Snowy Owls breed on the high arctic tundra, very far north in Alaska, Canada and Siberia. During winter however, they migrate south to Canada in high numbers and are easily found near Montreal, Quebec and Ottawa. The owls occupy an open landscape with small towns and miles of open farmland. This provides excellent hunting grounds, with plenty of voles and rodents to catch. A habitat that is a fantastic photo-setting at the same time: flat open snowy fields, with small authentic barns, old fence posts, and Snowy owls blending in the icy white landscape, against a low sun creating a stunning light show! A freezing cold wind is blowing, but the snowy owls don’t seem to mind. We however are protected by warm clothing fighting the cold, and wait for the big moment. It’s time for the owls to start hunting, and all lenses are pointed towards it. Time for action and some great photography!
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The Canadian snowy owls recently got very popular among birdwatchers and photographers. In a short time it got quite busy on the public spots and crowds of photographers gathered. Yves is working together with a snowy owl expert that has exclusive access to some of the best areas. It will only be our group and the snowy owls on stage. Nobody to come and disturb us. We stay close to these places and have a great accommodation nearby. This means we don’t have to travel far each day and loose a lot of time. We will get up very early each day to be ready before sunrise and photograph through the morning. Our lunch breaks are scheduled in a warm place and in the late afternoon we go out again, shooting until all twilight colors have faded out in the evening sky. We are with a very small group, thus very flexible. We search for the best conditions, every moment.
Photographing snowy owls is done with style: dressed warm in our down parka’s, warm hat and gloves as well as big snow boots. We spend hours close to the snowy owls. They will give as show never to forget. The landscape and winter conditions are amazing. In a week time we can expect all kinds of weather; sun, misty, white out snow blizzards,… It is all the same for the Snowy Owls, and all these conditions are great for photography. White on white subjects are very appealing, and we will use all our photography skills to use the cool tones in the pictures. We go out every day, in whatever weather conditions and not miss a single moment. It are these extremes we are looking for, which makes the most impressive pictures.
Target species number one is of course the snowy owl. After a long journey ‘south’ they come to winter and hunt on voles and rodents in the wide open fields of southern Canada. Every owl has it’s own mind, and can be photographed in different ways. The easiest ones can be approached within just a few meters, making even those long lenses too big! We search for various winter landscapes, so we can photograph the owls in as many different situations as possible. Most common are the speckled younger and female birds, but if we are lucky, we might even find an adult male in pure white plumage. Some years also other species of owls are to be found and photographed, including great grey owls, northern hawk owl and boreal owl.
For a bird photographer nothing is more exciting than to have a Snowy Owl in the viewfinder, when it jumps up from the snow and goes for it’s hunt straight to your camera in full speed. During our week every photographer will get plenty of instructions how to adjust your camera’s and lenses AF settings to get the highest success rate in sharp frames. Exposure of white subjects on white sunny backgrounds is very challenging for your camera, so we will have a very close look at this as well. Before we get out in the cold, we will prepare you how to dress appropriately and how to protect your precious gear, and how to handle long lenses and when to use or not use your tripod. We will get into every aspect of how to get those stunning shots! This might probably the biggest bird action photography your camera will ever get to see! All explained carefully by our top guide Yves Adams.
Do you wish to extend this trip? Join our extension to Algonquin. We try to spend some days in the park to photograph songbirds and martens. The animals we are looking for, are used to feeders. This means we can guarantee your photography pleasure! Especially blue jays, grey jays, chickadees and woodpeckers wander around. Together with squirrels and martens, a fantastic experience.
Yves will learn how to choose a good location, to set up the fore- and background, go for the best light and the importance to work at the same location for different days. You will learn the different settings to photograph in the snow and how to protect yourself and your gear against the cold. The perfect preparation for the snowy owl trip.
I see a beautiful bird in front of me: a snowy owl perfectly camouflaged against a white, icy background backlit by a very low sun. A cold howling wind rushes past. However, we are well packed and are waiting full of excitement. The owl is getting ready to hunt and all the lenses are ready. Action!
Arrival in Montréal for the pre-extension.
4 days in the park photographing squirrels, martens and songbirds in the snow (pictures in the gallery).
Arrival in Montreal airport. From there we drive to our base camp: a cozy B&B.
The flights are not included in the price, but we can help to find a suitable flight schedule.
We organize photo sessions in the morning and afternoon. We have lunch at a local lunch bar and dinner at a restaurant.
The small group allows us to plan further trips to remote locations if there are interesting photo opportunities.
We fly back home through Montreal (flight not included in the price).
We stay in a cozy B&B, from where we are close to our locations each day. We opt for single rooms, but exceptions are possible for interested couples. It is not excluded that we travel a greater distance to possibly find other or better conditions. We are with a small group, so we can quickly adapt to any changing circumstances.
We fly to Montreal and drive a bus to our base camp for about an hour and a half upon arrival.
The international flights are not included in the price, but we are happy to make a proposal for an appropriate flight schedule. Tip: you can combine this trip with the photography trip to Yellowstone, also with Yves. Ask for more information when registering.
Very warm clothes are essential for this trip, because we will be out for many hours in sub zero temperatures. Yves will explain you how to dress warm, and what kind of clothes to bring for this trip. We can expect very different temperatures, ranging from -5°C to -25°C, windchill factor not included!
We’ll never walk large distances, but deep snow, cold and long days will be the challenging factors. Everybody is welcome to join us on this adventure, and with appropiate clothing you will be able to fight the cold.
We will photograph fast moving birds, so bring very fast camera’s, with lenses from 200mm to 600mm. Distances to the owls will vary a lot, from just a few meters to birds in the landscape. Lenscovers will protect your gear against cold and snow.
On a normal day we will get to shoot loads of pictures, so you will need a lot of battery power! Bring big and fast memory cards too. We advice to bring a laptop and fast card readers and big memory disks. You will be amazed by the number of pictures we can take each session. Don’t expect to have enough time to download during the lunchbreak.