It was snowing heavily as Jim Zipp, the veteran photographer and owner of the Fat Robin Wild Bird and Nature Shop, drove on a back-country road north of Lake Ontario in Canada. He was looking for Great Gray Owls, which were appearing farther south and in larger-than-usual numbers during the winter of 2004-2005.
But it was a Great Horned Owl, not a Great Gray, that caught his attention, flying across the road and into the nearby woods. "It was late afternoon, and the light was getting bad," he recalled, but he stopped for a better look anyway.
Unfortunately, the owl was gone.
But Jim had stopped in a fortunate place. On a nearby fence post was another Great Horned Owl, sitting passively as the snowflakes settled on its dark ear tufts. "I drove farther down the road, and I got my gear and a bean bag out," Jim told me. (Often when photographers shoot from inside a vehicle, they place bean bags between their large telephoto lenses and the cardoor frames.) "I backed up, and I shot it from the window," he recalled. "The owl was close."
He needed only a 300mm lens, a relatively short focal length for bird photographs, to frame the owl in his viewfinder.
Jim's portrait of the Great Horned fills the right side of the spread above, which you can find in our December 2007 issue, on newsstands now. A Great Gray Owl, captured, hauntingly, in mid-flight by Zipp at the Sax-Zim Bog, near Duluth, is on the left.
Both birds are stars in Jim's remarkable photo essay on winter owls, in which he shows us great owl photos and offers excellent advice on where and how you can find several species this winter. Chuck, Carole, and I all thought the essay was a real treat to prepare. We hope you like it. -- E.M.