Old Ben, The Barred Owl.

It’s been a month since I took the photo.  It was after the first major snow of the winter, right on the cusp of the new year.  I took a camera out on an adventure to capture some of the beauty in the trees before it would melt away.  There is truly something magical about that first snow – and this one was particularly brilliant.  The snow was sticking to everything, creating so much delicious contrast it almost made me want to cry.

And it was so silent.  Snow muffles the world, and even in the middle of the country, I was struck by the lovely silence of this first snow.  I parked my car nearby, kept it running because I needed a place to warm up my fingers every so often.  Then I started to trek down some of the new trails that had been put in this summer at the camp where I work.

The trails are still somewhat hidden and unfamiliar to visitors, and there was no one at camp that day, so I knew I would be alone.  I plunged my way through the snow to try to capture this particular shot:

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I loved the way the light was pouring in behind these trees.  Did my best to capture the “Narnia-like” feeling of these woods and the snow-drifted path.

I was turning to go down a different trail when a flap-flap in the absolute stillness startled me to look up.  I caught a glimpse of white wings fluttering into the trees above and a huge smile broke out on my face, because I knew who was hiding from me up in those trees.

We nick-named him “Old Ben,” and I had encountered him once before with camera in hand, in the beginning of spring.  I was very excited for the chance to maybe see him in a different time of year.

I shuffled stealthily through the snow, aiming my camera high and watching the trees – I was almost certain that I had lost him, or that he was too high up for me to spot in the branches of all of those trees.  And he was even more camouflaged than usual, with his white and brown coloring.  There was no way I would spot him unless he moved again, but I knew that he would be watching me.

Then I saw him!  I can’t even tell you how.  I just found him, perched on a branch, looking directly at me.  He was incredibly back-lit by the bright sky, so getting a good photo was almost impossible.  I didn’t have time to adjust many settings – I was too afraid that he would take off before I even got to take my picture.  So I framed him up, and snapped a few.  He was looking away each time, and I just wanted him to look at me again.  So I made a clicking noise with my tongue and he turned quickly to stare at me.  I had maybe 3 seconds to get a picture before he flapped away and disappeared.

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