Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Hey Two Legs - You're in My Terrain Now...

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In the Field

Hey Two Legs - You're in My Terrain Now. Above Columbia Lake, BC, Canada. January 14, 2023.

I learned something in mid-January of 2023 - when a Bighorn ram gives you this kind of look when you're on steep mountainous terrain he IS throwing down the gauntlet! He might as well have been saying "Hey Two Legs - You're in My Terrain Now...I DARE you to follow me!" Well...being competitive and a bit of an idiot, I did take up the challenge. Several hours later I did have some good shots of this guy and his buddies, but I was just beat - and he hadn't even begun to break a sweat! Ah and learn.

I captured this image with the Z 800mm f6.3S mounted on a Z 9 body. But the comments to follow apply to pretty much any 800mm(ish) lens - whether it's the Z 600mm f4S with its built-in TC engaged or even a 400mm f2.8 combined with a 2x TC.

First off, 800mm lenses aren't simple lenses to squeeze good images out of - they definitely take some getting used to. One of the first things new 800mm users often struggle with is getting used to their narrow fields-of-view (FOV). The most common problem here is the obvious one - finding the subject you just saw with your naked eyes after you've lifted the camera up and are looking through the viewfinder! Probably the best advice I can give - and this is especially applicable if you are hand-holding your 800mm lens (which I think a lot of folks will be trying with the Z 800mm f6.3S) - is to use the "birders with binoculars" trick. Which is this: when you spot your subject (whether it's a small bird in the bush or a bird in flight or a...) keep your eyes absolutely fixed on the subject. Then lift your binoculars (or your camera and 800mm lens) up to your eye(s) without moving your eyes. In theory, the subject should then be in the middle of your field of view (or viewfinder). It may take you a bit of practice...but before long you'll have no problem finding your subject with your 800mm lens.

Another thing one has to get used to with an 800mm lens is just how darned narrow your depth-of-field (DoF) is, especially if the subject isn't too far away from you. One example of how this can catch you up in the field is if you're shooting a portrait of an animal with an 800mm lens is that you may well have the eyes in focus (especially if using a body with good subject and eye-detection) but the cheeks, snout, and everything else "soft". I tend to shoot lenses in the 300-500mm range wide open (or very close to it) a lot, but I am finding that I am stopping down from wide open a lot with my Z 800mm f6.3S. And by that I mean I am in the f7.1 to f9 range a lot more with my Z 800mm than I am with my Z 400mm f2.8S.

I think a lot of folks who end up buying a Z 800mm f6.3S will be fairly inexperienced in shooting with long super-telephoto lenses. And I think a number of them will struggle with the Z 800mm - not because there's anything wrong with the lens, but simply because it is such a long focal length (and thus they'll have the issues discussed above, among others). I am actually half-expecting that a lot of them will get their Z 800mm and end up selling it shortly thereafter. So don't be surprised if there ends up being a good number of them available on the used market before too long.

Here's a larger version (4800 pixel) of this rightfully confident mountain dweller:

Hey Two Legs - You're in My Terrain Now: Download 4800 pixel image (JPEG: 3.8 MB)


1. These images - in all resolutions - are 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!

2. Like all photographs on this website, these images were captured following the strict ethical guidelines described in The Wildlife FIRST! Principles of Photographer Conduct. I encourage all wildlife photographers to always put the welfare of their subjects above the value of their photographs.

Behind the Camera

Hey Two Legs - You're in My Terrain Now. Above Columbia Lake, BC, Canada. January 14, 2023.

Lossless compressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 720.

Nikon Z 9 paired with Z Nikkor 800mm f6.3S. Hand-held. VR on in Sport mode. Single-point AF area mode.

1/400s @ f7.1; no compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Hey Two Legs - You're in My Terrain Now. Above Columbia Lake, BC, Canada. January 14, 2023.

Initial noise reduction and sharpening on the .nef (raw) file using the DeepPRIME XD algorithm of DXO PhotoLab 6 Elite.

Subsequent adjustments to the adjusted linear DNG file (exported from PhotoLab 6) and conversion to 16-bit TIFF file (and JPEG files for web use) - including all global and selective adjustments - made using Phase One's Capture One Pro 23. In the case of this image there were global adjustments made to the highlights and overall contrast (using the Levels tool). Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case selective adjustments were made on 5 separate layers and most were under the general umbrella of "exposure balancing", with one or more selective tweaks to brightness (mid-tone exposure), clarity (mid-tone contrast), highlights, whites, and colour saturation. I also tweaked the colour balance of the background mountains.

Photoshop modifications were limited to the insertion of the watermark and/or text.


Hey Two Legs - You're in My Terrain Now. Above Columbia Lake, BC, Canada. January 14, 2023.

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

Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis) are considered by many to be a symbol of mountain wilderness. They are distributed throughout much of the mountainous areas of western North America from central British Columbia south to northern Mexico. Local distribution of Bighorns appears to be limited by the availability of suitable foraging areas near "escape" terrain (cliffs or very steep terrain where they can escape predators).

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