Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Greeting a New Day

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In the Field

Greeting a New Day. East Kootenays, BC. April 2, 2016.

I captured this image of an anterless bull moose while early in my testing and evaluation of Nikon's latest flagship camera - the D5. When I'm testing a camera I mix some very boring and systematic shooting of test subjects (like stumps!) along with sessions of "just shooting" of any subject matter I can find. In this case I got lucky and ran into this moose along the Kootenay River near my home just as the first - and still soft - rays of sunlight began kissing its head and parts of its back. I got incredibly lucky in this case - the moose only gave me about 30 seconds to work with it before vamoosing (funny how that term fits so well here!) and during that short time it paused to look into the rising sun and give me this pose. Thank you Photeus!

Why do I mix these "just shooting" sessions with more systematic testing during my camera evaluation process? Dissecting a camera feature-by-feature does help isolate how each feature functions on its own. BUT...modern cameras are an amalgam of features - they're not JUST an image sensor or JUST an autofocus system or JUST a new control layout system. And sometimes you just have to shoot with a camera to get a feel for how all the new or updated features interact and how the camera performs "as a whole".

What was the most significant thing I learned about the D5 during this short encounter? This one was shot hand-held using the D5 paired up with the "new" Nikkor 400mm f2.8E super-telephoto plus a TC-20EIII (2x) teleconverter, for a total focal length of 800mm (and you're looking at the full-frame shot - no cropping). I always shoot in bursts of 2-4 shots with wildlife, and what absolutely blew me away during this session is that when I placed the focal point where I wanted it (right on the abscission scar of the antler between the eye and the ear) and shot the images the view through the viewfinder remained absolutely stable for each burst. After the last shot the focus point was in the EXACT spot it was when I began the burst. So NO between-frame jumping as so often is the case with Nikon VR systems (the VR was set to the smooth "Sport mode"). And almost unnoticeable mirror black-out between shots. Just a super-smooth, stable, and clear look at the subject during the whole time I was shooting. Of course, this is partly attributable to the VR system of the lens, but it's also partly attributable to the new "mirror driving mechanism" of the D5.

Nikon's marketing materials claim that this new mirror driving mechanism "...has significantly reduced blackout time, which ensures the continuity of viewfinder images, while also cutting image blur." They further state "These improvements result in stunning viewfinder visibility during continuous shooting...". OK - I have a highly advanced detector of marketing BS, but I have to say that this is one claim that is absolutely spot-on and, at least for me, it makes a significant difference in field-shooting. Seriously.

Advancements in ISO performance, autofocus systems, and other things like burst size or frame rate may catch the headlines, but often other less sexy features (in this case a new mirror-driving mechanism) can make a big difference in the overall camera experience and have a significant impact on camera performance in the field. And this short "shoot" really drove that point home for me.

Here's a higher resolution (2400 pixel) version of the shot for those wanting to see it a little better:

Greeting a New Day: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.2 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 images on this website, the subject(s) is/are fully wild and completely unconstrained. Besides the potential impact of my/our presence, nothing has been done to intentionally alter or affect the ongoing behavior of the subject and, of course, there has been no use of any form of bait or other form of wildlife attractants/luring devices (including vocalizations or other sounds).

Behind the Camera

Greeting a New Day. East Kootenays, BC. April 2, 2016.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 2200.

Nikon D5 paired with Nikkor 400mm f2.8E VR plus TC-20EIII (2.0x) teleconverter, for a total focal length of 800mm. Hand-held. VR on and in "Sport" mode.

1/800s @ f6.3; No compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Greeting a New Day. East Kootenays, BC. April 2, 2016.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Lightroom CC 2015.5 (ACR 9.5). Four raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing in exposure settings (0.8 stop total difference between the variants), shadow recovery, and noise reduction settings.

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2015. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the four output files from the raw converter, minor exposure tweaks, selective curves adjustment layers (x2), and final selective sharpening for web output.


Greeting a New Day. East Kootenays, BC. April 2, 2016.

Ten percent of the revenue generated by this image will be donated to Raincoast*.

Species Status in Canada**: Not listed as Endangered, Threatened, or as a Species of Special Concern.

The moose (Alces alces) is the largest living member of the deer family. They have a holarctic distribution, with most being found in Canada, Alaska, New England, Scandinavia, Latvia, Estonia, and Russia. Unlike most other members of the deer family moose tend to be solitary and don't form herds. They are an important part of the ecosystem in many northern forests. In many regions they are the primary food source for wolves and, because of this, in some regions the population density of moose is used to estimate wolf populations.

While the moose is not considered under any formal risk of extinction or extirpation on a broad geographic basis, since the 1990's moose populations have declined dramatically in much of temperate North America. The reason for the die-off is not fully understood and is likely a combination of factors, including heat stress caused by global warming, poaching, and possibly the northward expansion of warmer-weather parasites to which moose lack effective natural defenses against.

*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