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Worldwide Photography Tours since 1980

Great Gray Owls of the North Woods, Alberta

Up close with the Phantoms of the Forest

Encircling the northern pole of our planet is an immense tract of trees. Naturalists poetically describe this northern forest as Earth’s evergreen crown of larch, pine, and spruce—the largest terrestrial ecosystem on Earth. Many would argue that within this immense coniferous hinterland a single bird, the splendid great gray owl, embodies all that is mysterious and magical.

07 Hunting Great Gray Owl 138

Every winter, these elusive gray ghosts of the forest move to the snow-choked edges of rural roadways in wilderness Alberta to hunt the voles and mice that tunnel beneath the drifts. Many of these owls migrate from remote forest areas where they have never encountered humans before and consequently are wonderfully unwary and approachable, making them the perfect photographic subjects.

For weeks in advance of the tour, our local guide scours the backroads that penetrate the forests of central Alberta for the least wary owls wintering in this area and for those that promise the greatest range of photographic opportunities. From our cozy ranch-style cabins we set out each day, amply fuelled with delicious meals prepared by our fun-loving hosts, to scour the surrounding forests in search of great grays—one of the most photogenic of owls. Opportunities to create many different images in a variety of winter landscapes are possible.

13 Great Gray Owl 109

In March, at the end of winter, many northern songbirds are moving about eagerly searching for nesting partners and this is the perfect season to capture them with our cameras as they are distracted by this seasonal quest. Some of the many birds we can expect to see on the tour include four species of woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, jays, and grouse, and we strive to add these to our individual photo libraries.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 (March 13 or 17)
Fly to Edmonton, Alberta. We meet this evening for orientation and dinner. (D)

Day 2-4
Early this morning we travel by private van to an area in central Alberta near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where we begin three days of great gray owl shooting. After each early morning shoot, we usually return to our rustic and cozy guest ranch for lunch and a break before our afternoon outing. Our flexible schedule allows us to take advantage of the potentially changing winter weather conditions which can vary from sunshine to clouds and blowing snow. Great grays are often territorial during the winter and once they settle into a patch of forest they usually remain there for many weeks, making their presence predictable. We are always on the lookout for other wildlife subjects and stay open to every photo opportunity. (BLD)

Day 5 (March 17 or 21)
This morning we return to Edmonton in time for afternoon flights. (B)

Tour Details

Mar 13 2024 – Mar 17 2024
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Mar 17 2024 – Mar 21 2024
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Fee: $4,295 from Edmonton, Alberta
Deposit: $1,500
Limit: 8 participants
Activity Level: Easy

Tour Highlights

  • Three days of wild great gray owl photography
  • Photograph these magnificent birds of prey as they perch on snowy conifers, glide on wings that whisper over snow-filled roadsides, and drift effortlessly past you
  • Shoot the snowy boreal forest of central Alberta in March, the snowiest month of the year, when the trees are often cloaked in pillows of fresh, fluffy snow
  • Trip limited to 8 hardy photographers interested in unique images of an elusive subject
  • Travel with a raptor expert with an intimate knowledge of great gray owls and their winter behavior
  • Trip includes all meals, lodging, ground transportation, photo guides and instruction

Tour Details

Mar 13 2024 – Mar 17 2024
Please Join Our Waitlist!
Join Waitlist
Mar 17 2024 – Mar 21 2024
Please Join Our Waitlist!
Join Waitlist
Fee: $4,295 from Edmonton, Alberta
Deposit: $1,500
Limit: 8 participants
Activity Level: Easy

Encircling the northern pole of our planet is an immense tract of trees. Naturalists poetically describe this northern forest as Earth’s evergreen crown of larch, pine, and spruce—the largest terrestrial ecosystem on Earth. Many would argue that within this immense coniferous hinterland a single bird, the splendid great gray owl, embodies all that is mysterious and magical.

07 Hunting Great Gray Owl 138

Every winter, these elusive gray ghosts of the forest move to the snow-choked edges of rural roadways in wilderness Alberta to hunt the voles and mice that tunnel beneath the drifts. Many of these owls migrate from remote forest areas where they have never encountered humans before and consequently are wonderfully unwary and approachable, making them the perfect photographic subjects.

For weeks in advance of the tour, our local guide scours the backroads that penetrate the forests of central Alberta for the least wary owls wintering in this area and for those that promise the greatest range of photographic opportunities. From our cozy ranch-style cabins we set out each day, amply fuelled with delicious meals prepared by our fun-loving hosts, to scour the surrounding forests in search of great grays—one of the most photogenic of owls. Opportunities to create many different images in a variety of winter landscapes are possible.

13 Great Gray Owl 109

In March, at the end of winter, many northern songbirds are moving about eagerly searching for nesting partners and this is the perfect season to capture them with our cameras as they are distracted by this seasonal quest. Some of the many birds we can expect to see on the tour include four species of woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, jays, and grouse, and we strive to add these to our individual photo libraries.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 (March 13 or 17)
Fly to Edmonton, Alberta. We meet this evening for orientation and dinner. (D)

Day 2-4
Early this morning we travel by private van to an area in central Alberta near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where we begin three days of great gray owl shooting. After each early morning shoot, we usually return to our rustic and cozy guest ranch for lunch and a break before our afternoon outing. Our flexible schedule allows us to take advantage of the potentially changing winter weather conditions which can vary from sunshine to clouds and blowing snow. Great grays are often territorial during the winter and once they settle into a patch of forest they usually remain there for many weeks, making their presence predictable. We are always on the lookout for other wildlife subjects and stay open to every photo opportunity. (BLD)

Day 5 (March 17 or 21)
This morning we return to Edmonton in time for afternoon flights. (B)

Tour Highlights

  • Three days of wild great gray owl photography
  • Photograph these magnificent birds of prey as they perch on snowy conifers, glide on wings that whisper over snow-filled roadsides, and drift effortlessly past you
  • Shoot the snowy boreal forest of central Alberta in March, the snowiest month of the year, when the trees are often cloaked in pillows of fresh, fluffy snow
  • Trip limited to 8 hardy photographers interested in unique images of an elusive subject
  • Travel with a raptor expert with an intimate knowledge of great gray owls and their winter behavior
  • Trip includes all meals, lodging, ground transportation, photo guides and instruction