Shot in the Dark

For the past couple weeks, both morning and night, under varying light and backgrounds, I have been trying to capture an image of a great-horned owl taking flight. Focusing on a bird in flight is challenging enough in broad daylight but when the sunlight has retreated and your subject is nothing more than a silhouette against a cobalt sky, it is quite literally a shot in the dark.

This evening, as I watched one of the owls perched in a usual spot waiting for its mate to show, I heard the tell-tale screech directly behind and turned around to see the second owl in a tree barely 30 feet away, looking directly at me. Knowing this particular owl tended to move around frequently, I reasoned that it would take flight again momentarily. As I set up and waited, something told me this would be my moment. My face was glued to the viewfinder for several minutes until the owl fell forward and spread its wings for me. I had but one shot at nailing this as the flash takes a moment to recharge after firing at full power, and that one shot was all it took.

Shortly afterward, a sow black bear with three little cubs showed up, followed by a moose. I smiled with gratitude, knowing I'd come away with the image I wanted.