(Originally published in PhotoNews magazine)
Known to be territorial with both their breeding ground as well as their wintering homes, once you spot a snowy owl it’s quite likely you will find them in that same 2 km radius again. These elegant birds are creatures of habit. For this reason, I used the BirdsEye app to further my hunt and, as a keen Calgary wildlife photographer, I drop GPS pins in the areas in which I spot them.
Known to be territorial with both their breeding ground as well as their wintering homes, once you spot a snowy owl it’s quite likely you will find them in that same 2 km radius again. These elegant birds are creatures of habit. For this reason, I used the BirdsEye app to further my hunt and, as a keen bird photographer, I drop GPS pins in the areas in which I spot them.
Always operating on the principal of not disturbing nor baiting these beautiful birds of prey, I observe them unobtrusively and as silently as possible. This is easily accomplished without sacrificing photo opportunities thanks to the reach of Tamron’s 150-600mm lens, which offers the best focal length for this kind of bird photography.
The zoom versatility allows me to get that wider shot to show the bird’s initial position with a bit of the landscape, and it’s incredible focal length allows close-up detail shots once the raptor is locked in my viewfinder. When photographing birds in flight (BIF), I have found switching off the VC is better with a few quick presses of AF until the bird is close enough to focus tightly on. I keep my Nikon D810 on continuous high mode so I can take bursts of shots when the owl takes a leap and dives for prey. The pure white males gaze at me with canola yellow eyes from atop a pole, and the spotted females are more noticeable against the snow. The couples found together often on Alberta’s back roads, like all others, are monogamous and sweetly, have paired for life.
Not unlike the reverence given to wildlife on a safari, the intent is to not disturb their normal movements and patterns, but still capture their glorious wings spread in flight from a respectful distance. Such photography is easily accomplished with this lens! I continue to be able to watch for these raptors well into April, perhaps because of the rich vole and mouse population amongst our prairie crops. Smaller rural towns offer quiet but large, lush trees to hoot from, amiably adapting a friendship with the residents in towns like Standard, Alberta.
Each winter I look forward to the respectful interaction we can enjoy with these majestic raptors!
About the Author
Christy Turner – My goal as an artist is to transform something as mundane as a puddle or shaft of light into a visual landscape that evokes a story, a memory, a sensation. The magic found in transformation peeks my curiosity — like a caterpillar growing its wings — and it’s this metamorphosis that can be found as an underlying theme in most of my work, along with the power of storytelling and intuition to enhance an image or experience.
Formally, Christy Turner is a freelance photographer/writer who specializes in, astrophotography, lifestyle portraits and travel/landscape images. Having traveled extensively through more than 70 countries, her work has been published nationally and internationally. Mostly self taught but currently working on a Visual Design Certificate from the University of Calgary, Turner’s work is about conveying a sense of experience through visual storytelling.
Christy recently appeared in a recent Telus Documentary entitled “Chasing Steve,” and her photos have been seen on CNN, Journal of Geophysical Research Letters, Space Physics, PhotoNews Magazine, Huffington Post, The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, The Calgary Herald, Yahoo, Earthsky.org, Reader’s Digest, The Weather Network, Fast Company Magazine, Canadian Geographic, Westjet Magazine, The Royal Meteorological Society UK,and more. She was a recent semifinalist for the Wine Photographer of the Year in the Pink Lady Food Photography Competition in 2019 and Cover Winner for Our Canada Magazine’s 2016 winter edition.
In addition, she has been commissioned internationally for ongoing photographic contributions towards space weather research with Dr. Stephen Mende at UC Berkeley, Chateau Pontet Canet in Bordeaux, France, and J.Tol in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Turner currently works and resides in Calgary, AB, Canada and her work can be found at christyturnerphotography.com, IG: aurorachaseryyc and facebook.com/christyturnerphotographyTags: Christy Turner, lens, tamron