“As we journey through life, we should be vigilant, not fearful, but keenly aware of the world around us.” – Ed Lehming

The title for this image came to me as I was making the photo itself. There was a lesson to be learned from the behaviour of the owl and how it interacted with its environment.

I first noticed this Barred Owl’s presence while shooting the previously posted image, “March Meander“. I was standing on a knoll just above the gently flowing creek when I first heard its call in the pine forest slightly to my left. I could not see it and I’m not sure it could see me yet. I don’t believe it would have been hooting had it been aware of me. Owls tend to be shy and cautious, in my experience.

As I completed my creek photo, I slowly and quietly entered the forest, my eyes to the treetops, looking for any movement. Within a few minutes, the owl must have spotted me and flew from the thick canopy to a more open area of hardwoods, further away.This would provide a better view for the owl and a margin of safety. It did not help me much, because I could see the owl clearly, but in typical fashion, slender branches blocked a truly clear and unobstructed view of the owl.

The owl watched my slow and steady progress as I got closer, being careful not to spook it with any quick movement or noise. I moved between and around the tangled branches, constantly stopping to see what kind of image I might get, taking a few “just in case” shots, if nothing better presented itself. I was finally able to maneuver into a spot close enough to frame the owl through an opening in the branches.

I took my time, watching the owl and simply enjoying one of those rare moments where you can be this close to wildlife in its natural environment, also making sure that my camera’s shutter speed was set to compensate for the owl’s movements. This time was also spent observing those same movement as it rapidly pivoted it’s head to survey the valley below it, always making sure it checked back on where I was and that I continued to not pose a threat. It also took time to preen itself and continuously looked around and focused on the sounds of Red Squirrels and birds who, I’m sure, were aware the owl was on the hunt.

What really struck me, and gave me the title for the image, was the vigilance, the keen observation of its environment for signs that anything might pose a danger to it. The owl was not particularly nervous. I think the vigilance is simply part of its nature because after about ten minutes of roosting in the tree top, it took a quick poop and casually took off, following the curve of the valley.

I was grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time with it and being able to capture a few decent images. With wildlife photography, it seems that your lense is never quite powerful enough, but this image will suffice because it also comes with the experience of having been there.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 200 mm
1/1000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 400

10 Comments on ““Vigilant”

  1. An exceptionally beautiful photo, Ed. Your title pulled me into your post and I am curious where you are going with this. I wholeheartedly agree with your quote and description. Yes “keen observation.” Your last paragraph speaks volumes. Thank you for adding good to my day!

  2. What a wonderful photo, Ed, and I can related to your cautious moves to get in a good position to get a shot. When we lived in Illinois, there was a large dead tree next to the river in the park where I liked to walk. Cormorants, heron, and egrets like to congregate on its branches high above the bank (but only in groups of their own kind!) I tried to get as close as possible to the tree, although often the birds flew off or there were branches in the way. But sometimes, if the leaves weren’t too crunchy and I moved very slowly, I could get close enough to get some good photos and just enjoy being able to see them there.

    Just curious: where’s your header photo taken? Such beauty!


  3. That is a stellar image – what a wonderful capture! My daughter caught a pic of a little barn owl right from her balcony in the middle of the city! I’ve only seen owls a couple of times, both times in the dead of night. It must have been so satisfying to see it and to be able to photograph it! Thanks for sharing this beautiful photo!

  4. Pingback: “April Realities” | Ed Lehming Photography

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