Photographer Brad Wilson captures some striking, up-close portraits of numerous owl species. In his work, the owls are set against a dramatic, stark black background, and the intimate proximity allows us to examine their unique qualities.
Abbreviated beaks, small feathers, and brilliant eyes gaze directly into the lens of Wilson with a raw intensity. Shooting these pictures was not a walk in the park, but Wilson was certainly up to the task. He photographed owls from The Wildlife Center near Española, New Mexico and the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis.
Wilson invested several hours with each bird, largely due to their indifference towards the camera. They would seem rather unmoved by the photoshoot, not even flinching when the flash would burst light. “It’s hard to get animals to look at you like humans do,” said Wilson. “That [straight-ahead] shot became my holy grail.” The results are certainly a series Wilson can be proud of. He recently recounted how it was first like when he worked with the owls.
“My first encounter with owls was far less mystical and ethereal. I was visiting a wildlife sanctuary near my home in New Mexico in the middle of a summer day and I got to see a large number of the birds. As a visual artist, I was struck by the compelling beauty of their feather patterns and their huge colorful eyes.”
The subject owls in the series look to have a very formal demeanor and exude a dignified air. This look was Wilson’s intention as he photographed the birds. Many of these creatures actually have wounded wings, requiring caretakers and special handlers, a condition that Wilson concealed in his images. The handlers who acted as the birds’ branches obscured themselves by dodging the cameras. The result is a collection of owls that look very powerful and stately.
See Wilson’s homage to the owl here along with his other splendid work.