Originally published in Points West magazine
How I Got That Shot: Great Grey Owl
By Rebekah Childers
One fall morning, I made a trip into Yellowstone National Park in search of wildlife. I had stopped to photograph a coyote when I learned that an owl was on the edge of a meadow, off the road. So, carrying several pounds of photographic equipment, I hiked through knee-high sagebrush, across ground covered with several inches of snow, to set eyes on my first great grey owl.
Great greys are a relatively rare species to see in the United States, with their range outside of Alaska limited to small sections of the Northwest. So this sighting was very exciting for me. These guys are huge—the largest species of owl in North America—and their wingspan can exceed five feet. Yet they glide through the air almost silently.
The owl I was watching would sit on a branch, occasionally gazing my way, but mostly watching the ground for her next meal scurrying through the grass. She perched low, the backdrop often a mess of grey branches, and each dive took only a few seconds. Opportunities to make good images were limited, so when the owl finally landed on the top of a short pine tree with only sky behind her, I knew I had my shot.
Sure enough, her eyes locked with mine and I pressed the shutter button.
I shot hundreds of frames of this owl as I spent the morning with her, only leaving when my frozen feet and fingers could take no more. The piercing gaze of a beautiful great grey owl is something that will stay with me forever.
About the author
Rebekah Childers is a wildlife photographer, traveler, and the Registrar at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.