Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Snowy Owl - Soul of the Arctic Limited Edition Prints

My latest exhibit "Snowy Owls - Soul of the Arctic" will continue at the South Shore Science Center in Norwell until February 7.   Many images from the exhibit have already sold.   There are three beautiful panoramic images that will be limited to only ten prints each.   "Before the Storm", "Low Tide" and the stunning "Soul of the Arctic" will be individually signed and numbered.   Included with each of these prints is a certificate of authenticity, documenting which print and which edition you have invested in.   In addition, you will receive a framed copy of the story behind the image.   Each time one of these beautifully crafted images are purchased, the price will increase for the next print.   "Before the Storm" is already on its fourth printing.   Many people have been inquiring about these master prints.   Please be sure to purchase yours before they sell out!   To purchase one of these master prints, you can inquire at the South Shore Science Center or contact me directly at GregLessardPhoto@aol.com

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Snowy Owls Soul of the Arctic Exhibit in the Boston Globe South!!

The Boston Globe South ran a story about my exhibit "Snowy Owls- Soul of the Arctic" in today's paper!   Four of my favorite snowy owl images were featured.    This is the opening sentence of the article "Bird lovers and art enthusiasts can find common ground in the next few weeks at the South Shore Natural Science Center in Norwell, where nature photographer Greg Lessard will display a photography exhibit entitled “Snowy Owl: Soul of the Arctic.”  You can read the rest at this link:

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Thank you!!

 Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you very much for coming out to see my exhibit today!   It was fantastic to see all of you!   The exhibit was a huge success.   There was well over a hundred people there.    I truly appreciate all of you taking time out of your busy schedules to come out and see my images!

There were many people who helped make this exhibit a success.   I must thank Joan Reid, John Galluzzo and Chris Jacobs from the South Shore Science Center.   Their support has been outstanding!  

Thank you to all of the newspapers, magazines and radio stations that publicized this event.   The press coverage was truly tremendous!!

My wonderful and beautiful wife Brenda has made this show possible.   She has helped with many things big and small.   She hung the show and she cared for Sarah while I was out watching owls.  Brenda has helped keep me sane and she has been the best friend I could ask for.   She even bought the lens that I made all of the images with.   Without her support, I would not have done this exhibit.   Thank you Brenda!!!

If you missed the opening, the exhibit will be at the South Shore Science Center in Norwell until February 7.

Thank you again to everyone who helped with this exhibit and to everyone who came out to see it today!


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

South Shore Living Published My Article On Snowy Owls

I am thrilled that South Shore Living magazine published my article "White as Snow - Winter Adventures of a Nature Photographer."   It is in their January edition and on new stands now.   The article is about what it is like to find and photograph a snowy owl.   My images are featured on four full pages including a two page spread of "Hunting in the Dunes", which is accompanying this post. 

With all of the busy preparations for my upcoming exhibit, I did not get a chance to see the article until yesterday.   My friend Chris Jacobs at the South Shore Science Center congratulated me on the article and let me borrow her copy.   When I finally made it home yesterday, Brenda surprised me with a copy that one of her colleagues had given her.   The layout looked even better than I imagined.  I was ecstatic! 

You can see a beautiful print of "Hunting in the Dunes" and many other wonderful images at the opening of my latest exhibit "Snowy Owls - Soul of the Arctic" at the South Shore Science Center in Norwell.    The opening of the exhibit will be on Saturday, January 10, from 2-4PM.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Snowy Owl - Soul of the Arctic Exhibit

I will host the opening of my latest exhibit "Snowy Owls- Soul of the Arctic" on Saturday, January 10, from 2-4PM at the South Shore Science Center in Norwell, MA.   The exhibit is a collection of new images from the winter of 2013-14, including a life size panorama of a snowy owl in flight!    There will be nearly 30 beautiful images of snowy owls and writings telling the stories behind the images.   This is my second exhibit of snowy owl images.   The first exhibit, "The Year of the Snowy Owl" debuted and sold out in November of 2012. "Snowy Owls - Soul of the Arctic" will remain open until early February.   I hope that you will join me at the opening!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Adventures in Photography: Before the Storm

The dawn was frigid and windy.  A strong N’oreaster was blowing in.   The slate gray sky did little to warm the landscape.  

A snowy owl was nearby.   This was my third attempt to photograph this particular owl.   It had been wintering on a local golf course.   I had seen the owl twice in less than ideal conditions.   My goal was to make an image of the owl while snow was falling.   The storm however had slowed down overnight.   With an important afternoon engagement, I had a limited window of time to find the owl and wait for the snow to arrive.

