When you sit as still as a Great Gray Owl, sometimes it's a good idea to stretch.
I found this elusive owl; aptly nicknamed the "Phantom of the North"; in Grand Teton National Park and spent about an hour observing him as he scoped out the meadow.
Incredibly hard to find, these big birds can seemingly disappear at will. They don't make many noises; they tend to avoid areas with people and they prefer to spend their time in dense forests with meadows nearby for hunting at dusk, dawn and during the night.
Although I considered myself very lucky to find the owl, the light was fading fast at sunset and all I carried with me on my hike was the Nikon 500mm f/4 prime lens. An amazingly sharp and light sensitive lens but an amazingly big and heavy thing at the same time! With my tripod far away in my car, I made the best of a less than ideal situation: low shutter speed and wide open aperture to keep the ISO low and the image clean.
Ultimately I came away very impressed with the vibration reduction technology on this lens. It is a recent acquisition as I sold my (much heavier) Nikon 600mm f/4 lens and replaced with this 500mm f/4 lens. I'm happy to report that a situation like this with the owl reinforced me that I made right choice. Yes, the 600mm f/4 lens has more reach but there's no way I would have carried that heavy thing on me on a hike of this length and there's surely no way that I would have been able to handhold it at slow shutter speeds and still get sharp results!
Here's a few shots of my latest encounter:
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