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Ambassadors Programme

Explorer

Danny Green

May26

Phantom of the North

By Danny Green, Thursday May 26, 2016
Great Grey Owl hunting. Taken on a pre-production Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens; the exposure was 1/2500sec at f/5, ISO 1600.

Great Grey Owl hunting. Taken on a pre-production Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens; the exposure was 1/2500sec at f/5, ISO 1600. © Danny Green

This winter I spent six weeks travelling around Finland working in the extensive forests on subjects for my new book project on the Taiga. During the winter months, the boreal forests seem to be devoid of any life, but these forests play host to some of the most spectacular animals that survive in the Northern Hemisphere. The Great Grey Owl is one of the forests' most elusive residents and the Finns call it the ‘Phantom of the North’. This stunning bird is extremely difficult to find but during the late winter they tend to come out of the forests in search of food, especially when the vole population reaches its lowest density.

Watching a Great Grey, as it silently hunts the forest edges, is one of the greatest wonders of the natural world. These Owls usually hunt from a perch, watching for any movement. With their keen sense of hearing, they can hear their prey move about in tunnels two feet beneath the snow. The Great Greys crash through the layer of snow, snatch up their prey and return to their perch to eat. Their breeding cycle is governed by the availability of prey and during an explosion of the vole populations, they can be very successful in rearing their chicks.

The timing of my trip to Finland was perfect as Canon wanted me to test its new flagship camera the EOS-1D X Mark II. I knew this trip would be perfect for putting this camera through its paces. For me, the most important aspect of any new DSLR that Canon brings out is the autofocus capability. A lot of my work is action photography and so I need a camera that is going to be fast with autofocus.

I used the EOS-1D X Mark II with my trusty EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens and the results I achieved with this combination were remarkable. The opportunity to photograph a Great Grey Owl flying straight down the barrel is so limited and I was so impressed by how the focus locked onto the bird and stayed there. When you only get one chance, you need your equipment to do the job. Like the previous model, the EOS-1D X, the build quality is superb and very weather resistant. I had to work in some really challenging conditions and the camera held firm throughout.

Using that camera for those few weeks has cost me though, because as soon as I got back I had to order one. Ah well, just don't tell my wife!

Great Grey Owl in flight. Taken on a pre-production Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens; the exposure was 1/2000sec at f/5, ISO 1600.

Great Grey Owl in flight. Taken on a pre-production Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens; the exposure was 1/2000sec at f/5, ISO 1600. © Danny Green

Hawk Owl hunting. Taken on a pre-production Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF300mm F/2.8L IS II USM lens; the exposure was 1/2500sec at f/9, ISO 3200.

Hawk Owl hunting. Taken on a pre-production Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF300mm F/2.8L IS II USM lens; the exposure was 1/2500sec at f/9, ISO 3200. © Danny Green