View the World from a different perspective in 2013. To a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year to Everyone!
There are only a few more hours left in 2012 for us in the Western Hemisphere, so I wanted to share my favorite images of the year. For me it was a very good year, my best yet, and looking back at the wonderful memories that are included in these images it makes me look forward to yet another year. I have goals in mind, but I never know where circumstances, luck and serendipity end up taking me.
I hope you enjoy.
They arrived quietly. Locals said around Thanksgiving. But word did not spread until Christmas. The snowy owls were back in the Mission Valley and in abundance. It was six years since the last irruption of snowy owls (the large migration of snowy owls to points further south than their normal winter range) in the Mission Valley so it wasn’t to be missed. And it wasn’t. People came from across Montana and well beyond to view the owls who spent their days on the roofs of houses in a hilltop residential area overlooking Flathead Lake to the north and the the Mission Valley to the south. These owls know prime real estate.
The hilltop attraction helped a local tourist economy that is active in the summer but completely dormant in the winter. Once again demonstrating that the extraction isn’t the only fiscal value of the natural world. Its mere presence draws people and therefore their dollars.
I photographed these owls for at least a dozen days. Beginning shortly before Christmas and ending on this prior Tuesday (April 24th). On Tuesday evening, alone by myself, I photographed the two remaining owls at sunset as they preened and stretch in preparation for a night of hunting. As was their routine, they set off right as the sun hit the distant mountains to the west. My last sight was the second of the two owls gliding over a hillside and disappearing below. The next day reports from birders were that no owls were spotted. Again the next day. Until the next irruption.
My Pelicans of White Rock Lake post is the first in a series of catching up posts. This Winter, which is increasingly looking like I can put in the past tense but living in Montana I dare not, I was very busy editing images which meant I fell behind on the social media aspects of the job. I hope to rectify that in the coming weeks as I catch up on a very busy year. This entry comes from my trip to the Grand Tetons, which coincided with the moose rut. I hope you enjoy.
It’s an irruption year for Snowy Owls which means that owls have moved en masse from their normal Arctic Circle range to winter along the Canada-US border. Normally this is due to a population crash of voles in their winter hunting grounds. A bad year for snowy owls, but a great year for those of us who wouldn’t normally travel to their normal range.
Finding out it was an irruption year, I decided to travel to the Pacific Coast where many had been sighted. It was a very rewarding trip not only for photography but simply to see these magnificent birds.
When I first moved up to Montana from Texas in 2008, I picked up Don Joneses’ book on the National Bison Range while in a bookstore. In it was a picture of a short-eared owl that captivated me. I wanted to photograph one. The only problem was I couldn’t find one to photograph. I saw one briefly at a far distance at the Bison Range, but nowhere else. And it wasn’t from lack of trying as I spent many hours driving dirt roads looking for them. It wasn’t until the Spring of 2010, over a year and a half after I moved to Montana, that I began seeing them and then began photographing them.
Learning their spots, I gradually began to see short-eared owls more and more often and correspondingly began to get better and better shots as I repeated successful tactics and frequented the spots where I saw them most often. It was one such spot that I took this image.
The previous day while driving along a backroad where I had consistent sightings of a mating pair I came across not one, not two, not even four, but around eight short-eared owls in a tight area. I assumed they were fledglings of the mating pair that hadn’t yet dispersed. While they were not fearful of me they also weren’t terribly interested in flying near, but nonetheless I photographed them flying as the sun went down on the valley.
Eager for more, I drove back to the same spot the next day to find a few of them on a fencepost but as I slowly moved my car up and parked a huge rainstorm hit the valley. I rolled up my vehicle windows and waited out the storm. When the rain began to slacken I rolled down my window again to find out that my car was surrounded by owls. Two were on fenceposts directly across a small dirt road from me while another was right next to my car on the passenger side. I eased my lens on to the beanbag I use to shoot from my car, expecting it would flush them, but instead they peered at me curiously. I took shot after shot and after 30 minutes of fencepost shots they flew up and began to hunt in the surrounding fields. I got out of my car and photographed them from the roadside for several hours as they swooped past me. Sometimes oblivious to me while other times clearly curious about me. It was one of those magical times where time stood still but also flew by.
This image was the best of my shots that day and for me the best of the year. It combines the panoramic look that I’ve focused on all year long with my desire to catch the animal “doing something.” It also validated my thought that subjects must be worked and images improve the longer your spend working the subject. In this particular case, it was the culmination of years of work. Have a happy New Year.