with.

 

Thanks a lot...

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