Anaïs Trépanier, a photographer, went into the wilderness hoping to take some memorable photos. However, something unexpected happened. A huge gray owl suddenly flew down and landed on her camera, making her the subject of a unique photograph.
Trépanier went on a photo expedition to the Côte-de-Beaupré area with her friend Thomas Pham-Van and other photographer friends. As they were exploring the area north of Quebec City, Canada, Trépanier noticed a massive gray owl perched on a fence. She decided to take a few pictures of it. To her surprise, the owl abruptly flew over and landed near her.
From Photographer to Owl Perch
“I was taking pictures, and shortly after, I saw the owl land on my camera lens,” she told CBC Breakaway. “It’s the largest owl we have in Quebec. It’s much bigger than a little bird like a chickadee.”
Trépanier explains that the owl sat on her camera for around 30 seconds. She recalls staying very still after hearing her friends cautioning her not to move, while she took a rapid succession of photos. She shared this experience with CBC, emphasizing how important it was to capture the moment without disturbing the owl.
“The owl flew straight ahead and then circled back, heading towards Anaïs,” Pham-Van explains. “I was already amazed to witness this incredible bird in flight and have the privilege of photographing it. However, I was truly taken aback when I saw it land on the camera lens. It was a surprising and extraordinary moment.”
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I took a brief moment to absorb the sight and then resumed taking pictures. One of our friends started shouting at Anaïs, telling her not to move, and it gave me a strong feeling of excitement and awe.”
Trépanier mentions that the owl remained on her camera lens for approximately 30 seconds before taking off, and she considers it a bittersweet moment. Her mixed emotions can be seen in several photos that captured the incident, revealing her feelings of both delight and apprehension.
“Anaïs remained remarkably composed. It’s natural to feel a bit nervous when such a majestic bird is so close to your face,” Pham-Van commented.
“Since it was a wild animal, we were uncertain about how it would react if Anaïs had to move. She was cautious and kept a watchful eye on the owl’s talons to protect her hands. The whole incident unfolded rapidly, and I don’t think she had much time to consider her photographic equipment.”
The World’s Largest Owl Species
Great grey owls are the biggest owls in the world when it comes to length. However, much of their size is not easily seen because their large heads and long tails hide the rest of their body. Their wingspan can be over five feet long, and they have excellent hearing that helps them find and catch moving prey even under more than two feet of snow. They are the only owls known to dive into the snow after listening for prey while perched at low heights.
These owls like to hunt during the early morning and evening, but they are mostly active at night. They are not scared of humans and are comfortable being around them. While we don’t know the exact reason why the owl chose to land on Trépanier, some experts believe it might have thought she would make a convenient perch.
“It could simply be a matter of luck,” says Pascal Côté, the director of the Tadoussac bird observatory, in an interview with CBC. “Perhaps the owl mistook it for a resting spot or was searching for prey. Anaïs might have been in the right place at the right moment.”
Côté explains that some photographers may use live bait to attract owls for better photo opportunities. However, Trépanier and Pham-Van firmly deny using such methods during this encounter.
“Some people believe that we intentionally lured the owl, but that’s not true,” says Pham-Van. “I don’t support that approach. It was a surreal and unexpected moment that will stay with us forever.”
Even though Trépanier was the main focus of the pictures, she didn’t leave the encounter without anything. When the owl flew towards her, she managed to capture a few stunning photos of it.
“The owl also treated us to impressive displays of hovering flights and diving into the snow while hunting for food,” adds Pham-Van. “I was truly amazed by this magnificent bird, but I never expected what happened next. I’m delighted to have experienced and captured this moment through photographs.”
Trépanier is not the only photographer who has experienced an owl perching on their camera lens recently. In 2020, photographer Scott Dere was also capturing images of great grey owls when one of them unexpectedly landed on his camouflaged lens.