Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Contrast & Conflict - Looming Battle?

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In the Field

Contrast & Conflict - Looming Battle? Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. May 30, 2007.

I like quality images of wildlife. But I like quality images of wildlife that tell a story even more! While I strive to create such images, they're very hard to capture and I rarely succeed. But this time, I think I managed to capture a story, albeit a very short one, in one tightly cropped image. Who says the short story is dead?

I was working with a pair of nesting Tree Swallows when a territorial encounter erupted. This shot was taken a split second before the conflict climaxed and just as the perched bird (the male territory owner) was giving a loud and stern warning to the intruder. While most territorial encounters end before actual physical contact occurs, this one didn't. In fact, within a second or two after this shot was taken, the two birds were engaged in a pitched battle - on the ground at the base of the perch. I don't know for sure who won the battle, but afterwards the male remaining in the territory DID seem identical in appearance to the previous territory owner, so I'm guessing the owner prevailed.

Ironically, I was within a hair of deleting this image from my camera immediately after capture. It was hard to see the LCD display in the bright early morning sunlight and it looked like I missed the image. Just before hitting the delete button I stopped myself and thought "hmmm...I better look at this on my computer...maybe I DID get something here." A good take-home lesson on hitting that delete button too quickly...

Behind the Camera

Contrast & Conflict - Looming Battle? Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. May 30, 2007.

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

Nikon D2Xs with with Nikon 200-400 mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S VR lens @ 400 mm paired with 1.4X Nikon TC-14E II teleconverter (825 mm equivalent with digital conversion factor) supported on Gitzo 1348 carbon fibre tripod with Wimberley head. VR turned to "On" and in "Normal" mode. SB-800 flash (fill) with Better Beamer Flash Extender mounted on Really Right Stuff flash bracket.

1/180s @ f9; -1.0 stop exposure compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting; balanced i-TTL flash exposure with -1.0 stop compensation on SB-800.

At the Computer

Contrast & Conflict - Looming Battle? Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. May 30, 2007.

RAW Conversion to 16 bit TIFF, including first-pass sharpening, exposure compensation, and tone curve adjustment, using Phase One's C1 Pro. Multiple RAW conversions (3 at different sharpness/noise reduction settings) to allow selective application of sharpening to different sections of the image (see below).

Further digital correction on 16-bit TIFF file using Adobe's Photoshop CS3 and LightZone 3. Minor tonal adjustments performed in LightZone (using the ToneMapper/Relight tool). Photoshop adjustments included compositing and masking of differently sharpened versions, selective saturation enhancement, and selective sharpening for web output.


Contrast & Conflict - Looming Battle? Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. May 30, 2007.

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 Tree Swallow (Tacycineta bicolor) is a common insect-eating aerobatic specialist found across much of North America. Tree Swallows nest in abandoned cavities in trees or in nest boxes provided for them by humans. The breeding range of the Tree Swallow is expanding southward and overall their populations appear to be increasing.

This male Tree Swallow 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