Thursday, January 2, 2014

Day 2 - 30/30 Challenge - Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl
Pastel on mi teintes paper, $35

These beautiful birds usually inhabit the tundras of the Arctic, but in the winter they move south to find food (mice, voles, small birds) more easily. Some years only a handful of owls are spotted along the beaches and dunes of Long Island and some years there seems to be a plague of them. This is one of those plague years.
If you've never seen a snowy owl in person, it's not terribly hard to find them - just look for the photographers.
If there is even a whisper of a snowy owl at Jones Beach, there will be 25-40 photographers each with $10K worth of camera equipment combing the dunes. Once the celebrowl is found, they stake out at "decent" (questionable) distance and spend the rest of the day – 'til the sun sets – as slo-mo paparazzi. The silliest thing I've ever seen. The owl turns his head, stretches a wing, or moves a talon and the perfectly synchronized whir of shutters can be heard 50 yards away.
It begs the question: Exactly how many photographs does anyone need of a snowy owl? Every day. All winter. 100s of thousands of photos. Of the same owl, by 35 photographers, all standing in the same spot. Is there a big market for snowy owl pictures? Who knew?

I do go to see the owls, and pay my respects to the beautiful birds. I stay pretty far away, watching through my binoculars, take a couple of pix that I know won't be magazine quality, and hope that the photographers aren't stressing it out to much. Then I go and look for the harbor seals playing in the bay and ruddy turnstones running alone the boardwalk, loons and brants and the occasional peregrine falcon.

I often stay to see the spectacular winter sunset and (sometimes) the moon coming up. 

The golden grasses, white sand, cold greenish blue ocean and purply eastern sky make the winter beach anything but drab and boring.