Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

The Essential Spotted Towhee

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

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In the Field

The Essential Spotted Towhee. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. June 14, 2005.

All birds use only a small subset of the available habitat and use unique behaviours when exploiting that habitat. When you have watched a particular species long enough, its unique behavioural repertoire within its environment becomes almost a "gestalt" by which you can identify the bird. I attempt to capture images of birds in their environment that epitomize their unique gestalt, but I am rarely successful! In this case I think I got lucky enough and captured the "essential" gestalt or nature of the Spotted Towhee. These ground-dwelling birds dart about in photographer-frustrating long grass and jump up on low branches for only the briefest of moments. For some reason this Towhee decided to jump up on the only non-obscured branch near me and "pose" for a full second. Photeus must have been smiling - I had virtually all the controls on my camera and flash set correctly for this unanticipated moment and successfully captured it!

Behind the Camera

The Essential Spotted Towhee. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. June 14, 2005.

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

Nikon D2X with Nikon 200-400 mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S VR lens @ 360 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 mounted on Really Right Stuff flash bracket.

1/320s @ f5; -0.7 stop exposure compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting; balanced i-TTL flash exposure (no compensation).

At the Computer

The Essential Spotted Towhee. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. June 14, 2005.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including first-pass sharpening, levels and tone curve adjustment, using Phase One's C1 Pro.

All further digital correction on 16-bit TIFF file using Adobe's Photoshop CS2, including selective saturation enhancement and selective sharpening for web output.


The Essential Spotted Towhee. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. June 14, 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 Spotted Towhee (Piplio maculatus) inhabitats dense shrubs in the western United States and southwestern Canada. Although relatively common their habitat preference and behaviour makes them relatively inconspicuous. While currently not listed as threatened or endangered, the Spotted Towhee is vulnerable to loss of habitat due to land clearing, grazing and development.

This Spotted Towhee was photographed in the Columbia Valley of the East Kootenays. While this species is currently 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