The temperature was a bone chilling seven degrees Fahrenheit with twenty five mile per hour winds.   Dressed with five layers, including the thickest parka LL Bean sells and numerous hand warmers, I set out onto the golf course.   On a previous trip, I had spoken with the caretaker and the manager of the course.   Both had agreed that I could photograph on the links.   The caretaker was adamant that I stay off of the greens.   With a foot of snow on the ground and no greenery in sight, I wondered how I would do that, not knowing the layout of the course.   Apparently, my footsteps would pack the snow down, turning to ice and taking longer to melt.   This could damage the grass.   Grateful to be let onto the course, I did my best to stay off of the greens.

The snowy had been spending a lot of time perched on a wood pile that was somewhat sheltered by the wind.   A nearby cove had served as a winter feeding ground for a variety of ducks.   The owl had survived by hunting the ducks.

As I cautiously approached the owl, I did my best to stay low and move slow.   This helped me to get reasonably close to the owl (approximately 100 feet) and to keep my footing on the icy terrain.   After about an hour of getting myself into position I was able to make a few beautiful images of the owl.   Perched on the woodpile and surrounded by tall marsh grasses, the snowy was in a unique setting.   I was thrilled to make these images, but I waited even longer for the chance to photograph the owl in snowfall.  

After another frigid hour, I had run out of time and I could barely feel my extremities.    With no snow and a pressing engagement, it was time to leave.  The snow arrived as soon as I had started to drive away.   I was disappointed to miss the opportunity of photographing the owl in the snow, but it had been worth my effort.    The resulting image was very exciting!

This month’s tip: In this article, I highlighted the respect that it takes to make excellent wildlife images.   Get up well before the sun, ask for permission and treat wild animals with care.   These are a few of the maxims that are critical for wildlife photographers to follow.  
Greg Lessard is a professional photographer.   You can view his latest portfolio “Snowy Owl – Soul of the Arctic” at the Bridgewater Library during the months of November and December.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Adventures in Photography: The Elusive Snowy Owl

The winter of 2013-14 was a record year for snowy owls in New England.   More owls were seen in Massachusetts than had ever been seen before.   It seemed that they were everywhere.  

No one is exactly sure why the irruption occurred.    The prevailing wisdom is that there was a large increase in the lemming population of eastern Canada.   This strong food source caused the owls to breed in high numbers.   One owl’s nest was reported to have more than seventy lemmings stacked in a ring around a few unhatched eggs.    It was obvious that those parent owls would be able to feed their young and ensure their survival.    It is believed that as winter set in, the lemming population dropped due to predation.   This in turn caused all of the young owls to head to warmer climates in search of food.   Many of them came to New England.

I have been intrigued by snowy owls for many years.   Their elusive nature and beauty are irresistible to this photographer.    The challenge of making a great image of snowy owls continues to engage me.

During the winter of 2013-14, I had seen so many owls that I had become very discerning about which owls I would photograph.   I had specific images in mind.   At the outset of the winter, I had not seen a darkly barred snowy owl before and I was very excited to photograph them.   The dark bars or spots on their feathers imply that the owls are either female or very young or perhaps both.   With so many young darkly barred owls arriving in New England, it became a challenge to find an owl that was mostly white in coloration.  

In late February, I was photographing a darkly barred owl resting in a tangle of thorns.   The owl had settled down for a long winter’s nap and had not stirred for more than two hours.    Then a jogger came by and told me that there was a completely white snowy owl nearby.    The heavily barred owl I was watching was unlikely to move for a very long time, so I decided to look for the white owl.

After a brief search, I was delighted to spot a small, but beautiful, mostly white snowy owl perched on a pine fence pole.   Based on its size and coloration, I assumed that it was a male owl.   There is no way to tell the sex of an owl for sure without capturing it.    Male owls are typically smaller and paler than the females, but this is not always true.   As I photographed this stunning owl, it flew from its perch and landed on a nearby snow covered dune.   The more natural setting was very appealing and I was thrilled to create some excellent images.

This owl was on the prowl.   It was very active, constantly moving around.   At one point it scooped snow with its beak, presumably for a chilly winter drink.   Within a few minutes the owl flew further away, but it had made my day!  

To photograph this owl, I used a 600mm f4 lens and a Nikon D 7000 with a 1.5 crop sensor.   This combination effectively functions as a 900mm f4 lens!    This allowed me to keep a safe distance from the owl (more than 50 feet) and still make sharp and close images, without disturbing the owl.

