Whidbey Camano Land TrustOwl Photo Lands Camano Resident Cover of Land Trust's 2018 Calendar Whidbey Camano Land TrustOwl Photo Lands Camano Resident Cover of Land Trust's 2018 Calendar

Owl Photo Lands Camano Resident Cover of Land Trust's 2018 Calendar

Short-eared Owl near Camano

The image of a Short-eared Owl taken by Matt Ferguson near Camano Island was selected as the cover photo of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust’s 2018 Calendar.

It can be tricky capturing short-eared owls with a camera.

“They kind of like to tease photographers,” Camano Island resident Matt Ferguson said. “They move around a lot.”

Ferguson’s patience was rewarded last February when he followed a group of owls long enough to get into position to capture some memorable images on a snowy day near the Davis Slough. One of the pictures he took appears on the cover of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust’s 2018 Calendar.

Ferguson, a retired police lieutenant, was one of more than 50 photographers who participated in this year’s photo contest. More than 200 photos were submitted for the contest, which is in its fourth year.

Twenty-five images were selected for the calendar, which are being sold at participating retail outlets on Whidbey and Camano islands and in Stanwood. The only requirement was for the image to be taken outdoors on one of the islands.

Noticing snow falling one morning in early February, Ferguson grabbed his camera gear and knee-high boots and headed out to look for wintertime wildlife shots. He knew that short-eared owls visit the Davis Slough area between Stanwood and Camano during the winter months.

“I especially went out looking to take pictures in the snow,” Ferguson said. “It doesn’t happen that often.”

He started around 8 a.m. and kept shooting until early evening, focusing most of his efforts on about four-to-six owls. Lugging around two cameras with long lenses and a tripod, he didn’t capture his favorite image until close to 2 p.m.

And that was only after showing great patience. He had to reposition himself frequently to photograph the active owls, which were constantly landing and taking off while on the hunt for voles.

Ferguson said he sometimes wonders if the owls are playing with him.

“I’ve been out in the field and then seen them over by my truck,” he said.

Ferguson abandoned the tripod to capture the cover image, using his Nikon D500 camera with a 300mm lens. He enjoys shooting wildlife and landscapes and has done plenty of both since retiring from his law enforcement career in Southern California and moving to Camano Island two and a half years ago. He and his wife also will often take their RV on the road to scenic locations where he can shoot.

For many years, they used to vacation in Washington state with stops for photography in mind.

“Now we live where we vacationed,” he said.