our beautiful world: photographer brad wilson captures the noble owl..

I came across these brilliant photographs by Brad Wilson on audubon.org.

It’s not easy to get owls to mug for the camera. Even in captivity the birds remain aloof, unruffled by the flash and unmoved by attempts to bribe them. Photographer Brad Wilson learned that lesson firsthand after trying to win over owls from the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis and The Wildlife Center near Española, New Mexico. He spent hours with each bird, trying to capture its direct gaze. “It’s hard to get animals to look at you like humans do,” he says. “That shot became my holy grail.”

Wilson is an expert at point-blank portraits. His series “Affinity” features 65 species, including a white rhino, a white tiger, an Arctic fox, and an Egyptian Vulture. But owls were the most compelling and challenging subjects, he says. It takes years of building mutual trust before an owl will accept physical contact from a single person, says Wilson, and “owls don’t extend that privilege to other humans.”

Wilson wanted his images to accentuate the nobility and independence of each captive bird, minimizing its dependence on its caretaker. Many had wing injuries, for example, which he concealed in his pictures. The owls’ human perches likewise hid themselves, contorting their bodies to stay out of the frame. It was a gesture to the birds, a way of saying that although their wild days are behind them, they still have their dignity.

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