Photos by Harold Wilion

One of my favorite shots of owls is their stretches. This is the wings over head stretch, and the other popular one, which I will post another day of him, is the one wing stretch.

Owls can literally “sleep” all day. It’s more like a half sleep as they periodically open their eyes, do a little preening and the like, but basically remain in the same state of semi-sleep as I do until a couple hours after my morning coffee. When nap time is over, they go through the ritual of waking. They become very aware by opening their eyes wider, preening, stretching, pooping, and many times, coughing up a pellet. The actual stretch only lasts a few seconds, so it’s much tougher to get a decent stretching shot than the normal shot of them sitting on a limb. Also, this usually happens when it is nearing dusk and often in deep woods, so one has to carefully balance shutter speed to stop the fluid motion of the stretch (unless you get a shot at one of the split seconds he stops moving), and ISO. In this instance my shutter was 1/100 and 6400. Many of my shots of this sequence had motion blur. I could have had more usable frames had bumped my to 1/200 and my to 12,500, but then there is the potential for more detail robbing noise than would like. So, if I spot an owl in the woods, if I deem the owl to be unstressed by my presence and know the owl to be tolerant of people like this one, I may stand or sit there for hours to capture those few seconds. I don’t know why I find it so easy to sit in the woods for hours doing nothing, waiting for a shot, whereas God forbid get behind a car only going 5 miles above the speed limit, or a long line at the supermarket.

I find it fascinating that it takes them so long to go from sleep to finally flying off in a normal situation, whereas they of course have the ability to just fly at a moment’s notice if a perceived predator should come into the picture.