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Paul Bannick Photographs the Great Gray Owl

What does it take to get a great photo?

A few years ago, Paul Bannick went to photograph the Great Gray Owl irruption in Northern Minnesota. He writes: "I went out one morning before the sun had risen and found one owl that was in a particularly photogenic place. I watched that owl." Paul learned what the bird's habits were, and that give him the best chance to capture the image he wanted.

Full Transcript

Photographing the Great Gray Owl
An Interview with Paul Bannick
Written up by Chris Peterson

This is BirdNote!

[Hoots of the Great Gray Owl]
What does it take to photograph the essence of a bird? 
Here’s photographer and naturalist, Paul Bannick.

“A few years ago I wanted to photograph the Great Gray Owl, so I went to Northern Minnesota. I went out one morning before the sun had risen and watched Great Gray Owls hunting. And I found one owl that was in a particularly photogenic place and I watched that owl -- where it flew to, where it perched, how did it come looking for prey?

After watching that one morning, I was prepared to come out the next morning. So I went out before sunrise and it was probably about 5:00AM, it was probably about minus 30 degrees, and it was snow with a pretty thick crust. And I trudged through the snow, in the dark, until I got to the place that I thought would give me the best chance of photographing that bird. And then I waited, and I waited for probably three hours, knowing I couldn’t move. Then I spotted the bird! And the bird started moving through the meadow, and my heart was racing as I saw the bird actually using the perches I saw it using the day before. And finally that bird launched and it launched the way I hoped it would. It launched towards me; it pursued a vole under the snow. It stopped. It paused. It looked at me and I got the sequence of shots I wanted.”

This bird is one of several featured in Paul Bannick’s book, The Owl and the Woodpecker: Encounters with North America’s Iconic Birds. 
Learn more on our website,


Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call of Great Gray Owl recorded by D.S. Herr and L.J. Peyton.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2016 Tune In to  January 2014/2018  Narrator: Mary McCann

 ID# pbannick-04-2009-01-05 bannickp-04b 

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