It is my goal as a photographer to make great images.   However, when photographing wildlife, I make sure that I keep the animal’s well-being as my first priority.   Having the right equipment is critical.   Snowy owls need their space.    Keeping 50 -100 feet away from an owl requires a minimum of a 300mm lens on a crop sensor.    That is for a distant scenic shot like the image below.   To make great close-up images, longer lenses are required.   

In addition to having a great lens and camera, you will also need a sturdy tripod.   To handle the load of my Nikon 600mm f4 and my d7000, a little more than 12 pounds of gear, I use the Manfrotto 055 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod with Horizontal Column.   This tripod has a great combination of excellent support and affordability.   It supports more than 18 pounds of gear and it is very easy to use!     Hunt’s is currently offering a 10% discount on this tripod to my workshop students.   Please visit this link to receive the discount http://www.huntsphotoandvideo.com/detail_page.cfm?productid=MT055XPRO3&sp=jyEwv

Approaching a snowy owl is tricky business. Too fast, too tall, too excited, too close translates to stressed owls and missed photo opportunities.

All of us have our own comfort levels. Owls are no different. Imagine how comfortable you might be if you had a member of the paparazzi aiming his camera at you. If he is far away, you might not be bothered by the intrusion. But imagine him rushing at you, firing away. How close will you allow him to get before you either confront him or run away?

Now imagine that you are sunbathing on the beach. Then 5 photographers quietly crawl towards you on their stomachs, until they are 50 feet to your left. They keep snapping your photo, but they aren't really bothering you too much. Still, its kind of creepy right?

The 5 photographers spend over an hour, firing multiple machine gun like shots each time you make the slightest movement. Then 7 more photographers arrive on your right, shouting and pointing and running right at you. Are you still feeling comfortable?

Most of us would have packed up our beach towel and picnic basket as soon as the first group of photographers tried to sneak up on us. A few of us might have called the police and the rest might actually enjoy having their picture taken.

So how do we get close to a snowy owl without scaring it away? Here are some tips:

1. Stay low. Snowy owls tend to stay relatively close to the ground, but they do like to be higher up than the rest of the creatures in their neighborhood. Crouch down until you are approximately 150-200 feet away from the owl. Then sit on your bum to slowly go the rest of the distance. If you can, you might try the good old belly crawl to approach the owl. At the very least kneel and crawl on all fours.

2. Move slow. The slower you approach an owl the better. When you come in for a fast landing, the owl has to quickly decide whether you mean to harm it or not. If you move slowly, this gives the owl more time to get used to you. In addition to moving slowly, stop every few feet to make a few images. This allows the owl to hear you taking the photos and hopefully get used to all of those strange clicking noises.

3. Keep your distance. Owls need their space. Stay at least 50 feet away from them.

4. Stay quiet. The more noise you make, the less comfortable the owl will be. Owls have fantastic hearing. While you think that you are quietly whispering, they are clearly hearing every word. Even at a great distance.

5. Be patient. Snowy owls often like to sit in one place for a very long time. Sometimes hours. Eventually the owl will do something interesting. Just wait for it... In the mean time, please don't call to the owl or try to flush it to get a flight shot.

6. Do not bait the owls. Do not use food of any type to attract an owl closer to you. Baiting is bad for the owls.

7. Try to approach the owl with the sun at your back. This will allow you to be on the "right" side of the light. This means that the owl will be well lit and not have its face in shadow and the background will be pleasant rather than harsh, blinding light.

8. Stay out of off limits areas. Owls will sometimes be in restricted areas. These areas are restricted for a reason. If the signs clearly say "Do not walk on the dunes", please don't walk on the dunes. Even if it means missing the shot. Even if no one is around. It only takes one person to ruin it for everyone.

9. If you follow all of these tips and you are still not close enough, try adding a 1.4 teleconverter.   This will increase the size of the owl in your frame by 40%.    Try using a high megapixel camera and crop the image closer in post processing.

10. Last, but not least, watch the owl's behavior. If it seems nervous or agitated, do not approach any closer. The goal is to be able to view the owl without disturbing it. 

I hope you find these tips helpful. Please keep the owls' safety and comfort as your first priority when photographing them.
 Greg Lessard is professional photographer.   You can see his exhibit “Snowy Owls- Soul of the Arctic” at the Bridgewater Public Library in November and December.   To read more about photographing snowy owls, visit Greg's blog at blog.greglessardphotography.com

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