Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Summer Sunrise - East Kootenays

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In the Field

Summer Sunrise - East Kootenays. Findlay Creek region, SE British Columbia Canada. 29 July 2018.

This is a shot of the view from the ridge I live on when I look east towards the Rocky Mountains. I never tire of looking at it or, for that matter, photographing it. Every minute of every day this scene looks a little different. I nabbed this shot in late July of 2018 just before the sun rose over the Rockies and was still very low in the sky (with its light "beams" traveling through a lot of atmosphere), thus producing some pretty sweet pastel colors.

I captured this image just as I was finishing doing a lot of optical performance testing of the Nikkor 180-400mm f4E zoom lens. During that testing I devoted a fair chunk of time examining how the new zoom performed on distant scenes (just like this one). I was extremely pleased to find that at long focal lengths the 180-400mm was tack sharp edge-to-edge and, in that regard, fully matched the Nikkor 400mm f2.8E prime lens. But unlike the 400mm f2.8E, from a sharpness perspective it pretty much doesn't matter WHAT aperture you choose with the 180-400mm - you get edge-to-edge sharpness from wide open to f11 and beyond. This shot was captured at 400mm and at f4 (so wide open) and even the trees on the extreme edges of the shot are as sharp as those in the middle. I also captured the same shot with the Nikkor 400mm f2.8E at f4 just seconds after I captured this one and - from a sharpness perspective - there was absolutely NO difference between the shots.

Were there any visible differences between the shots at all? Yes. About the only negative thing I can say (at least so far) about the 180-400mm f4E is that it tends to vignette (darken on the corners and edges) more than many lenses, especially at wide apertures. In the shot above I had to do a 1.2 stop vignette "correction" (using the Vignette tool in Capture One Pro 11.2) before the vignetting was functionally removed. What about the Nikkor 400mm f2.8E? vignettes some too at wide apertures, and with the 400mm f2.8E version of the shot I had to perform a 0.7 stop vignette correction (on the shot captured at the same f4 that the 180-400mm shot was captured at) at f4 there was 0.5 stop MORE vignetting with the 180-400mm.

Of course, the vignetting varies with several factors - including aperture, focal length, and - to some degree - distance to subject. I did do a full aperture run (up to f11 in single-stop jumps) on this shot and here's the amount of vignette correction needed at each stop: f4 =1.2 stops; f5.6 = 1.0 stops; f8 = 0.75 stops; f11 = 0.4 stops. Note that at ABOUT 0.5 stops of vignetting or less (and partly depending on the scene) a lot of people don't notice the edge and side darkening (i.e., they don't notice the vignetting).

I plan to produce a fairly extensive and thorough discussion on the vignetting shown by the 180-400mm f4E (including how it varies with aperture, focal length, and distance) in the not-so-distant future. This discussion will appear first on my blog and later in my final review of the 180-400mm f4E (which will permanently reside in the Field Tests section of this website).

For those who may not be able to visualize the impact of 1.2 stops of vignetting on an image I've posted larger (2400 pixel) versions of this shot with and without the vignetting just below...

Summer Sunrise - Vignetting REMOVED: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 0.5 MB)
Summer Sunrise - Vignetting Untouched: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 0.5 MB)


1. 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!

2. Like all wildlife photographs on this website, this image was 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

Summer Sunrise - East Kootenays. Findlay Creek region, SE British Columbia Canada. 29 July 2018.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 64.

Nikon D850 paired with Nikkor 180-400mm f4E zoom at 400mm. Supported on Jobu Algonquin tripod with Jobu Heavy Duty MkIV gimbal head. VR OFF; Live View focus; full electronic shutter; released using MC-20 cable release.

1/320s @ f4; no compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Summer Sunrise - East Kootenays. Findlay Creek region, SE British Columbia Canada. 29 July 2018.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including all global and selective adjustments, using Phase One's Capture One Pro 11.2. Global adjustments included a 1.2 stop (circular on crop) vignette correction. Note that this image is 100% full frame. Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case adjustments were made on 2 separate layers and included local/selective editing of (or application of) clarity and contrast.

Photoshop adjustments were limited to image re-sizing, conversion of Prophoto RGB colour gamut (to sRGB), final sharpening for online display, and insertion of watermark.


Summer Sunrise - East Kootenays. Findlay Creek region, SE British Columbia Canada. 29 July 2018.

Ten percent of the revenue generated by this image will be donated to The Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Species Status in Canada*: N/A

This shot was taken in the East Kootenays of British Columbia. While much of the East Kootenays seems quite pristine at first glance, many ecosystems within this region face development pressure, including pressure from logging operations.

The Raincoast Conservation Society (and Foundation) is an effective and efficient organization that has been fighting for protection of this unique habitat. If you are looking for a meaningful way to contribute to the conservation of this amazing ecosystem, Raincoast will provide maximal "bang" for your conservation dollars.

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