On a beautiful July evening in 2013, Jenaya squeezed the shutter release on one of her most iconic images to date.
Photographed just a few kilometers from our home in Pincher Creek, Alberta, “Owls in the Wind” is a great example of Jenaya’s ability to craft a compelling scene as opposed to just snapping a picture of wildlife. After trying multiple camera/lens combinations, she settled on one that allowed her to position two massive wind turbines at the edges of the composition, making a powerful statement and adding to the theme of the prevalent winds in our corner of the world. The weathered old granary, leaning heavily from the years of being buffeted from the west, adds both interest and drama, and serves as the perfect perch for three Great Horned Owls.
Recently chosen as the overall winner of the prestigious 2015 Big Picture Natural World Photography Competition, Youth Division, “Owls in the Wind” is making waves internationally. First up, the image will go on exhibit this summer at the California Academy of Sciences alongside a second awarded owl image from Jenaya. Beyond this incredible honour, however, the image has also been selected as one of the final 5 finalists in her category in the nearly 30,000-entry Por el Planeta competition, the largest conservation photography competition in the world with submissions from 88 countries. It will be featured in their inaugural portfolio book to be published this fall. In the meantime, we are anxiously waiting for their official announcement of winners to learn where Jenaya has placed. Both competitions were juried by a veritable who’s who in wildlife and conservation photography, including Art Wolfe, Sophie Stafford, Kathy Moran (Sr. Editor of Natural History at National Geographic), Christina Mittermeier, and Canada’s own Paul Nicklen, to name only a few.
Josiah and I (John) had discovered these three owls in the area earlier in the summer, and we always made sure to include this spot on our regular outings photographing wildlife. One of the coolest aspects of the image for me personally is Melanie and I could see this granary from our bedroom window in the home we lived in at the time, although none of our spotting scopes were sufficient to confirm if owls were present.
I will definitely never forget the evening this image was created, as Jenaya, her sister Marlise and I spent nearly an hour photographing these handsome owls in the fading evening light.
We started out with just one owl perched in the open window at the top of the granary, then before long a second appeared, then they re-positioned, then the third emerged.
Jenaya had been photographing the scene with different camera and lens combinations until she settled in on my Nikon D600 with our Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G IF-ED VR lens. She must have shifted the tripod a dozen or more times in search of the perfect perspective for the shot, then began working on timing to catch the turbine blades at complementary positions every time all three owls were striking a suitable pose. When she showed me this image on the back of her camera after the owls had flown off to hunt the surrounding fields just minutes later, I knew immediately she had a winner. I still remember giving her a fist bump with the camera still on the tripod and saying, “Congratulations, Jaye! I think you just captured your next award-winner!”
Probably the thing that appeals the most to Jenaya and I is the fact this is simply a classic, iconic “Alberta” scene: the granary hints at our agricultural heritage in the Pincher Creek area, evidenced further by the crop field and cattle in the background, but also bears unmistakable evidence to the prevalent winds here. The windmills bring a tension between our past and our present, and the presence of three Great Horned Owls, our Provincial Bird no less, not only scream “Alberta” but also add even more drama in their chosen habitat in the midst of the modern wind turbines.
While all three of us returned with some outstanding images that evening, this one just had that unmistakable feel and balance that is present in the best images. It’s also very “Jenaya,” demonstrating her preferred style of creating “animalscapes” showing wildlife in their environment, whether deep in the Rocky Mountain wilderness or in the midst of rural southwestern Alberta as is shown here.
As the father of some pretty amazing kids, I can’t even begin to tell you how proud Melanie and I are! Certainly we are proud of Jenaya’s and her siblings’ accomplishments, but I am even more proud that this image mattered enough to Jenaya that she put the effort she did into creating it. I love her vision that is shown here, and the perfect execution in the field to return with such a powerful image. So, at the risk of using our blog to publicly praise my daughter, Congratulations AGAIN, Jenaya…truly a world-class image that is worthy of the recognition it’s receiving. And oh yeah…told you so. : D
If you are interested in purchasing a Limited Edition Fine Art Print of “Owls in the Wind,” click here (inquiry form at the bottom of the page). We have been running test prints on various museum-grade archival papers and canvases to find the perfect media for this powerful image, and will be releasing the edition by the end of July. This one is STUNNING as a large framed print, giving the feel of looking out the window and soaking in the same scene that inspired Jenaya, Marlise and I that July evening in 2013.
[UPDATE: Come and see “Owls in the Wind” in person in our Wildlife Art Gallery in the Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, where it has become a perpetual favourite!]