Backlit Barn Owls


Photographing backlit Barn Owls in early morning light is excellent to perfect your backlighting photography skills. It can be difficult to get the correct exposure and focus but with a little practice you can create stunning backlit photographs.

I always open the lens up to the highest aperture, F4-F5.6, this will help contain a decent shutter speed essential for sharp images. Using the AV or manual settings on the camera I stop down a couple of stops. This stops the whites burning out. Everyday is different so test this before an Owl turns up, then you are ready to capture the action.

A good carbon fibre tripod comes in handy here but to be honest I prefer to hand hold as it gives much more flexibility in tracking the bird. If you need support use one, even a monopod can help and I have used one successfully many times when photographing backlit barn owls.

Consider practicing with easy to access species like gulls. They to are mainly white and you will have the same challenges with exposure as you will with Barn Owls. Watch their flight patterns, a Barn Owl has a few variations. When hunting they fly slowly dipping and diving into the long grass, flying in to the wind. They can go into hover mood at anytime and adjust its angle very quickly (a great shot if you can get it). From the hover comes the dive. All excellent photography opportunities, when hovering watch out for the legs dropping down. This creates a much more dynamic shape and more interesting photography.

The great thing with the backlit shot is how the light shines through the wings and tail of the Owl. Creating a rim light around the bird. All in all this technique will certainly give you stunning images if photographed correctly. There’s only one way to get good at it, get out in the field and practice and practise. The camera settings will make much more sense when you are out in the field. Learn through your mistakes and don’t worry about making them. Remember you can throw them away.

Thanks for your time

Nigel Pye

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