This is just a quick update to my snowy owl post from 2014. I hadn’t intended on an update but there are still snowy owl sightings as recently as yesterday (March 7) across the northern U.S. and southern Canada. This is a rare opportunity. Head north for the purple colors on this map and check out the locations for recent sightings. Set the map date for “March-May Current Year” (to limit the map to recent sitings). The owls are farther north than they were in January and February.
Zoom in on the map until you see the red pins for a snowy owl sighting and click on the pin for details. This close up from NW Michigan is an example of the information you can get. You can zoom in even closer to get a more precise idea of the location.
These recently revised articles will help you nail the exposure.
Everything that follows is from my original 2014 post.
This is your year to photograph Snowy Owls since this is one of the best years ever for Snowy Owl sightings in the U.S., especially in the Northeast (map above). Snowy Owls are ranging much farther south than usual this winter.
This map at eBird.org will guide you to specific Snowy Owl sighting locations. Set the Date Range to “Year Around” and “Current Year” (or 2014). Pick a pick a purple area (the darker the better) nearest the location you plan to travel to to see Snow Owls and zoom in until you see the red location “pins”. Click on a pin for the specific location and sighting date.
This closeup from the online map shows Snowy Owl sightings south of the Kalamazoo-Portage Michigan area. One of the red location pins has been selected to show the location and date of the sighting. All of these sightings were from January 8-14, 2014.
Long lenses are the rule for photographing birds. 300-400mm or longer are preferred (35mm equivalent). If you don’t want to break the bank on a 300, 400, or 500mm prime (single focal length) lens, look at the 100-300mm, 100-400mm, 55-250mm and similar telephoto zoom lenses lenses that are available. Some of the superzoom point and shoot cameras have lenses that zoom out to 500mm and longer (35mm equivalent).
A white bird against a snowy white background is a recipe for underexposure if your camera is in auto exposure mode. With a white subject and a white background, some “plus exposure compensation” is in order, somewhere between +1 and +2. A white bird against a dark background is even trickier for auto exposure with the risk of a seriously overexposed bird. Best to switch to manual mode and meter an 18% gray card (info below), a neutral toned subject, or use an incident light meter.
A series of articles on exposure begins here. The articles include information on allowing for different subject tonalities, exposure compensation, using an 18% gray card, and using an incident light meter.
If you want to master exposure, read Digital Photography Exposure for Dummies. It is one of the highest rated photography books at Amazon.com. It covers basic, intermediate and advanced exposure techniques all in one book so you won’t need to buy another book on exposure as your skills advance. It also introduces you to wildlife, landscape, and flower photography; people, portraits, and event, photography; plus closeup and low light photography. Learn more here and order it at a discount at Amazon.com.