Fledgling Northern Saw-whet Owl, Big Bear, CA Photo by Mary Freeman

Fledgling Northern Saw-whet Owl, during the annual summer trip to Big Bear, California July 2015 | Photo By Mary Freeman


Mary has been photographing since high school, but her interest in photographing birds began in the late 70s when she began using a 35mm Minolta film camera with a Sigma 300 lens.  Mary’s late brother gave her a digital camera, which she used mainly for landscape photography at the time. But as digital photography became more prevalent, Mary was introduced to digiscoping by her friend Tom Stephenson. With her Kowa spotting scope, this allowed Mary to shoot small subjects - from far away if necessary - for next to nothing! Mary’s interest in photography hit a new plateau when she and Nick purchased their first Canon point & shoot camera. A couple of years later, they purchased an even better camera for their first bird trip to Peru in 2004, reading about its considerable capabilities on the plane ride down! Not only did Mary continue her love of landscape photography, digiscope photography was her constant companion when birding, with Nick – her other constant companion – carrying the scope! 

Just three years ago, Tom introduced Mary to serious digital SLR photography, selling her his Canon DSLR D40 camera and her 300mm Canon autofocus lens came by way of St. Nick. A 1.4 teleconverter made a nice addition for small subjects. Nick was able to write off a number of presents (Christmas, birthday, Valentine’s, Groundhog’s Day) in the process. Mary claims she is not a photographer but thinks her photo collection may amount to 50,000 photos taken over the past 35 years.  She has developed a pretty good handle on night photography, and has taken numerous outstanding photos of owls.  The Northern Saw-whet Owl is one of her latest quests in owl photography, and is the featured photo for the latest LAAS newsletter. She feels the key to getting the “perfect shot” of each owl species is to understand their individual personalities, in order to anticipate behavior. So far she’s hoping to nab photos of Eastern Screech Owl, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, and Barred Owl to round out her U.S. owls, although there’s always room for different and better shots! Though a challenge, Mary’s enjoyment of owls is one of the birding highlights of her life.

Mary and her husband Nick, both Los Angeles County natives are long-time volunteers for LAAS.  Mary led her first bird walk at age 19.  They live in Glendale along with their 13-year old Pacific Parrotlet.


Published Western Tanager Vol 82 No. 1 Sep/Oct 2015