A Great Horned Owl juvenile in Montana

/, Glacier County, Great Horned Owls, Montana/A Great Horned Owl juvenile in Montana

Great Horned Owl juvenile in early morning lightGreat Horned Owl juvenile in early morning light – Nikon D200, tripod mounted, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Normally I prefer natural settings when I photograph birds but there are times when I believe that man made structures or features can add to an image rather than detract. Weather worn fence posts, rusty barbed wire, wood with an aged patina or rustic building structures can add interesting textures and visual appeal.

I especially like the combination of old wood and owls, in this photo a juvenile Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) is perched on an external structural beam of an old granary in Montana in warm, early morning light. My camera and lens were mounted on a tripod and the owlet was static so I was able to use a relatively low ISO and shutter speed. My reason for doing that is because the lower ISO produces more fine detail than if I had gone to ISO 500. I wanted to capture the details in the downy feathers of the young owl plus the details and character of the old wood.

Great Horned Owl juvenile yawningJuvenile Great Horned Owl yawning – Nikon D200, tripod mounted, f7.1, 1/350, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

A rule that bird photographers often follow is to have eye contact with the bird but I believe that rules can be broken and still produce appealing images. There may be some people who would not like the photo above because it does not have eye contact from the bird but personally I think the image is interesting because of the wide open yawn of the immature owl and that with the bird’s eyes closed it appears to have long, dark eye lashes.

So for me this photo has great appeal even though I have broken a rule. Rebel that I am. 🙂

Great Horned Owl juvenile in granary windowImmature Great Horned Owl in a granary window – Nikon D200, tripod mounted, f6.3, 1/500, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

This image was taken in evening light that wasn’t quite as warm as the two owl photos above that were taken in early morning light so the wood does not appear to be as golden. The strong winds of the Montana plains have taken a toll on these old structures, the granaries lean away from the normal direction of the wind and nothing appears to be level any more.

I like how the owl stands out from the very dark interior of the granary through the window, the pose of the bird and the knotty, cracked appearance of the wood. Even though I do not have direct eye contact from the young owl one of the things I like is how it appears to be gazing off in the distance and doesn’t show the least bit of concern for my presence.

A pair of Great Horned Owls have raised a brood each year in these old granaries on the farm in Montana, I hope that this year I’ll be able to photograph them again.


These  images were taken in 2010


  1. Lois Bryan February 26, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    oh LOVE that yawn … that’s about how I feel right now, lol!!! Thanks for the smile!!

  2. elephant's child February 26, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    Brilliant shots and I love that HUGE yawn – it almost looks as if the youngster has a flip-top head in that image.

  3. Sarah Mayhew February 26, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Great images! I think the structure makes a nice background in this instance.

  4. Chris Rohrer February 26, 2014 at 11:20 am

    I love them. These shots remind me of my cats yawning. In so many ways, cats and owls go hand in hand:)

  5. Cindy Schnackel February 26, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Beautiful images, great detail!

  6. Patty Chadwick February 26, 2014 at 8:24 am

    Boy! Do I LOVE these images!!!…especially the last two…they remind me so much of Wol, my owl. Also love the rich warmth, color and textures of the weathered wood. That stuff is so beautiful!

  7. Beverly Everson February 26, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Great shots of a beautiful bird! Love the yawn! 🙂

  8. Stu February 26, 2014 at 7:10 am

    Wonderful. The Owl looks like the owner of some big wooden house, and is up and out on the front porch checking to see whats going on. Would be great to see the youngsters this year too..

  9. Montanagirl February 26, 2014 at 6:58 am

    Super shots, Mia.

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