I can’t quite express the excitement I felt as I headed out on my first photoshoot since my knee replacement surgery. While the skies were bright, the winds were very strong, which could make for challenging photography. I headed to the west side of Traverse City not exactly sure what I was going to see after my six-week layoff.
I pulled into a neighborhood near where I’d lived while my current home was being built. Almost immediately I spotted a heavily-barred female Snowy Owl sitting on a rooftop. I drove on, readied my long lens equipment, and turned around for some shooting.
The Snowy swiveled to check me out, her third eyelid, the translucent nictitating membrane, protecting it from the bright sunlight. And perhaps shielding her cornea from any debris that was flying through the air in the high wind conditions.
She turned to the side and I could see her feathers ruffling with wind. She was a beauty and Gracie thought so too as she quietly watched the big bird from the car window.
The Snowy turned back towards me and her uplifted face gave the appearance of a smile. She appreciated the sunshine too. We watched for a while longer and then headed over to the ballpark to see if we could spot another Snowy, which would be a rare occasion on the same day.
I never would have spotted the Snowy on the ground if it hadn’t been for two cars of photographers pulled off to the roadside and taking pictures. The guy ahead of me had a huge lens hanging out his window. It was at least an 800mm and was dressed in a camouflage cover. My 100-400mm felt puny next to his monster lens.
The female Snowy was sitting in a hollow surrounded by swaying field grasses. It had its own natural camouflage cover! It was a challenge to focus on this beautiful critter with all the movement surrounding it.
It too had its third eyelid in place, protecting it from the wind, flying weeds, and sunlight. Oh, how I longed for a peek of those yellow eyes!
She finally opened her eyes without the membrane in place, but this was as good as it got. By this time, we’d been out over two hours and I could feel my knee stiffening. Gracie was also an hour past her feeding time and was getting antsy, jumping between the front and back seats and hanging out the window. While she’d never barked at an owl, I imagined her doing that and decided it was time to call it a day. And what luck we’d had with photographing two different Snowy Owls in one afternoon!