Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Stellers Jay in Shade

Availability: Limited Edition Print

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In the Field

Steller's Jay in Shade. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. February 4, 2005.

I had spent several challenging but ultimately fruitless hours trying to photograph this elusive Steller's Jay as it hopped around behind the shaded boughs of a Douglas Fir tree before finally deciding to call it quits. As an alternate, I went to work on a White-breasted Nuthatch that had been visiting the area. No sooner had I moved and re-adjusted all my gear when the jay flew into my camera's new field of view! Although the jay was still skulking about in a Douglas Fir, it was now in clear view at least part of the time. And, it was now moving regularly between dark shade and strong sunlight. I waited (and risked missing the bird entirely) until the bird's head - and specifically its beak - was partially illuminated by the sun before triggering my shutter. I was very happy with the resultant image and every time I look at it I'm reminded of how this particular bird almost seemed to enjoy teasing me!

Behind the Camera

Steller's Jay in Shade. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. February 4, 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 mounted on Really Right Stuff flash bracket.

1/60s @ f7.1; -0.7 stop exposure compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting; balanced i-TTL flash exposure (no compensation).

At the Computer

Steller's Jay in Shade. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. February 4, 2005.

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 (2 at different exposure settings) to extend dynamic range of captured image, in this case primarily to restore shadow detail in black crest and mantle and to retrieve highlight detail in the beak and chin.

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


Steller's Jay in Shade. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. February 4, 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.

Steller's Jays (Cyanocitta stelleri) are colourful inhabitants of coniferous and mixed coniferous forests over much of western North America. These non-migratory birds can be very bold and brazen in campgrounds but tend to be quite shy in the woods.

This Steller's Jay 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