An abandoned barn for owls

Reserved observation - 2014 © Christopher Martin

I went out on the prairie a couple of times on the weekend.  I was looking for owls.  On the “hope to see” list were Great Horned, Snowy and Short-eared.  I went to the back roads around Frank Lake.  I encountered a couple of Snowies but it was too dark to photograph them.  I returned to both locations in better light a couple of times but unsurprisingly they had both moved on.  Nice to know they were around though.  Short-eared proved elusive and I did not see any ears, short or otherwise.

Barn sentinel - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender: 1/640 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 1600

I did find a great old barn set off in a remote spot with a couple of grain silos on the first evening.  That scene was great on its own but the Great Horned Owl I saw perched in a window.  The window frame was weathered with peeling red paint so character was not in short supply.  The owl was shy once I stopped my car and it hopped inside the barn to perch on a beam.   I set up a ways back from a west-facing window at the other end of the barn in the hopes that the owl might fly through it as dusk approached and it went out to start hunting.

Framed - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender: 1/320 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200

A chilly wait through the golden light had no results and when the owl did head out, it flew through the eastern window.  While I waited, a long lens and high ISO allowed for a couple of nice shadow dominated images.  I left the owl the first night with it perched on a fencepost near the barn.  When I returned home and looked at the images, I was surprised to see a second owl buried in the shadows inside the barn.  It had been invisible to my eyes but had just barely resolved on the highest ISO images.

I returned two days later before dawn and saw the pair of owls working out of the same eastern window.  I set up on the same western window and could see them through main entrance as the sun rose.  Their activity wound down as the day wrestled with the night and soon they were perched on the same beams as before.

In shadows - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/80 of a second at f/4 on ISO 2000

This time, I took a wide path around the side of the barn and was able to photograph each owl on their respective beams through the eastern window (per the image at the top of this post and directly below).

In the barn - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4 extender: 1/100 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200

I returned to my original spot and as I came around the barn saw that one of the owls had flown up to the top of a silo.  It was perched there scanning the fields.  I guess it wanted one last snack before its nap.

Up on a grain silo - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4 extender: 1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 1600

It stayed up there for ten minutes and then flew along the fence-line, dropped on a fence post for a minute and then glided over the patchwork of snow and grass to a mound of earth a few hundred meters away.

Fence flight - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

I waited a while longer to see if the owl would come back or its mate would head out.  Neither happened and I packed up as the owl inside the barn dropped off to sleep.

I’ll head back to see about that window again in a couple of weeks.  Maybe they’ll give me an opportunity then.  It was great to see these beautiful birds either way.  They have amazing faces and I really enjoyed studying them for a couple of hours.

17 responses

  1. Fraz

    really amazing photos… background are perfect..

    March 11, 2014 at 10:39 pm

  2. The third picture (from inside with the ow looking out) is just fabulous!

    February 3, 2014 at 4:34 am

  3. Pingback: Prairie Falcon over… the prairies | Christopher Martin Photography

  4. lovely.

    January 22, 2014 at 5:13 pm

  5. Owls are very cool. You’ve made some beautiful images, Christopher. I love the barn setting.

    January 22, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    • Thanks Jane. I couldn’t agree with you more – they are very cool!

      January 24, 2014 at 10:22 am

  6. Your photography is just phenomenal…the interior shot- almost in silhouette- is gorgeous. Thank you for sharing these with us…

    January 22, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    • I’m glad you enjoyed this series. Thank you for checking them out.

      January 24, 2014 at 10:23 am

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed the post. That must have been fun and you get to go back.

    January 22, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    • Thanks Lyle. I’ve spent a lot of time roaming the back roads in that area on the lookout for Snowies and other owls – it’s nice to add a concrete location where there’s a good chance to see something.

      January 24, 2014 at 10:25 am

  8. what a wonderful owl 😀

    January 22, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    • Agreed! Now if I could just speak their language and agree on a couple of flybys…:)

      January 24, 2014 at 10:25 am

  9. It is great that you got captures from both inside and outside the barn!

    January 22, 2014 at 1:42 pm

  10. Super!

    January 22, 2014 at 1:32 pm

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