Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Nuances - Bighorn Ram

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In the Field

Nuances - Bighorn Ram. East Kootenays, BC, Canada. May 19, 2023.

I photographed this fine specimen of a Bighorn Ram under strongly side-lit conditions in mid-May of 2023. I'm lucky enough to have several resident herds of Bighorn Sheep that live year-round not far from my home in the East Kootenays of BC.

I shot this image primarily as a "training session" with my Z 800mm f6.3S super-telephoto lens. One of the things I learned very early on about the Z 800mm was that if you are very close to a subject that has ANY depth to it you absolutely must stop down or you'll be fighting to keep the key parts of your subject in focus. So when I encountered this ram I thought "'s a good test to see if you can get the DoF right on the first shot". So I stopped down significantly (to f10) and waited until the ram gave me the look and pose I wanted. Note that I was as close as you could be to this ram with an 800mm lens and still get the whole head in the frame - this shot is slightly MORE than full-frame (I added a tiny bit of canvas to the top and both left and right sides of this image during post-processing).

Even though this shot is "just a training shot" I kinda like it. The side-lighting works for me (and took quite a bit of work in post to "balance out" the lighting) and there are lots of cool little nuances in the shot (you may have to download the 4800 pixel version below to see some of these details) - like the fur wedged into the tip of its horn on the right side of the image and like the tiny grasses in its mouth, and how the light is JUST illuminating the horn tip on the right side of the frame, etc.). When I was deciding on the final crop of this image (after the slight canvas extension) I struggled a bit at first and couldn't figure out why...but then I noticed how asymmetric the rams horns were...with the gap between the rams head and the horns being very different on the two sides of its head. Lots of nuances and subtleties!

Here's a larger version (4800 pixel) of this proud Bighorn for your perusal:

Nuances - Bighorn Ram: Download 4800 pixel image (JPEG: 5.7 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

Nuances - Bighorn Ram. East Kootenays, BC, Canada. May 19, 2023.

High Efficiency* Compressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 800.

Nikon Z 9 paired with Z Nikkor 800mm f6.3S. Hand-held. VR on in Sport mode. 3D-tracking AF area mode with subject detection on "Animal" (but NOT locked on the ram's eye).

1/800s @ f10; -0.3 stop compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Nuances - Bighorn Ram. East Kootenays, BC, Canada. May 19, 2023.

Initial noise reduction and sharpening on the .nef (raw) file using the DeepPRIME XD algorithm of DXO PhotoLab 6.6 Elite.

Subsequent adjustments to the adjusted linear DNG file (exported from PhotoLab 6.6) 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 no global adjustments made. 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 almost all were under the general umbrella of "exposure balancing", with one or more targeted and selective tweaks to brightness (mid-tone exposure), clarity (mid-tone contrast), the highlights, blacks, and whites. I also did a little colour-tweaking on this image using both the Color Balance and Color Editor in Capture One.

Photoshop modifications were limited to the insertion of the watermark and/or text and a slight extension to the canvas on the right, left, and top of the image.


Nuances - Bighorn Ram. East Kootenays, BC, Canada. May 19, 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