Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Just Another November Sunset Flightscape

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In the Field

Just Another November Sunset Flightscape. Chilkat River, Alaska, USA. November 24, 2016.

While I like all types of wildlife photography, I tend to particularly like (and like to shoot) animalscapes (you know, those landscape-like shots where the wildlife subject is small in the frame, functions as an "eyeball anchor", and the photographer gets to show the beauty of the FULL scene). Heck, I even have an entire Animalscapes Gallery! ;-)

As one who has led photo tours for a LONG time, I have noticed that a lot of wildlife photographers of all levels suffer from severe cases of what I call "closeritis". This malady most often expresses itself when in a Zodiac boat in the Great Bear Rainforest and we see a grizzly in the distance and instantly everyone says (or thinks) "...quick...let's get closer!". And, mostly importantly, they do this before surveying the scene they are already being presented with and considering how it would look with the lens currently in their hands (which, these days, is usually 400mm or longer in focal length).

Now don't get me wrong - closeups of wild animals CAN be compelling. And, there are instances (and this is very common if one is practicing roadside wildlife photography) where the full scene kinda sucks and the ONLY compelling shot available is a full-frame portrait. But my point is simple: You'll NEVER see good animalscape opportunities if you don't slow down and actively LOOK for them...and - at the same time - be able to RECOGNIZE them!

And that brings me to this shot. It's my belief that a LOT of bird-in-flight shooters (BIF shooters) suffer from at least mild cases of closeritis. I see no reason why one can't make combine the challenge and art of shooting animalscapes with BIF shooting! I'm not even begin to pretend these BIF-animalscape shots would be easy to capture - between getting the light right, the scene framed up just right, and having a moving animal positioned in JUST the right place (and in sharp focus!) anyone would have their hands full trying to capture a compelling BIF-animalscape! And, as a likely-to-fail attempt to draw attention to this new hybrid genre of wildlife photography (and because the term BIF-animalscape is a mouthful and kind of a weird term), I'll even give a name to these type of shots - flightscapes! ;-).

This flightscape? Captured up near Haines, Alaska in late November during a beautiful mid-afternoon sunset. As I'm sure you can imagine, it took a whole lot of patience, timing, and piles of luck to capture this Bald Eagle in just the right place on the mountain backdrop...all while trying to compose the scene when panning with a hand-held 500mm lens! But if it wasn't challenging it wouldn't be fun OR worth doing - right? ;-)

Here's a considerably larger version (4800 pixel) of this eagle flightscape:

Just Another November Sunset Flightscape: Download 4800 pixel image (JPEG: 3.7 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 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

Just Another November Sunset Flightscape. Chilkat River, Alaska, USA. November 24, 2016.

Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 640.

Nikon D5 with Sigma Sport 500mm f4. Hand-held. OS on and in OS 2 (panning) mode. 72-point Dynamic area AF area mode.

1/2000s @ f6.3; +0.67 stop compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Just Another November Sunset Flightscape. Chilkat River, Alaska, USA. November 24, 2016.

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 21. There were no global adjustments made to this image. Selective local adjustments were performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case selective adjustments were made on 8 separate layers and included one or more tweaks to exposure, brightness, blacks, shadows, color balance, and sharpness and structure (which is a Capture One thing).

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


Just Another November Sunset Flightscape. Chilkat River, Alaska, USA. November 24, 2016.

Species Status in Canada*: This species is not designated as at risk. The Bald Eagle was listed as "Endangered" in the contiguous US states from 1967 to 1995. In 1995 it was downlisted to "Threatened". On June 28, 2007 Bald Eagles were removed from the list of endangered and threatened species - a true American conservation success story.

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is a very large bird of prey with broad wings. Adults possess characteristic white ("bald") heads. It takes Bald Eagles a full five years to attain their characteristic adult plumage (including their nearly pure white head and tail). In the years prior to the development of their adult plumage they are easy to confuse with Golden Eagles. Being very broad-winged Bald Eagles are able to use an energy-efficient flapping-soaring style of flight. While many people like to think of the Bald Eagle as a fierce hunter, in reality they hunt only as a last resort. More commonly they scavenge for their prey. Additionally, they often klepto-parasitize other weaker species such as Osprey, commonly stealing the other species hard-earned prey items. The Bald Eagle is, of course, the national emblem of the United States (Benjamin Franklin argued against this - his preference was for the Wild Turkey).

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