Thursday, September 27, 2012

Adventures in Photography: Snowies on Thanksgiving

It was Thanksgiving morning 2011. While many people were still sleeping, my dad and I were walking along a beach at sunrise. We were looking for snowy owls. As we made our way down the beach, we found a snowy perched on a pole, overlooking some grass lands.

While observing from a safe distance, we met one of my favorite photographers, who is also a snowy owl expert. He cautioned us on how to safely approach a snowy owl. His advice was to stay low, move slow, be quiet and don’t get too close (not closer than 50 feet).

After watching the owl for a while, we moved further along the beach. There were some duck hunters, who were cooking up a storm in the back of their truck. They greeted us cheerfully and offered us some ham and eggs. As we chatted with them, they began to cook tuna fritters. This was their Thanksgiving tradition.

One of the hunters had been a cook in the Navy. He knew his way around a camp stove. The tuna fritters were one of the best seafood dishes I have ever had. Even at 7AM! As we enjoyed the culinary delights, the astronomical high tide began to set in. Soon, the hunter’s truck was surrounded by water. It was time to leave.

My dad and I hitched a ride with the snowy owl expert, but first we had to get to his truck. On the way to the truck, we crossed a flooded section of the beach. As we picked our way from dry spot to dry spot, we spotted a snowy, not far from us. The owl was in a gnarled, old cedar tree and it had perfect early morning light shining upon it. Behind the owl was a mix of blue sky and fast moving, softly lit clouds. This was an amazing opportunity to photograph a snowy owl. Everything had come perfectly together.

We moved our tripods into position and gladly stood in ankle deep water to make the image. We spent a fantastic few minutes with this owl until it was spooked by a passing truck. This was a surreal moment that I will never forget!

Driving off the beach, we spotted a snowy owl at a great distance. As we observed it, another owl attacked it! The snowies flew into the air and had a fast moving, talon to talon aerial battle. The owl expert said that he had never seen such a display in all of his years of studying snowy owls. My dad and I were very lucky to have witnessed it!

This turned out to be one of my favorite adventures in 2011. Spending time with my dad, meeting one of my favorite photographers and enjoying gourmet seafood while photographing snowy owls was fantastic!

This month’s tip: Set goals for yourself as a photographer. Learn new techniques and try new styles of photography. This will improve your photography and hopefully inspire you at the same time. Greg Lessard is a professional photographer. You can meet him and view his exhibit “The Year of the Snowy Owl” on November 3, at the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s North River Sanctuary in Marshfield.

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