Snowy Owl Workshop Report 2020

In late December 2019 / early January 2020 I ran a photographic workshop for Snowy Owls in Ontario, Canada in winter. I had previously scouted this part of Canada and location back in January of 2019 (Read the Trip Report) and had found the owls to be of sufficient quantity to make it viable. Importantly, It was also a location where it was possible to get sufficiently close to the owls.

Two weeks prior to our workshop things were looking really promising for fantastic snow cover as there had been a good dump of snow to cover the local farmland in a white blanket. Unfortunately, temperatures warmed in the days prior to our arrival and by the time we were on site the snow had pretty much melted. As a result our first day was spent photographing the owls mostly in flight as we had no opportunity for static shots in snow.

The weather gods heard our pleas over our welcome dinner on the first evening and we had good snow fall our first night and on our second day with enough of the white stuff to sufficiently cover the ground. It then continued to snow on occasion throughout the rest of our workshop and it wasn’t until our second last day that temperatures again started to warm.

We spent our days during the workshop photographing Snowy owls both in the morning and late afternoon when the owls are at their most active. Typically we were in the field shortly after first light and shooting until 11am and then back in the field by 2pm and shooting until we lost the light. During the midday hours the owls tend to be less active and are effectively resting. This gave us plenty of opportunity to photograph the owls.

Overcast light is generally preferred in my experience for this sort of photography. Minimalist backgrounds and white on white high key images are more evocative than messy farm land backgrounds and we made every effort to work to this mantra during our shoots. Our second and third days proved the most productive with photographs of the Snowy owls in wonderful snow and snowfall. We also had some good sightings of Hawk Owl, but it was at quite a distance and the photographic opportunities were limited.

Due to my extensive travel schedule this year (I am leaving for New Zealand and onward travel to the Ross Sea region of Antarctica in just a few days) I have not had time to process any more than the few photographs I am posting here on my blog and on social media.  If you would like to see additional photographs please be sure to check out the Canada portfolio on my website at www.jholko.com which includes photographs from my 2019 scouting trip.

Snowy Owls remain my absolute favourite bird to photograph. They are incredibly majestic, beautiful birds that are extremely photogenic with their yellow eyes and speckled white feathers. The opportunity for high key, monochromatic photographs of these stunning birds in a winter setting is fantastic in this part of Canada and I will again return in January of 2021 to lead another workshop dedicated to the photography of Snowy Owls. If you are interested in joining us there are now only three places remaining before we will be sold out. You can drop me an email to register your interest.

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