(Text and photo: Richard Steel, February 11, 2017)
Photography is all about using light to show your subject at it best. For me, this is about using natural light as I don’t use flash. Many years ago I tried some flash photography trying to capture small birds in flight and was so disturbed at the response of the birds that have not used it since. I don’t have any problem with the use of fill flash during daylight for those that want to use it. However, Aacurrent trend I find particularly worrying at the moment is photographing owls at night with multiple flash set ups at baited posts. With their highly sensitive night vision, this must be impacting on the birds with temporary blindness and their long term hunting success. Now I know there are all kinds or arguments surrounding this concerning the negative effects which I not going to enter into. All i can say is this practice seems wrong and it bothers me greatly.
For those photographers who just use natural light, winter is a very special time of year. The low elevation of the sun produces beautiful soft warm light to work through large parts of the day. Unfortunately, living in cloudy north west England, such days can be few and far between and so you have to make the most of them when they do occasionally arise. On occasions it can feel like an eternity of cloud between sunny moments. The other benefit of course is that it easy to get out at first light without the need to set your alarm to ridiculous o’clock, so you can have a nice relaxed start to the day and still be at your chosen site at sunrise to catch the first important rays. Even at this time of year, both ends of the day tend to produces the most evocative images.
The collection of images below are from my recent winter wanderings and in no particular order.
I have spent a little time down by the huge area of local salt marshes hoping to capture some short-eared owls. As with most photography of hunting owls it is a game of luck and whether they fly close to your chosen position. Given the size of the marsh, success rate can be fairly low and it requires many hours effort to be rewarded with only a few images. Given the time requirements, the moments when the sun is out and the owls are close occur even more infrequently.