Not one but four strokes of luck helped Mateusz fulfil his dream of photographing a long-eared owl. He was out looking for owls in Lofer, Austria, one frosty winter evening when he saw a shape tucked into the branches of a spruce. As he approached, he realised that it was a long-eared owl. But it was too far within the tree to photograph. Then came his first stroke of luck: 'I then saw that there was a second owl nearby. It was roosting on an exposed branch, and I could see it clearly.' Mateusz was lucky in a second way, too, because the owl was dozing, and he was able to get very close. But it was so high up that the angle was wrong. Time for lucky stroke number three: 'I looked around and there, in exactly the right place, was a bench.' By balancing on the high back, he was able to frame the image he wanted. But there wasn't enough light. Then came stroke of luck number four: after 30 minutes, the clouds parted to release the last of the sun's rays. 'I got the photo you could only dream of,' the owl framed by the frost-encrusted tree, its soft plumage lit by the last of the evening light.
Canon 40D + 400mm f5.6 lens; 1/125 sec at 5.6 (-1 e/v); ISO 640.
Mateusz Piesiak, Poland
Mateusz took his first pictures, of lapwings, when he was six years old. Since then, bird photography has been his passion. He credits Polish ornithologist Tadeusz Drazny for inspiring him and teaching him how to identify birds and their songs. ‘Wildlife photography is difficult,’ he says, ‘but it gives me a lot of satisfaction.’