Great Grey Owl
Great Grey Owl at the International Centre for Birds of Prey, Newent, Gloucestershire; 2 July 2014.

During the years 1967-2002 I was a totally committed and enthusiastic birdwatcher.  This interest shaped my life not a little – for example it sent me to live in Kenya, to see African birds – and, before that, it had taken me behind the Iron Curtain.

I have never seen the Great Grey Owl on the wild, but have always been spellbound by that majestic face – and the prospect of photographing it was my main reason for going to ICBP.  Some of the birds there were tethered in the open but many were in cages, and I had to accept this arrangement – it is after all a fact and necessity of life in a situation like this.

Having spent a lot of time looking at natural things in the wild, zoos and TV nature programmes just don’t do it for me any more – I would far rather see some less exotic natural thing “for real”, than witness something far rarer and more dramatic either in a pen or on a screen.  And as long ago as the 1980s I can remember showing my safari clients incredible natural things – only to hear that they’d already seen them on TV – some people really do have very little imagination!

But still, that rant and those points having been got off my chest, it was an experience to be with this sadly caged and solitary individual.  The place was quiet and there was no one else around, the few people there being elsewhere watching a flying display.  So that I was able to spend a long time with this bird, keeping quiet and making no sudden movements.  I looked at him, he looked at me and, losing interest after awhile, he started looking elsewhere.  And after another while, and very gently, I raised the 70-300’s great and shaded glass eye, and started carefully releasing the shutter.

And when it was time to leave, leaving was not something done lightly.

There are other photos of this bird here and here.

Click onto the image to see a larger version in a separate window.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 6400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Dramatic preset and selectively restoring colour.

About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.

8 Responses to BIRDS 76 – GREAT GREY OWL 3 (MONO + COLOUR)

  1. Meanderer says:

    I feel sad thinking of him inside the cage.

    He does look rather imperial in your photo of him – which, somehow, makes me feel even sadder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meanderer says:

      On a lighter note, I love the colour palette, and the way you have emphasised his eye and beak.


      • Adrian Lewis says:

        Haha!!! thanks for the lighter note, tho the point in your (very slightly!) earlier comment is valid and well made. I’m pleased that you like the restored colour, it works here I think, but I always try to be careful with such restoration – less is definitely more with such processing I think! Thanks again. A 🙂


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Yes, I know just what you mean. Which raises the question as to whether creatures should be caged. And then the question that, since they are caged – worldwide – should I capitalise on the fact by going to photograph them – and, in all honesty, I don’t think I’m altruistic enough not to go although, as I mention above, it is not without a mixture of unease, awe and fascination. A


  2. paula graham says:

    Owls …my favourite bird..for years I kept one and flew her . You got this one on an interesting angle..most attractive. I now see Tawny and Barn owls on a regular basis the wild..but…photographing them is another matter!


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      You flew an owl – wow, good stuff! What species? But yes, photographing wild ones is something else – and especially as you’ve got rid of your 400mm. Finding the Tawny’s roost would be one thing, as would be using whistled or taped calls to attract it – tho the latter is probably frowned on these days – but like getting too Duke of Edinburgh-esque! If the Barn Owls have more or less regular crepuscular hunting routes, that might facilitate a shot – I can remember Barns appearing in more or less the same spot, evening after evening, in East Anglia. A


  3. krikitarts says:

    I have done the same thing with wild folk in captivity. My heart goes out especially to those that have been rescued and could no longer survive in their natural world without the support of caring people. It’s so tempting (and yet so futile) to anthropomorphize their facial “expressions,” but it takes but a little imagination to envision longing, dreaming, remembering in that faraway gaze…


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