Stolen Beauty ~ Photo Essay





Warning: This post is not typical. This is a rant and contains images that may be disturbing. 




Have you ever taken time to watch a wild creature?

Have you ever marveled at a bird of prey in the wild?

Have you ever seen silent flight?

Have you ever seen a barred owl in the wild?

Have you ever mowed the grass, disturbing various insects, knowing an owl is watching their every move?

Have you ever ducked when an owl glided over your shoulder at dusk?

Have you ever watched as an owl stealthfully swooped down onto a grasshopper?

Have you ever looked into an owl’s eyes and seen him size you up, and then watch him turn back to eating?

Have you ever raced into the house to grab a camera hoping the whole time this great raptor will still be there when you return?

Have you ever dropped to your belly side by side with your son and shared the experience of watching and photographing such a beautiful creature?


After my morning run, I was walking back home and I found a feather in the road. I always think how cool and feel kinda special to be able to find these on occasion. But then I saw a small clump of feathers in the grass. I caught my breath and thought perhaps a cat had gotten hold of a bird. Then realization struck. These were feathers from a bigger bird, a bird of prey. No cat in its right mind would mess with this bird. As that sunk in, nearly camouflaged in the early morning light, he appeared. Sprawled face down, wings extended in the tall grass. His telons locked tight clutching nothing as if his last fighting, struggling gasp for survival exited from their tips.


Did you see him?

Did you feel him? Most likely not, since he weighs next to nothing.

Did you see the potential prey scurry off to live another day?

Did you watch with pain in your heart as he flailed in the ditch?

Did you ever consider slowing down?

What was so important that you needed to speed through the night?

Was it something truly important, something life-changing that called for immediate attention?

Or was it dinner, or a your favorite TV show and a beer that made you race down the road?

Did you see him flash in front of your headlights? 

Were you too busy on the phone or simply too ignorant to realize what you had done?

Did you stop to go back and see what happened?

What would you have done if it was a child that ran out in front of you?

Did the whole incident bother you at all?

Did you see me this morning photographing this scene?

Were you in one of the cars that curiously slowed as I worked?

Or were you among the majority that mindlessly sped passed in the apparent mandatory rush to work?


At first I was shocked to find this beautiful creature so carelessly dead on the side of the road. Then I was pissed. I said and thought foul things about the apparent caveliar heartless ass who knowingly or not, did this. As the anger welled up in me, I knew I had to share this somehow, someway.

I needed to photograph this scene, this bird, perhaps the same bird that I was so blessed to have been able to photograph in my front yard with my son. When I remembered those images, I immediately understood the power of the juxtapositioning of those images with the ones I was about to create.

Could this have been avoided? Probably not. Could I or you have done the same thing? Yes. Does that make this any less sad or frustrating? No.

I’m no political activitist by any means. I’m not looking for some mindless bloated government agency to solve this problem. That’s no solution. I understand fully that we need to coexist with all the life on earth and unfortunately this means things will happen. Interactions and incidents, whether planned and expected or random and unpredictable are going to occur.

I expect something like this to happen on a busy highway with speeding walls of cars or in a crowded chaotic city. But in our community, on our quiet little street where the speed limit is 35 m.p.h. I hate that this happens. This happens from carelessness and neglect. From it’s-ok-to-go-a-little-faster-nobody-is-around thinking, this is what happens.

As a photographer I’m always looking for beautiful things to photograph and share with people. The world is filled with so many beautiful things. This wonderful barred owl was one of them. Is one of them. I’ve photographed him (or one of his family) flying, feeding, and alive in the wild. Despite the life being removed from him, he is still beautiful. And because of that I will continue to photograph and share him with you. Even dead he is beautiful.

Perhaps in this state, the state of death, he won’t be taken for granted. Perhaps these photos will resonate and last a bit longer. Perhaps the mouse won’t simply click to see the next pretty picture and drift along mindlessly, half-heartedly, barely feeling anything. NO! This is beauty that is now gone, dead. Appreciate it, hate it, love it, it does not matter. It’s gone.


We are all part of this world. Doesn’t it make sense for us to work a bit harder to understand, connect, and appreciate everything inside this spherical bubble we all share? 

Slow down a bit today, and every day. Drive a little slower. Better yet, just stop, stand or sit still, and look around, listen. There is so much beauty around waiting to be discovered. There is no device or app needed. No update or subscription required. Instead we simply need to slow down, not our cars, but our lives, our hearts. Look around, photograph it if you’re inspired.

Did you see him?

Did you feel him?

Do you feel him now?