One of the most common questions I’ve been asked about this magazine over the years is, “How can I get a photo on your cover?”
The answer is that a lot of factors go into cover choices. We look for photos that are technically sound, tack-sharp, colorful, and engaging. Plus, we need space around the bird for headlines, so don’t crop too close!
Perhaps most importantly, we want photos of wild birds. That is particularly true when we look for images of owls and raptors. Lots of pictures are available of captive birds, and as you may know, some photographers bait owls and raptors to bring them in close for “the perfect shot.” It is our long-standing policy not to publish photos in which birds have been baited.
The Long-eared Owl on this issue’s cover, for example, is not only a wild bird, but also was seen in our largest metropolis. In February 2011, Deborah Allen and two fellow birders were at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx — a great place for owling in winter, she says. “The Rock Garden has lots of conifers that attract owls,” she tells me. “It has a low stone wall on one side, and it’s possible to see into most of the area from the outside. I’m not sure who saw who first, me or the owl, or maybe it was Jack Rothman or Bob DeCandido who spotted it. The owl turned to look at us, and luckily there was an opening through the trees next to the wall. I only had a Canon 7D camera with a 400mm 5.6 lens with me, nothing fancy, but good for walking around, since we were planning to check pretty much all the conifers in the NYBG to see if they had owls. I spent about five minutes clicking away, hoping that I’d get a sharp photo in the so-so light. After that, we left to see if we could find any other owls around. A few of the photos came out.”
I’m sure glad they did. Of course, all birders, not just those with cameras, have responsibilities around owls, especially Long-ears. For more insights on the ethics of owling, I encourage you to read Bill Mueller’s cover story, “Deep in the Shadows,” on page 16.
Matt Mendenhall, editor
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