Short-eared Owl – Comparing Early to Mid Morning Light On My Subject

/, Box Elder County, Short-eared Owls, Utah/Short-eared Owl – Comparing Early to Mid Morning Light On My Subject

Short-eared Owl with an eye issue in morning lightShort-eared Owl with an eye issue in morning light – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/500, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

All three of these images are photos of the same Short-eared Owl, one was taken in early morning light, the second image is also in early morning light but shared just because I like the wind blown look and the third was taken in mid morning light. I’ve mentioned that I prefer golden light or early morning to late afternoon light many times because morning light is softer because of the angle of the sun and that later in the day the light is harsher, more contrasty and to my eyes less appealing.

The photo above was taken at 6:32 am which was not long after the sun had come over the mountains to the east. There is a warmth to early morning light that just isn’t there later in the day and there are fewer harsh shadows because of the low angle of the sun. The owl’s plumage, face and eyes are well lit and there is a “glow” to the entire photo.

This adult male Short-eared Owl has an issue with his right eye that probably doesn’t affect his vision at all but makes him easy to identify, you can see a dark spot in the lower portion of his iris that isn’t there in normal Short-eared Owl eyes. See my post Birds with “Blown Eyes” for more images of birds with this condition.

Wind blown Short-eared OwlWind blown Short-eared Owl – Nikon D500, f9, 1/500, ISO 400, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

I just loved the wind blown look the Short-eared Owl had in this photo, the up swept feathers on his head made him look different and slightly dramatic. I’m happy I took this photo when the light was right.

Short-eared Owl in bright mid morning lightShort-eared Owl in bright mid morning light – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1000, ISO 250, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

This image of the same Short-eared Owl male was taken at 10:15 am when the sun was much higher than the first photo and it shows that the shadows are deeper at that time of the day and that nearly half of the owl’s bright yellow, recessed eyes are in shadow because of the angle of the sun and the warm tones of the owl’s plumage seem less visible than they did in the first image above.

While this final image shows a beautiful Short-eared Owl, nice sharpness and details when I compare it to the first photo it just isn’t as visually appealing to me as the first photo which was taken in softer light.

Life is good.



  1. Kim June 19, 2017 at 6:47 am

    The last image is absolutely incredible!

  2. Pepe Forte June 17, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    The detail, the eyes, the muted background…all of it perfect. Thanks Mia.

  3. Elephants Child June 17, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    You are spoilt. I appreciate your point, but if I was to see one of these owls (in any light) my happy dancing would last for months…

  4. suzanne Mcdougal June 17, 2017 at 9:45 am

    I noticed that same eye condition, but I always appreciate your explanations since my theories are usually wrong. I was sad I obviously just missed you guys, but wasn’t it beautiful light? Thanks for sharing.

  5. Bob mcphersons June 17, 2017 at 7:34 am

    Beautiful images MiA. Your
    R images express your dedication qulte well.

  6. Glen Fox June 17, 2017 at 7:11 am

    There is no question that early morning light is ideal for bird photography for all the reasons you list Mia. Of course it takes dedication to get out there early enough to take advantage of it. By mid-morning the light is much inferior. While evening light is great for landscapes, it is less so for bird photography. There is a little window in the late afternoon that closely matches the morning light and then it becomes overly warm. Just another factor that makes bird photography so challenging, and that makes your images so wonderful …you are clearly a morning person!

  7. Patty Chadwick June 17, 2017 at 6:40 am

    These are all wonderful images of one of my favorite birds. It always amuses me to see one of them perched on such a narrow perch suchbas that metal post…they look so much more comfortable on the broader top of the wooden one. My favorite images is the second one…like the position, lighting, post and that itvshows the short “ears” that give the bird its name…These birds really say “owl” to me……

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