Essays

How Those Great Osprey Photos Were Really Taken

osprey

Recently there have been numerous articles appearing in photography magazines which feature almost unbelievable photos of ospreys catching rainbow trout. I've seen them in Popular Photography, Outdoor Photography Canada, and now in the latest issue of Outdoor Photographer (June 2010). Miguel Lasa wrote the artical in Popular Photography, while Scott Linstead wrote the one for Outdoor Photographer, as well as another for Outdoor Photography Canada. You can find Miguel's photos here, and Scotty's here. While these are spectacular photographs, no mention is ever made by either photographer as to how they were made. Any of these shots are a once in a lifetime shots, but they have dozens of such shots. And Scott has one shot where the osprey catches 2 fish in one dive! This is obviously not possible in anything like a real world situation. So I began to wonder how these photos were really taken. The photographs were taken in Finland, so I searched for "osprey photographs finland." It turns out that the Pohtiolampi Osprey Center, maintained by the Finnish Osprey Foundation, is located in Kangasala, Finland. This osprey center is located at a fish farm, which stocks a very small, shallow pond with rainbow trout. Located around the pond are 6 hides, which can be rented for the day. This is probably the best place in the world to photograph osprey diving for fish. One nature photographer, Philip Newman, reports that he was able to photograph 100 dives in one day!! Compare this to the one dive I've been able to photograph in southern California in the last two years. Philip says the best lens to use there is the 300mm f/2.8, which just happens to be the same lens used by both Miguel and Scott for their photographs. Therefore, there is no doubt that this is the location used by both photographers. If you go to Philips website, you can see that this "pond" is more like a 30' wide ditch filled with rainbow trout by the fish farm. Now I can readily understand how Scott photographed an osprey catching one fish in each talon.

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This raises the issue as to whether or not Miguel and Scott should have disclosed more in their published articles about how the photographs were really taken. Of course, then they might not appear to be such fantastic photographers, to some at least. Their lack of candor in the articles is a little disconcerting to me. However, there is another side to this. They are professional photographers, and through hard work they have discovered certain tricks that they may not want to reveal to their competition. I've always thought that the most difficult aspect of photography involves knowing where to be at what time. For any nature subject that you want to photograph, there is one time and place better than all the others. Do your homework like Scott, Miguel, and Philip obviously did, and you will become a better photographer.