Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon

High ISO shooting can be fun!

High ISO shooting can be fun!

This is the Great Horned Owl I believe is one of the new owls from last year.  Here’s the story, if you’re interested!

I arrived at the Ridgefield refuge at 5:30 this morning and there was a dark overcast on top of the fact that the sun hadn’t risen up over the ridge yet….i.e., it was very dark (photography-wise). This was in stark contrast to the previous 3 – 4 weeks of almost cloudless mornings when temperatures topped out at 95 – 100 each day.  To me, dark cloudy day meant 5D Mark III-time, for its excellent low noise performance.  With camera set up, I headed out onto the auto tour.  Taking a few test shots I realized that at my base shutter speed for birds of 1/1250th, I was going to need at least a 10,000 ISO setting at f4–and this was out in the open with no trees.  Not the most opportune conditions!

I entered the Ash tree forest at about 6 a.m. and after turning the corner past marker #9, I saw an owl’s silhouette on a branch against a relatively bright sky.  I was to the owl’s left side and it was probably 40 feet away, only 10 feet high.  It’s much darker in the forest, so I dialed in 1/100 shutter speed (for the static bird) and 12,800 ISO.  The owl was so dark I could not tell with the naked eye if it was looking straight ahead or turned at me.  Through the viewfinder I could tell because the faint yellow in the eyes was then visible.  I took a bunch of shots and hoped for the best.  At one point, I also observed a silhouette of the owl raising its right talon, against the light sky, with prey in it .  While I was shooting, I could hear many small birds around the owl making a horrendous racket as if they were very angry with the bird.  After a few minutes, the owl flew somewhere in back of where I was positioned.  About a half-dozen small birds–probably starlings–went after the owl and the forest turned quiet.  Maybe the owl had a starling in its talon–maybe not but it was a medium-sized catch.  I was fortunate to find a spot to shoot between the trees.


Canon 5D Mark III, 1/100, f4, ISO 12,800, 500mm, 6:10 a.m.


This entry was posted on Saturday, July 11th, 2015 at 4:24 pm and is filed under Raptors and Birds of Prey (plus Vultures and Shrikes). You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “High ISO shooting can be fun!”

  1. Fred C. Kerr says:

    I really like your comments about the circumstances and technique involved in the pictures you post. Wonderful picture! Doesn’t even look like it has any grain at all.

    • Dennis says:

      Thanks for the nice comment, Fred! Glad you like the information I add to the posts. That kind of stuff interests me so I hope other photographers might get a kick out of it, too.

Leave a Reply