Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Black Turnstone - In Situ

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In the Field

Black Turnstone - In Situ. Queen Charlotte Strait, British Columbia, Canada. October 14, 2023.

Capturing a successful image of a camouflaged wildlife subject when it is on the very terrain its coat or plumage has been designed by evolution to match can be a tough task. It can be made even tougher when your subject is nervous and skittish and not entirely comfortable with allowing a photographer to closely approach them. And it can be made even MORE challenging if you are trying to capture an "enviroscape" image where at least part of your goal is to show the habitat that the subject is typically found in (read more about "enviroscape" wildlife shots here). So how does a keen wildlife photographer solve this problem?

Well, there's lots of ways to skin a cat...but in this specific situation the simplest solution for me was to use an 800mm focal length (in this case a Z 800mm f6.3S). This allowed me to work at a distance that didn't overly disturb the bird. Just as importantly, the shallow DoF of the 800mm lens softened the background just enough so that the subject didn't disappear into it. I sure wouldn't make the claim that the subject "pops out" here...but given its camou plumage and matching background, it's at least visible. Of course, filling MORE of the frame with the subject would make it stand out better, but then the photo wouldn't be an enviroscape shot, would it? 😉

Unless one is totally into tight animal portraits, 800mm lenses tend to be overkill on most of my BC coastal photo tours, especially for images of bears and most whales. An exception to this rule is my Autumn in the Queen Charlotte Strait photo tour where the subject matter is quite well-suited to long focal lenses, including 800mm lenses. But if one is into capturing bird images and some of the smaller marine mammals (such as Sea Otters and Harbor Seals) then an 800mm lens can come in handy on ALL my photo tours.

Here's a larger version (4800 pixel) of this subtly beautiful shorebird:

Black Turnstone - In Situ: Download 4800 pixel image (JPEG: 4.1 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.

3. This image was captured during my Autumn in the Queen Charlotte Strait exploratory photo adventure in October of 2023. Each year I offer trips into two different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well as two tours into the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary (to photograph grizzlies, of course!). Details about these trips can be found on the Photo Tours page of this website.

Behind the Camera

Black Turnstone - In Situ. Queen Charlotte Strait, British Columbia, Canada. October 14, 2023.

High Efficiency* Compressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 900.

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

1/640s @ f6.3; -0.7 stop compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Black Turnstone - In Situ. Queen Charlotte Strait, British Columbia, Canada. October 14, 2023.

Initial noise reduction and capture sharpening on the .nef (raw) file using the DeepPRIME XD algorithm of DXO PhotoLab 7.6 Elite (using the appropriate lens/camera optical module).

Subsequent adjustments to the adjusted linear DNG file (exported from PhotoLab) 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 the only global adjustment was an overall contrast tweak (using the Levels tool). Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case numerous small adjustments and tweaks were made on 8 separate layers, with most of the tweaks being associated with "exposure balancing" and contrast adjustments (such as adjustments to clarity, highlights, shadows, etc.). Additionally, minor colour adjustments using two layers of curves adjustments (to individual colour channels) were performed on this image.

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


Black Turnstone - In Situ. Queen Charlotte Strait, British Columbia, Canada. October 14, 2023.

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

The Black Turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala) is a stocky, medium-sized shorebird with relatively short, wedge-shaped bill. Among North America's shorebirds they are virtually synonymous with the rocky and wave-swept Pacific Coast. With their dark and partially spotted upper body and their penchant for foraging on dark rocks they are often almost invisible until you're right on top of them (at which point you often notice that the rocks they are on are absolutely alive with them!). Their common name ("turnstone") refers specifically to their habit of flipping over objects and small stones to get at their food. Black Turnstones breed in a narrow band of Alaskan coastal sedge meadows throughout western Alaska, but by early summer the disperse to non breeding areas that extend from northern Alaska, along the entire BC coast, and as far south as the northern Mexican coast.

Black Turnstones have an estimated breeding population of 95,000 that appears relatively stable. Mortality of adults tends to be low - if the eggs and young survive predation individuals have a high probability of survival through adulthood.

At present Black Turnstones are not considered at risk in Canada or the USA and have a conservation status of "Least Concern".

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