I don't have a studio and I don't have lights. I don't even have a flash that attaches to my camera. In short, I shoot in natural light. And up here in the Pacific Northwest that can be a challenge during the short days of winter.
Since the plants in my garden are dormant in winter, but I still feel the urge to go out and shoot, I find myself gravitating to the winter visitors in our area. I used to live in Florida, where "snow bird" meant something entirely different. Up here, we really do have snow birds - thousands of snow geese and trumpeter swans that overwinter here until they're fat enough for the long flight home.
Their migration is supported by the local farmers, who plant fields of rye grass for them to feed on. We always know when the snow geese start arriving because the eagles that prey on them preceed them.
This year, you may have heard, we also have had an exceptional number of snowy owls. This is an irruption year, so instead of the two or three we normally have, there are dozens. By the last count I heard they had invaded some 31 of our 50 states. Unfortunately, given the popularity of a certain snowy owl named Hedwig, more visitors than ever have sought out these extraordinary birds this year, and I've heard many birds have died from the stress of being stalked by insensitive visitors.
I don't consider myself a bird photograher and I don't really have great lenses for shooting birds in flight (not long and not fast), but I couldn't resist the lure of the snowy owl. How convenient that there are more than two dozen right across the border - in Boundary Bay.
So my obsession with birds started with a little diversion I had with friends from my yoga class. We visited the home of one of our classmates and she took us on a walk in the woods - where she surprised us by handing out blanched almonds for us to hand-feed the birds on the trail. What a special treat that was! She paints birds, so she is great at identifying them and had nicknames for many of them.
While none of the images of birds I captured this winter will make my "hall of fame" for favorite images, there are a few that remind me what a special place I live.
I admire those patient and talented photographers who take the great photos of wildlife. In fact, it was a tip from Seattle photographer Art Wolfe's blog that directed me to where to find the owls. I think you'll agree, his work is spectacular. Maybe, someday, years from now, I will be able to work the same magic he does and my photography will take flight. For now, I'm content to admire the beauty in my own backyard.