Owl-edited

Owls hold a special fascination for me because of their interesting flight and calls. I developed a desire to photograph them in flight; pictures in international magazines, of owls in flight, inspired me to attempt this.
 
Owl photography took plenty of meticulous planning. Conventional methods of photography were not practical; owls being nocturnal made it even more challenging. Eric Hosking, a great bird photographer, once said “successful bird photography is a co-operative effort”; I got some information from a fellow-photographer that the technique he used was an infrared light beam triggering.
 
Based on my experience in radio electronics, I assembled my own light beam triggering unit with materials available in our country.  I adopted this technique with many failures and some success, but, definitely, without this technique, I would not have been able to photograph owls because of their difficult nesting places. I used a Hasselblad for this experiment and managed to achieve good results on a Great Horned Owl. With this success, I also went on to shoot the Mottled Wood Owl. Being able to photograph these birds helped me study their behaviour.
 
The next subject was this image – the Barn Owl. This time too, I used the same technique but with a different camera – a Nikon 801.  Having found a location near Machenahalli (Magadi Road) where I could photograph Barn Owls, I observed their movement before I planned the technique and placed all the equipment carefully to achieve the desired result.
 
It was not a digital era, so I had to wait until the film roll was fully exposed and the lab could process the film and return it to me. The initial lengths of the film turned out to be blank! This was in spite of me watching the owls cutting the light beam and triggering the camera. I was not sure as to what the problem was. Eventually, I understood the problem – the way a Hasselblad and a modern Nikon function are different.  The shutter of a Hasselblad is of a mechanical type whereas Nikon has an electronic and mechanical type. This created a lag in the shutter firing, creating blank frames.
 
An understanding of the problem helped me find a solution. Having incorporated suitable changes, I set up my camera and rigged all the three flash units with a hope of succeeding. All in all, it took me 32 nights to achieve good results, and this photograph – a Barn Owl carrying a shrew to feed its chicks.