When you look at this photo, what’s your first thought?
For me this picture shows the unleashed and raw power of the snowy owl. The extremely focused eyes and the last adjustments the snowy owl is doing shows how efficient and skillful the owl is. The prey has very bad odds of escaping the owl, a real deadly hunter as my title says.
What’s the background story?
I work as a biologist and always have had a fascination for our great owls. Naturephotography is also a part time buisness for me. Because of that I have been waiting for a chance to photograph the great grey owl. When the birding guide company Finnature reported of photographable great grey owls near Rovaniemi in Finnish Lappland in the winter of 2012 I decided that it was time to try it out. Luckily there also was a young snowy owl in the same area and I got the opportunity to spend some time with this owl too, and one of the results you can see in this picture.
Was it a special trip to get the shot?
The area around Rovaniemi usually has several photographable great grey owls during late winter, something that Norway seldom has. The snowy owl is even more rare in Norway so in order to get the shots I had to travel to Finland.
What was your planning process? Weather, timing, gear, etc.
The weather was not crucial for the photographing. I thought that I could get decent pictures either way. The most important was that the owls were at the place. For equipment it was a matter of taking the longest lens possible. For me that was a Canon 300mm f2,8 IS with a 1,4 teleconverter on a Canon 7D. That combination gave me an effective 670mm. So most of the time the 300mm or the 300mm with the teleconverter was used.
How long did it take before you got this one photo? How many pictures do you think you took to get it?
The situation was quite ideal to photograph the snowy owl. There were lots of wild field voles that the owl hunted on, and it was a matter of finding the right spot and waiting. It was a lot of waiting time and not so many pictures. I was lucky to photograph some hunting sequences and at least three of them were very close and good. I stayed in Rovaniemi for three and a half days and the major part of this time was spent on the great grey owl.
Can you walk me through what you did in post for this photo?
I don’t have the exact procedure for this photo, but the picture was first adjusted in Lightroom where I increased the exposure and made some adjustments to white balance, clarity and blacks. Then I did the BW conversion in Nik Collection Silver Efex Pro. Then I merged the BW version and the colour version in Photoshop and masked away the colour version except the eyes.
What software do you prefer using for post?
For 99% of my editing I use Lightroom. Very rare I have to use Photoshop. When I want to make a BW photo I do my initial edits in Lightroom and then finish it with Nik Collection Silver Efex Pro. I also do some photostacking with Zerene Stacker and panoramas with PTGui.
Is there a certain technique you always like to use in post?
I normally prefer to keep my edits as simple as possible to make it most realistic. Usually this means a little adjustments to exposure, clarity, blacks and whites. I don’t like the trend with oversaturated landscape pictures the internet are flooded with nowadays.
How long have you been serious about photography?
It’s hard to conclude on a specific time when I got serious about photography. Photography has been a major hobby for at least a couple of decades, but you could say it’s [been more serious] the last ten years since I started the webpage www.naturarkivet.no together with two friends. From this webpage we sell photos mainly for the nature management institutions in Norway.
Do you always carry a camera with you?
I try to take my camera with me as often as I can in the nature. Many of the best situations happens when you at least expect it.
Are there any photographers you admire?
Vincent Munier is one of the photographers I admire. He has his own way of seeing situations.
What do you usually carry in your camera bag?
The camera bag is often way too heavy. Mainly I use a 24-70 and a 100mm macro, but often I also have a long telephoto lens. This is either a 500mm or a 300mm depending on how far I am going. When the telephoto lens is left home I often have my 70-200mm with me and sometimes the 16-35. All Canon lenses.
What’s your next camera/equipment purchase going to be?
There are many lenses that I would like to buy, but two lenses I want to get is a lighter telephoto lens for longer trips (the next update for the 100-400mm) and a tilt shift lens (17 or 24 mm).
Why are you a photographer, what motivates you?
My photography is much about just being out in the nature just feeling and exploring the moods of the wildlife and the landscape. The power to document this with photos and to present this to others is for me a strong motivation. A big part of this is also a strong passion to document vulnerable and threatened nature so that others can see and learn and take better care of it.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give regarding photography?
The most important must be to focus on the most important element in the picture and minimize all other information that doesn’t add quality. That works very well in most cases. The less the better.
Tell me about yourself
I am a Norwegian nature photographer. I enjoy taking pictures of both landscapes, wildlife and people in nature, but I am specially interested in documenting natures rare, vulnerable and endangered species, and types of nature. My photography is part time and I mainly sell my photos to Norwegian nature management institutions through a website I have together with two friends. www.naturarkivet.no We also have a blog called www.naturarkivet.blogspot.com. Some of my photos can be viewed at www.500px.com/kimabel.