Birds of prey Paul Miguel

Barn own in the breeze. This is a deliberate crop more panoramic in effect as the end result for the shot. As such, the eye is drawn to the bird. Zooming in tighter would have cropped out the bail to the right. I conciously included it to place the bird in more of a natural setting. A gust of wind picked up at just the righrt moment to ruffle the feathers it really looks like it is guarding some prey

Birds of prey Paul Miguel

Friday 30 March 2012
It has long been an ambition of mine to get some decent images of beautiful Owls and birds of prey. I have had some owl sighting, but never came close to getting anything with the camera. Now, finally, the offer of seeing a wide range of owls up close and photographing them on a dedicated ‘Birds of Prey’ workshop with Paul Miguel was not to be missed!

Barn owl in sunlight
Looking into the light. Beautiful awe inspiring wildlife in the warm sunshine in perfect light
Having the workshop in March also meant that I had the chance to fine tune my photography still further before our big trip to Africa!

Setting off in the morning from Leeds for rendezvous at a farm just outside Masham in the Yorkshire Dales with Paul and the rest of the group, we all arrived at the arranged time of 10.30 just before Ben Potter (bird of prey expert handler and demonstrator) arrived bringing with him a wide range of beautiful raptors for us to photograph in a natural setting.

Little owl on the hunt. A fantastic pose this little fellow was sure enjoying the sunshine as we were enjoying his company
The beautiful warm, bright light on the day meant that the shutters speeds would be up and so the ISO could be kept much lower to ensure beautifully detailed shots. There was a fantastic ‘buzz’ and camaraderie within the group and an excitement for what the day would bring from us all.

After our brief introductions to one another and an overview of what the day entailed from Paul, we soon set to work. The first subject was a ‘little owl’. The environment meant that the birds certainly looked very natural when carefully placed around the farm.

Barn owl in flight. Manual exposure for the feathers and track and lock on 3d with 39 active focal points ensured a sharp result with this quick flyer
During the day we  photographed a barn owl in flight. Owls are actually pretty tough to photograph in flight. They are incredibly agile and that’s what makes them such a challenge. They can suddenly change direction or hover slowly the next. It’s with subjects like this, that a good quality lens can really make a difference and I had one with my Nikon 300 mm F4 prime and tele converters to hand.

Fixed gaze. Long eared owl on an owl fence post and facing the sun fantastic
The habitat on this farm is so varied for photographing captive birds of prey – we had everything. Open fields, hedgerows, woodland and some old farm buildings too which were perfect for textures. The rusty gates and various farm machinery add some interesting colour variations into our photographs with a nearby larch wood making an ideal setting for the long eared owl we photographed too. 

Little owl on the farm. Keeping the composition simple ensured more focus on the bird half in sun and half in shadow. A tricky composition and lighting to expose for.
Long eared owl in pine trees
Long eared owl by the edge of the wood. The sunlight and shadows gives real depth to these shots. using the branch from bottom right to top left I composed the bird 13 in to give plenty odff space around it. The long eared owel on the old gate stumps is the leading focus of 3 elements in the frame. the dep rich background greens throwing the bird much further forward too.
The challenging photography and subjects (barn owls against a dark interior of a barn for example), depth of field options and so on, was excellent and vital experience with what was coming next - roll on Africa and safari!