Slow Speed Boreal Owl

Started 2 months ago | Photos thread
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Phocal Veteran Member • Posts: 3,209
Slow Speed Boreal Owl

I was out fox hunting yesterday and while I didn't get any postable photographs of them, I did happen upon this cute guy.

While standing along a trail looking for the foxes I noticed that off in the woods about 30 yards from the trail lots of birds were making a huge ruckus. It was more than one species of bird so I knew they were all yelling at a raptor of some sort. When I got back into the woods I found all the birds in this one tree and after a few minutes of looking I noticed this guy, photo taken for ID purposes if I ended up not getting anything else.

Photo has no crop

Now that I knew where he was I moved around to the other side to get a front view of him. I learned long ago to take the shot you have before trying to get that perfect shot. So I took this photograph because I was going to have to move (needed to backup and move around some brush) a lot to get that branch out of the way.

I also focused on the feathers between his eyes, which made the eyes a touch soft. Thankfully I had other opportunities to get clear images. But damn, are those feathers between his eyes so sharp with so much detail for a handheld 600mm effective photograph taken at 1/60. Photo has no crop.

While trying to get a clear shot of him I ended up post holing in the snow and he flew off to another tree about 50 yards away. It took a few minutes before the birds found him again, which helped me figure out where he had gone. Ended up he flew into a tree right by the trail head. While in that tree I captured him from a number of different angles and this was probably my favorite photograph. Prior to this photograph he was in a different location in the tree and I had put on the MC-14 because I wanted to try and get a head filling the frame photograph, but he moved to here while I was putting on the TC.

For some reason I really like this image. Here is another example of the amazing Dual IS of the EM1X. This is 840mm effective focal length shot handheld at 1/80. Photo has no crop.

He flew off when a car pulled up to the trailhead, this time into a tree on the edge of someone's property. He also landed in a spot that gave a nice clear view of him. I still had the MC-14 on while approaching him and captured this image of behavior that I am not sure what it was for. He seemed to stretch out (making himself bigger) and raising his eyebrows while really opening his eyes. He only did it a few seconds before relaxing on the branch.

It's a touch soft due to the slow 1/80 shutter speed and his movement. Photo has no crop.

It was very overcast and snowing so this was pushing my ISO higher when trying to keep to faster shutter speeds for sharp images. I got a number of images at the higher ISO's and shutter speeds in keeping with my get the images you can before trying to improve on them else you end up with nothing.

So I switched from my normal Aperture Priority to Shutter Priority so I could lower shutter speed for lower ISO's. I also took the MC-14 off at this point since I didn't need the additional reach and it would help keep ISO down.

This next image is also the first one where you can see me reflected in his eye.

Taken at 1/60, which allowed me to shoot at ISO 400. Photo has no crop.

He turned his head so I moved in closer to capture this next image.

Another 1/60 shutter speed, but a drop to ISO 250. I recommend zooming in to see all the feather detail to the left of his eye. I am also reflected in his eye very well in this photograph. This is also the first photograph with any crop. I cropped it to 4963 (from 5184) on the long side to tighten up composition.

I switched back to Aperture Priority for some reason, I know when there I had a reason for it but it escapes me now. This was taken at 1/200, while a lot faster and simple for Olympus's Dual is not something easily accomplished with other systems.

Another image I recommend zooming in on to see all the detail captured. This is another I cropped slightly (4651 on the long side) to tighten up composition.

Before leaving I really wanted to get my head filling the frame image so I gave it a try. My first attempt I was actually inside the minimum focus distance of the lens. So I backed up a bit and was able to capture this next image.

I am pretty happy with how this one came out. I do wish I was bit more parallel to him because the left eye is a bit soft. Photo has no crop.

The more I use my Olympus gear the more it really does impress me. There was another photographer who showed up with a Canon APSC and 100-400. Looking at his images on Facebook he had to shoot at higher shutter speeds and ISO which robbed his images of the detail I was able to capture. While IS can't compensate for subject movement, in instances like this it really does pay off...............especially with that crazy Dual IS that allows such slow shutter speeds at long focal lengths. I did shoot at lower shutter speeds but those images were soft due to feather movement from the wind as well as his movements. So there is a limit in what IS can help with.

I really do recommend clicking over to Flickr to zoom in on these images and checkout the detail.

There is one small feature Olympus added to the EM1X that I am so glad to have back (my Canons had this ability). The EM1X treats horizontal and vertical orientation separately for focus point location as well as home point. When I switched to Olympus I almost stopped shooting vertically because of the hassle with moving the focus point. Not just that I had to move it but also how difficult it was to reach over and move it on my original EM1's. Now with my EM1X they are treated completely separate but I also have the handy joystick (another thing I really missed from my Canon days) in the exact same location regardless of orientation. Prior to the EM1X am not sure I would have taken more than one vertical shot of this owl compared to the almost 1/2 that I did. It really is a great little feature that I seriously am thankful for and that most don't comment on at all in reviews.

As always, comments are welcome,


 Phocal's gear list:Phocal's gear list
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 150mm 1:2.0 Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS Pro Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus E-M1 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm 1:2.8 Pancake +6 more
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