The photograph of the month for May 2021 is my winning image from the Natural World category in the 2021 AIPP Silver Lining Awards. Photographed in Canada in Winter in early 2020, I spent a lot of time experimenting with different shutter speeds to capture blur in the wings, but maintain sharp eyes and focus on the face. The ideal shutter speed ended up being 1/800th of a second at f5.6 in combination with panning with the subject. The key was try and keep focus on the eyes and not on the wings (which are the highest point of contrast). This photograph is pretty much straight out of camera with only a white and black point tweak and a slight white balance adjustment.
Self Isolation Day Thirteen – Snowy Owl in Snowfall
Day thirteen of mandatory self isolation (Just the rest of today and tomorrow to go!) includes a photograph I made on my last Snowy Owl workshop in January this year (Read the Trip Report). 2020 was a low snow year for our workshop and we had to very much work around the little snow we had. We were fortunate to have one day with light snow fall; which was I felt our most productive and successful day. This photograph works for me both because of the added dimension of the falling snow, but also because of the soft grey trees in the background.
The photograph was taken hand held with the Canon EOS 1DX MK2 with the Canon 400mm f2.8L IS MK3 at ISO400 f5.6 at 1/1000th of a second.
Self Isolation Day Nine – Snowy Owl Take Off
Day nine of mandatory self isolation (getting closer to freedom!) includes a photograph I made in January this year of a Snowy Owl on my Snowy Owl workshop in Canada. Snowy Owls are without doubt my favourite bird to photograph. They are incredibly majestic with iridescent yellow eyes. This particular photograph works for me because of the gesture and position of the bird as it takes off.
The photograph was taken hand held with the Canon EOS 1DX MK2 with the Canon 400mm f2.8L IA MK3. Camera Settings: ISO800 f5.6, 1/1000th of a second. I will be leading another workshop for Snowy Owls in January 2021 (provided the world recovers from the Chinese Wuhan COVID-19 pandemic) for a small group of just six photographers (only one place remaining).
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.
Departing for Canada and Snowy Owls 2020
Christmas has come and gone and early tomorrow morning I am already heading back to the airport (one last time this year!) to make my way to Canada for my sold out Snowy Owl Workshop. For this workshop I am packing the usual assortment of cameras and lenses (I do not yet have the Canon EOS 1DX MKIII, but I am told I will have it very soon). Since this is a very specialised workshop I am packing only a few lenses. Based on previous experience most of the images will be around the 400mm mark so the new Canon 400mm f2.8L IS MKIII will be my primary lens.
- 2 x Canon EOS 1DX MKII Cameras with spare batteries
- 1 x Canon 400mm f2.8L IS MKIII
- 1 x Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS MKIII
- 1 x Canon 24-70mm f4L IS
- 1 x Canon 1.4 MKIII TC
If you are interested in photographing Snowy Owls in a winter setting there are now only a couple of places left on my 2021 workshop before it will also be sold out. You can drop me an email if you have any queries or to register your interest. You can also check out the sort of photographs you can make of these magnificent owls in the Canada portfolio on my website at www.jholko.com.