It had been a long time. I hadn’t seen my old friend the Great Gray Owl in nearly six months…until today. I was up in the Sax-Zim Bog knocking around, the old Subaru pushing through four inches of unplowed snow, when a Great Gray flew up from a small meadow, a vole in its talons. I stopped as quickly as I could, and pulled over as far as I could, and got out as quietly as I could. Gone.

Then, as I was about to walk (i.e. shuffle dejectedly) back to the car, the owl was right there. How could I have missed him? He was perched twenty feet up in an aspen, listening intently, paying me no mind.

A passerby rolled up in an SUV, “Anything good?” he said. This is the standard birder greeting when coming upon another birder. “A Great Gray” I returned. He pulled right over. We watched the Great Gray for the next half hour. He hovered a few times but didn’t make any more plunges. At one point a flock of Chickadees found him and let the huge owl know that this was THEIR woods. The owl was unfazed.

Video was my main goal but I did have the presence of mind to snap a few frames before it got too dark. I didn’t think too much about the photos because it was the same old image—a Great Gray perched upright in an aspen—I have dozens of these. So back at home, I decided to play around with the color balance to accentuate the blue colors of dusk while keeping the owl its natural gray. I also reduced the contrast to emphasize the owl. It’s a little weird …but I think I like it.

Canon 7D, Canon 400mm f5.6, f5.6 at 1/180, ISO 2000, tripod

This is the original image before any work was done in Aperture or Photoshop: