Yellowstone Great Grey

This image is from a prior trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons a few years back. Still going through older images as I’m finding it difficult to get out with COVID. This was one of my favorite shots from the trip as the owl blends in so nicely with the tree bark. He was flying from tree to tree looking for food in broad daylight. He has a little bit of blood on his beak so I know he ate recently but I’m not sure why he was hunting midday. I don’t know a lot about these owls and this was actually my first experience seeing and photographing a great grey.
I’m always looking for feedback and you guys never fail to help me improve a posted image. Thanks in advance for your help.

What technical feedback would you like if any? Any Please

What artistic feedback would you like if any? Any

Pertinent technical details or techniques: D4s, ISO 400, 600mm, 1/3200 @f/5.6

(If backgrounds have been removed, etc. please be honest with your techniques to help others learn) Nothing removed but dodged and burned a couple of small areas to blend the background in a little bit better.

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One of the best Great Gray image that I have seen, David. I really like how the owl is off set from the trunk. Most of the ones I have seen have the owl merged with it and I think those are subpar compared to this. Moreover, the aspen (?) here is also full of character. My only suggestion is to reduce the highlight on the OOF trunk in the BG.

I think your exposure and textures are fantastic here. It’s nice to see this owl against such a “charismatic” tree trunk, as the tones and textures in the aspen really complement the plumage well.

My main suggestion is related to Adhika’s, but it has more to do with shooting rather than processing. The background trunk is a distraction, so I’d watch for that next time to see if a couple steps right or left could either get it out of the frame, balance it better against the foreground tree, or even obscure it behind the foreground trunk. And I realize this may not have been possible depending on whether you were surrounded by others, or if there were other distractions in the background you were working around…

As for behavior, these owls are often quite active during the day. It’s quite common with subadults, but is seen with full-grown adults as well (the rounded tail feathers indicate a mature owl here).


Great grays are fun to find and this one is very nice. The OOF aspen is a nit, but the other reviewers have pointed out some ideal solutions that will take care of the issue in future shoots. The pose is nice and those yellow eyes make the scene. I found one in Yellowstone that was catching grasshoppers in broad daylight. They feed around the clock and will take an occasional cat nap for rest. Well done…Jim

Really nice capture, David. The oof tree is not a distraction for me, as my eyes went directly to the owl and the tree he is on. Terrific details. I love owls!


Thank you @Adhika_Lie, @terryb, @Max_Waugh, @Jim_Zablotny, for your comments and recommendations. I will rework this to tone down the OOF background aspen tree no it’s not such an eye-catcher. I have a couple of other shots where I moved both right and left and there is another aspen just out of the frame to the right as well as another tree to the left that is cropped out. I wish I had a better choice but there were aspen all around as is typical of aspen groves and I found it hard to eliminate most or all of them. I toned down the background saturation a bit so as to make the bird and the tree stand out a bit more.
Thanks too for the behavior information. I live in southern California and we don’t have great greys anywhere near us. So this was my first look at one of these awesome birds. Very majestic. Now I know I can expect to see these guys flying around in the day time looking for meals. I thought I just got lucky. :slight_smile:
Terry, I hope you become a full fledged member. Looking forward to seeing your images and comments.

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Hi David
Great job in showing nature at work. If it wasn’t for those yellow eyes, I could have walked right by the tree and not seen the Great Gray. The color, framing and detail are very good. As for the tree in the back ground, I had to take a second look to see it.

Thanks for the comment @peter. I actually didn’t see the owl. There was a road jam of cars and we pulled over to see what all the fuss was about and a guy told me there was an owl flying around looking for food. He pointed over to a tree where the owl was perched and I fired off a few images before he flew right at me. I was not lucky enough to get a sharp image of the owl coming right at me. :frowning: This is a huge crop so details are not outstanding but good enough for me. This was my first Great Grey so I was completely over the moon. Thanks again Peter!

Amazing bird and I really love the way it stands out from the tree. Enough said about the 2nd tree in the BG, but still would be more than happy if it were to be mine ! Cheers, Hans

I’m late to the party here, David, so all I can do is echo others. Yes t, the oof tree is an issue, but it’s still a wonderful image of a species I’ve yet to encounter.