Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

 

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In the Field

The Wounded Warrior. Southwest Yukon Territory, Canada. April 1, 2017.

If you've ever watched male Bighorn or Dall Sheep engaged in serious social dominance "wars" you probably came away thinking "Wow...how do they even survive THAT kind of violence (and have any energy left to mate)?" Remarkably, in the vast majority of cases the clashing rams walk away unharmed. But...that's not ALWAYS the case...the dramatic head butting sessions DO come with very real risks attached, and occasionally - like in this case - "career-ending" injuries are experienced by one of the participants.

I photographed this injured Dall ram at the beginning of April 2017 and it is very likely (though we can't know for sure) he lost his left horn as the direct result of clashing with another male back in the late autumn. When rams DO lose a horn like this (if you look closely you'll see that only the "core" remains) they bleed for AGES...the nearly-black crud between this guy's ear and eye is dried blood and you can see traces of fresh blood on the core of the horn, even though it's likely this injury occurred months ago. OUCH!

Besides the obvious "here and now" physical harm done to this ram, he also is "done" now in an evolutionary sense. It's possible that BEFORE this injury this ram sired some offspring, but if he didn't...well...you can be sure he won't be leaving any of his genes to the next generation now. Which makes it likely this guy is an evolutionary "dead-end". Talk about rubbing salt into an open wound! And we think WE have problems! ;-)

The biggest challenge I faced in capturing this shot was managing the depth-of-field (or DoF). As you can see, this ram decided to thrust his right hoof out directly in front of him. Because I didn't want his hoof out-of-focus I was forced to go with a wider DoF than I would have liked (and I stopped down to f9 to get that "expanded" DoF that would keep the hoof in sharp enough focus). But, unfortunately, this extended the DoF further BEHIND the ram as well, which meant that the background rocks are MORE in focus (resulting in less visual separation of the subject from the background) than I would have liked. I debated going with a thinner DoF (like that which would have been produced by going to around f5 or so) as I waited for the ram to lift his head, but in the end I decided the hoof added enough visual interest to the shot that I wanted it in-focus and that I would have had to live with the "less-soft" background. Of course, if the ram had held this pose for more than a shot or two I would have shot the scene with a variety of apertures but, alas, it was a quick head-lift, head-turn that lasted only a second or two (and it was the only time he really gave me a good look at the missing horn and associated mess on the side of his head).

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this wounded warrior...

The Wounded Warrior: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.6 MB)

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

1. This image was captured while scouting an area for possible inclusion in a future photo tour. Long story short, we liked what we saw and experienced (a LOT)! We are hoping to include this location in photo tours as early as late 2017. Those who think they might be interesting in joining us should contact me at seminars@naturalart.ca and I will forward details to you as they become available. But please note that this trip should only be considered by those that are highly mobile, in good physical condition, and are willing to "pay the price" (physically!) to capture some pretty unique wildlife photos!

2. This image - in all resolutions - is protected by copyright. I'm fine with personal uses of them (including use as desktop backgrounds or screensavers on your own computer), but unauthorized commercial use of the image is prohibited by law. Thanks in advance for respecting my copyright!

3. Like all wildlife images on this website, the subject(s) is/are fully wild and completely unconstrained. Besides the potential impact of my/our presence, nothing has been done to intentionally alter or affect the ongoing behavior of the subject and, of course, there has been no use of any form of bait or other form of wildlife attractants/luring devices (including vocalizations or other sounds).

Behind the Camera

The Wounded Warrior. Southwest Yukon Territory, Canada. April 1, 2017.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 110.

Nikon D500 paired with Sigma 500mm f4 Sport lens (for an EFL of 750mm). Supported on Really Right Stuff TVC-24 tripod with an Acratech Long Lens Head. OS on and in "OS1" mode, with OS1 stabilization customized to Moderate View mode; AF customized to Fast Priority AF.

1/800s @ f9; No compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

The Wounded Warrior. Southwest Yukon Territory, Canada. April 1, 2017.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 10. Three raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing in exposure settings (0.75 stop total difference between the variants) and both shadow recovery and highlight retrieval settings.

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2017 and Light Crafts Lightzone. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the three output files from the raw converter, minor selective curves (contrast) adjustment, very minor exposure tweaks, and final selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.

Conservation

The Wounded Warrior. Southwest Yukon Territory, Canada. April 1, 2017.

Species Status in Canada*: Not listed as of Special Concern, Threatened, or Endangered.

The Dall Sheep (Ovis dalli) is a species of sheep native to northwestern North America. They inhabit the subarctic mountain ranges of Alaska, the Yukon Territory, the MacKenzie Mounntains in the Northwest Territories, and both central and northern British Columbia. The more southern form is known as the Stone Sheep and is slaty brown in colour with some white patches on the rump on the inside of the hind legs. Dall sheep are found in comparatively dry country and tend to be found in a unique combination of open alpine ridges, meadows, and steep slopes with extremely rugged ground (usually referred to as escape terrain) in the immediate vicinity. This escape terrain allows the sheep to escape from predators that can't travel as fast as these sure-footed sheep. The primary predators of Dall sheep include wolves, coyotes, black and grizzly bears and, during the lambing season, both golden eagles and wolverines.

While not technically endangered in Canada this Stone Sheep was photographed in the southwest portion of the Yukon Territory - and in this region poorly regulated and poorly managed hunting has reduced many local populations by over 50% compared to historical levels. In some populations local extirpation is likely imminent if hunting practices are not radically changed or completely suspended.

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