Short-eared owls, unlike many other owls, hunt during the day. Because of this, they are also a lot easier to photograph than other owls that are active at night, when the lack of light makes photographing them pretty much impossible. Short-eared owls winter at several spots in the Puget Sound area, and I photographed several of the owls this week in the Stanwood, WA, area.
The photo above shows how well the owls’ coloring camouflages them against the grass in the fields where they hunt. This makes it difficult to get sharp photographs. The camera has a hard time differentiating an owl from the similarly colored background, making it difficult to focus on the owl. The trick is to use a fast shutter speed while panning the camera with the flying owl, and to take lots of shots using the camera’s “burst” mode. (My Nikon D7100 can take up to 6 shots per second in its Continuous High mode.) Even with this approach, many of the shots are out-of-focus, but there are also usually a few in-focus keepers.
I have photographed Short-eared owls many times over the last few years, but never get tired of watching these amazing birds as they hunt over open fields or take a rest break in a convenient tree.