Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Shaking off the Blues

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In the Field

Shaking off the Blues. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. April 22, 2022.

While I am not big into labels, I do tend to think about myself as a "wildlife photographer" and certainly not a "bird photographer". That said, each spring I have a month or two where the bulk of my subject matter consists of birds. And, I have to say that since confirming that my new Z 400mm f2.8S lens works extremely well when paired up with the Z-TC 2x (making it a very high quality 800mm f5.6 lens) I am enjoying my spring bird photography more than ever. Who woulda thunk that an 800mm lens would be good for birds? ;-)

Like a lot of my shots, this one is as much the result of dumb luck as good management. When I shoot motion blur shots what I really strive to do is to have selected parts of the image nicely blurred and other parts tack sharp, which gives the viewer an "eye magnet" that attracts their eyes first (the sharp parts of the image) and then lets them explore the rest of the image at their leisure. Which is kinda what happened here (if you're being honest you'll admit your eye went to the sharp portions of this image first...right?).

Good management? the time I shot this, I was experimenting with how slow of a shutter speed I could hand-hold the new Z 400mm when paired with the Z-TC 2x at and still consistently get sharp shots. Prior to this shot I had shot series of shots at 1/40s (about half of them sharp) and then 1/80s (at least 2/3 of them sharp). Just before this male Mountain Bluebird started preening and then shaking I had jumped up to 1/125s to shoot a new series. So...just randomly...I happened to be at one of my preferred "motion blur" shutter speeds when this bird did me a favor and held its head perfectly still while shaking pretty much everything from neck down! Given the image "type" the soft (and low contrast) pre-dawn light helped me out too by giving me subtle tones to play with during post-processing. So...a whole lot of dumb luck helped me create this rather unique image of a very handsome Mountain Bluebird.

Here's a larger version (4800 pixel) of this unique look at a male Mountain Bluebird:

Shaking off the Blues: Download 4800 pixel image (JPEG: 3.3 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

Shaking off the Blues. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. April 22, 2022.

Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 720.

Nikon Z 9 paired with Nikkor Z 400mm f2.8 TC VR S plus Z-TC 2x (800mm total focal length). Hand-held. VR on in Normal mode. 3D-tracking AF area mode with subject recognition on (in Animal mode).

1/125s @ f8; no compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Shaking off the Blues. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. April 22, 2022.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit PSD file (and JPEG files for web use), including all global and selective adjustments, using Phase One's Capture One Pro 22. No global adjustments were made to this image. Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case selective adjustments were made on 9 separate layers and included one or more tweaks to brightness, clarity, exposure, saturation, color balance, and highlight (retrieval).

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


Shaking off the Blues. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. April 22, 2022.

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

The Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) is a brilliantly coloured thrush found over much of western North America. Despite its name, it is NOT limited in distribution to mountain regions. In the early 1900's Mountain Bluebird populations plummeted due to loss of nesting habitat (natural cavities) due to the introduction of alien species, including House Sparrows and Starlings. An aggressive conservation effort in the form of the introduction of species-specific nest boxes worked and today bluebirds are common again.

This adult male Mountain Bluebird was photographed in the East Kootenays of BC, Canada. The area supports a strong population of Mountain Bluebirds and smaller population of Western Bluebirds.

One of the most fascinating things about the Mountain Bluebird is that the striking ultraviolet-blue coloration of feathers does not come from any type of pigment that has been incorporated into feathers. Instead, the source of the coloration is completely "structural" in that the microanatomy of the feather barbs in a way that primarily reflects ultraviolet and blue light while largely absorbing wavelengths of light that are perceived by humans as other colors (green, yellow, red, etc.). So what you are seeing is differentially reflected ultraviolet-blue light...NOT pigmentation!

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