Musings of an Aviation Photographer

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Occasionally, you’ll shoot that one photo that really stands out above the rest.  Sometimes it can be totally unexpected, and you don’t even realize it until you see the photo on your computer.  Other times, you can see the photo falling into place allowing you to click the shutter button at the exact moment that you know you’ve caught your own personal masterpiece.  Ever so often I’m going to showcase some of what I personally think are interesting and pretty cool photos I’ve taken, with a bit of info behind the photo and how it all came into place.

Burrowing Owl at Chino AirportI’ve found at times, the most interesting and special shots happen by chance.  They can happen in an instant, and only in that instant are you able to capture the fleeting moment. It could be a spectacular photos that’s jaw dropping and amazing, or it could just be something that makes people chuckle.  You never know when these moments will happen, they just do.  Such is the case here, with this small little Owl.

This special moment happened when I was leaving the Planes of Fame Museum at the Chino Airport in California after one of their Monthly Events in 2008.  The Museum’s parking lot was full by the time I’d gotten there, so I had to park across the street at the hangar parking.  There’s a lot of little planters and bushes in this area around the parking spaces, and many of them have signs that state that those planters are habitats for Burrowing Owls.  I’d never seen a Burrowing Owl anywhere at Chino in the 8 years I’d been going to the airport for various aviation events that the Planes of Fame has put on.  Normally, I paid no attention to these signs as I don’t come into contact with those planters.  But in this case, something in the corner of my eye didn’t seem right with one of the signs nearest to my car, like some object was on top of it. I probably would have never seen the little guy had I been on my phone talking or checking email.  I would have driven away and never known the perfect photo op that was literally staring at me.  Instead, I was just kind of zoning out as I walked to my car, and felt not only that something was out of the ordinary, but that something was watching me.  I turned to my left and there it was, a Burrowing Owl sitting on top of one of the signs.  I immediately stopped in my tracks, like a deer in oncoming traffic.  I’m sure if the Owl could have laughed, it would have at that moment.

Burrowing Owl at Chino AirportNaturally, I knew that any sudden movements might scare the Owl off, and thankfully I had my camera around my neck.  All I had to do was carefully switch to my telephoto lens so I didn’t have to get closer.  Gently and very slowly, I pulled out my telephoto lens and switched to it carefully putting away my smaller wide-angle lens. The Owl sat there watching this whole thing happening, probably wondering what the heck I was doing.  Slowly raising my camera, I started to take some photos, slowly creeping up closer to the Owl.  He never blinked, never took his eyes off me.  I have to wonder if he wasn’t sure what I was pointing at him.  The irony that he was on top of one of the Burrowing Owl signs didn’t escape me, and I made sure to get that shot first.  Then I moved in closer for the more portrait shots. Up until now, the Owl had his back towards me and his head twisted backwards in a way only Owls seem to be able to do in nature.  As I got closer, he must have started to get alarmed as he swing around to face me.  I stopped in my tracks, but continued to shoot.  I laughed to myself thinking that if he could speak he’d probably say ‘Hey, can’t you read the sign?’ But how could you resist wanting to get photos of those large yellow eyes?

Burrowing Owl at Chino Airport I shot a few more photos, then took some time to admire the Owl, especially the large eyes it had staring right at me.  He never blinked, never took his gaze off me.  We just stared at each other, and I imagine he’d win at any sort of staring contest imaginable.  I still wonder if they ever actually blink.  After taking a few more shots, there was a sound in one of the hangars behind the Owl that must have startled it, as it then jumped off the sign and flew away much like something out of a Batman movie.  Looking back on the shots, I’m amazed he didn’t fly away sooner, especially with how close I was able to get to him with a giant camera pointed at him making clicking noises.  I suppose he was just as curious about my as I was about him.

So thank you little Owl, wherever you are now! You made for one heck of a cool photo op!

For more in this series, click here!

One Response to “Photo Showcase : Read the sign!”

Photo Showcase : ‘Hello there Human’ | Musings of an Aviation Photographer on: 26 October 2010 at 12:34 PM

[…] * Photo Showcase : Read the sign! […]