This image was captured in Japan, we were waiting for this Owl in a man-made hide in the forest. We arrived at the location around 17:00 on a bitterly cold evening, hoping to photograph this amazing Owl, the Blakinston’s Fish Owl. Also the worlds largest living Owl species. Everything was frozen solid around us at –23, luckily no wind. There was a man-made hole in the frozen river for local fishing infront of us.
We were told by the locals that they have seen this Owl fishing there. We waited nearly five hours for our visitor to arrived at about 21:55 that evening. Some of us managed to get nothing more than only 12 shots before the Owl disappeared into the black and dark forest. He never came back that evening.
We were a group of 12 advanced photographers with a Japanese guide and none of us had ever seen this particular Owl before. We had no idea how big is was going to be, which direction it will come from or where it would land to fish. All we were sure about, was the fact that if we got this wrong, a second chance would be out of the question, a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Your choice of focal lenght (Lens) and your camera settings would also be the fine line between getting a shot or missing it.
Everyone had different ideas about lenses and camera settings, flash or no flash and so on.. Reality kicks in when you relize that it is you behind the camera and nobody is going to help you this time, it's everyone to themselves. There was a lot of tension amongs the group and nobody willing to share ideas. Everything you have ever learned about wildlife photography rushes through your mind even though your brain feels like it is frozen.
I can still here the sound of the wings in my mind when this Owl came in and when it took off again, a sound so powerfull that you could actually ‘hear’ how big the Owl really was. The wingspan of this Owl is about 188 to 190cm if not more, weight; about 2.95 to 3.6kg and the females up to 4.6kg. Only seven photographers used shorter lenses without flash and only the seven of us managed to capture the moment.
A once in a lifetime moment which I will cherish forever!! However also the most difficult image I have captured in my journey as a wildlife photographer. I am sure there must be questions around my camera settings and lens combination. Please feel free to ask questions, I would love to share with you.
ISO 3200, 1/125sec at f/5 Nikon D4, Nikon 70-200mm Lens,1.7 Nikon Converter, Focal length 330mm, Manual mode,Tripod, Off camera light was used.