I’ve been spending a fair amount of time with this pair of great-horned owls recently. They’ve allowed me to get quite close, although they are primarily nocturnal and seem to appear just after sundown, making them difficult to photograph. Last night I decided to add a bit of light by mounting a flash and bounce card/diffuser on my camera. Since their eyesight is keen in the dark, I was concerned that the bright light may harm their vision or cause temporary blindness. I did some research and from what I gathered, owls do not seem to be affected by bright light sources and often use outdoor floodlights to their advantage when hunting. Since the sun had just set, there was still a bit of ambient light and I was at least 50 feet away. They would look directly at me while the flash fired multiple times and then fly to another tree seemingly unaffected.
Exposing was a bit tricky but my technique paid off. Those of you fellow photogs will appreciate the settings I employed: I was shooting with a 400mm lens, aperture F/4, shutter speed 1/60 of a second, ISO 4000, and my flash was cranked all the way up, connected to an external battery pack. I had to cross an old beaver dam and wade into a creek that was well over the tops of my hiking boots; c’est la vie, it was worth it as I was able to create unique images. This is photo of the female as she was looking at me inquisitively, framed by the mountains and twilight sky.