Protecting Mom

Critique Style Requested: Standard

The photographer is looking for generalized feedback about the aesthetic and technical qualities of their image.


For several years Mom has returned to the same location to raise two owlets (except last year-COVID?), and this year is no exception. While the nest seems ideal, it is not in an ideal location being next to a very busy road. I worry that when the youngsters tumble out (which it appears is imminent) they may run afoul of traffic.

Specific Feedback

It is difficult to get a good image because of the bright and dark areas, and the owls are in shade. I also do not remain very long because I don’t want to upset them. I use high ISO on the 7D II and it results in noise.

Technical Details

7D II; 100/400 @360; handheld; 8.0; ISO1250; 1/200th; spot; +1/3rd.


Wow! I think it is a fantastic image! I didn’t even see the third bird at the back for a moment which is part of the intrigue. I think the light and dark and shade are well managed here…they are living in a cave after all. Did you really shoot this at 1/200?? (If so great technique.) I am not bothered by any noise…I wonder if a bit more DOF would have been possible to trade off with noise?

You have told an amazing story here…Well done!

Excellent lens technique as Robena says. That and the constantly improving stabilization tech, we can get away with so much more these days. Except for the glaring white poop, I think the luminosity range looks pretty tamed. The deep shadow in the cavity isn’t super noisy and we can see the other chick well. Of course the two at the front are the stars and oh, those eyes! Mom is doing a great job. I assume dad helps, too, as most raptors raise chicks together. I’ve never photographed these guys before so this is quite a treat. I only seem to spook them out of trees while kayaking.

Hi Jim. I thought I recognized that nest location from a previous post of yours. Just a thought, but with that level of contrast it might be good to use burst mode and bracket your exposure. Also, before I finally went to Sony, someone on this site encouraged me to try higher isos. I found I could shoot as high as 2500 with the 7DII and still get good images with the modern noise reduction algorithms (and that was three years ago).

All that aside, this is a Great Image :grin: of these Great Horned owls on the nest. I love your title and how it works with the one chick in front of mom.

@Robena.Sirett I could have a bit more DOF, but would require higher ISO. I might return in the next few days a give it a go.@_Kris the poop does present a challenge which I do not seem to be able to meet as well as I would like. Probably should get better processing since I only use Elements 21. @Dennis_Plank Yes, it is the same nest location. Looks like a house carved into the side of a cliff. My only noise reduction tool is the basic one in Elements 21. Any suggestions for a better one? I should try my 5DmkIV. I usually don’t use it for wildlife but this is more like static wildlife (at least for a few seconds). Thanks all for the nice comments.

Hey Jim - do you own a perpetual license version of Elements or are you on an Adobe subscription? If you are open to the latter, the Photography package with Lightroom and Photoshop should do everything you need - even just Lightroom alone with the new Denoise AI functionality will probably do better than what you have. The new masking and distraction removal tools in Lr are far better than they have ever been although Photoshop does better in some respects. That’s the route I’d go in if I were you. The Elements interface is probably similar to the other Adobe products so it won’t be too much of a change.

Kris, We have a local photography group and the package Lightroom and photoshop is the first choice of several. One photographer is also willing to instruct on use. There are also many great videos on use. I have just been lazy in not getting it or is it that getting older has me set in my ways? No, I’m sure that is not it. :wink:

Lots of good second party noise reduction packages available, Jim. Topaz and DxO have stand alone versions or if you don’t want to get into AI, Neat Image has a stand alone version. There are probably others I’m not aware of. Neat Image always worked very well with my 7DII.

Thank you.

Hi Jim, great capture and I think you did really well with these conditions. I don’t see much noise at all and I think the DOF is fine as the two front birds look nice and sharp to my eyes. For what it’s worth, I prefer DXO Pure Raw 3 for processing high ISO images.
Well done!

Allen, Thank you. 3 days later the nest was empty. Jim