Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Common Redpoll in Morning Light

Availability: Limited Edition Print; RM Stock (??)

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In the Field

Common Redpoll in Morning Light. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. March 6, 2005.

I captured this darling little fuzz-ball early one winter morning. I had noticed that several Common Redpolls were using a specific branch as a "staging" area between sorties to a feeder. The branch was very strongly side-lit by the sun (which was very low on the horizon) and the background was pleasingly out of focus and relatively uniform in brightness. I pre-focused on the branch and adjusted my flash unit for a relatively strong fill and waited. Additionally I guessed that a slight underexposure would allow me to retain detail in the strong highlights produced by the strong sunlight. Before long a particularly rosy-coloured individual landed and hesitated (while giving me a long and almost inquisitive look). Luckily I snapped the shutter at just the right time and captured this image! I was very happy with the result and, apparently, others agree as it is currently one of my fastest selling prints.

Behind the Camera

Common Redpoll in Morning Light. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. March 6, 2005.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 100.

Nikon D2X with Nikon 200-400 mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S VR lens @ 400 mm (600 mm equivalent with digital conversion factor) supported on Gitzo 1348 carbon fibre tripod with Wimberley head; SB-800 flash (fill) with Better Beamer Flash Extender - both mounted on Really Right Stuff flash bracket.

1/200s @ f4.5; -0.7 stop exposure compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting; +0.3 stop compensation on SB-800 (i-TTL mode).

At the Computer

Common Redpoll in Morning Light. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. March 6, 2005.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including first-pass sharpening, exposure compensation, and tone curve adjustment, using Nikon Capture 4. Multiple RAW conversions (3 at different exposure settings) to extend dynamic range of captured image, in this case primarily to restore shadow detail on shaded portions of bird.

All further digital correction on 16-bit TIFF file using Adobe's Photoshop CS, including compositing and masking of various exposure versions, selective saturation enhancement, and selective sharpening for web output.


Common Redpoll in Morning Light. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. March 6, 2005.

Ten percent of the revenue generated by this image will be donated to Wildsight.

Species Status in Canada*: This species is not designated as at risk.

The Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea) is a small finch of the boreal forest and Arctic tundra scrub. In summer it breeds in the tundra scrub across northern Canada and Alaska. In winter it is an irruptive migrant, meaning that in some winters "irruptions" of huge flocks can be found throughout much of southern Canada and the northern United States. In other winters the species is conspicuously absent.

This Common Redpoll was photographed in the Columbia Valley of the East Kootenays. While this species is not considered at risk in any way, many ecosystems within the Columbia Valley face development pressure. Wildsight is an effective conservation organization that protects biodiversity and promotes sustainable communities in Canada's Columbia and Rocky Mountains. Support for Wildsight, through donation or becoming a member, will help ensure that they remain effective in their efforts to conserve threatened or endangered species and ecosystems.

*as determined by COSEWIC: The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada