Stunning Portraits of Owls Captured in Up-Close Detail

In this stunning series by Brad Wilson, the photographer captures up-close portraits of different owl species. Each bird is set against a stark black background, and the brilliant vantage point allows us to marvel at their unique qualities. Tiny feathers, short beaks, and glassy eyes stare straight into the camera with an intense gaze.

Capturing these pictures wasn't as effortless as it looks. Wilson photographed owls from the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis and The Wildlife Center near Espaola, New Mexico. He had to spend hours with each bird, because they remained aloof towards the camera, even when the flash went off. “It's hard to get animals to look at you like humans do,” he tells Audubon. “That [straight-ahead] shot became my holy grail.”

The owls appear stately and noble-looking, and this was Wilson's intention as he photographed them. Many of the creatures have wing injuries and are dependant on caretakers, a fact that Wilson concealed in his compositions. The humans who acted as the birds' perches hid themselves by contorting their bodies to stay out of the camera's frame. Alone, these owls look dignified and powerful.

Above: Great Horned Owl

Barn Owl

Western Screech-Owl

Eastern Screech-Owl

Spectacled Owl

Eurasian Eagle-Owl

Mexican Spotted Owl

Flammulated Owl

Long-Eared Owl

Brad Wilson website
via [Audubon]

Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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