Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Black Oystercatcher - Just Chillin'

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In the Field

Black Oystercatcher - Just Chillin'. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. 7 July 2019.

Black Oystercatchers are hip birds! They're found in rocky intertidal zones along the west coast of North America and they are very chatty and conspicuous (to say the least). What I personally find appealing about these birds is the subtle black-to-dark-brown transition from their head and breast to their back and flanks - and how this contrasts with their brilliant orange bills and eye rings (and those striking yellow eyes). And, if you approach them slowly they will allow close approach and remain relaxed in your presence (like this one obviously is!).

I captured this image using a wildlife gear combination that I am growing quite fond of - a Nikon Z7 paired with the Nikkor 500mm f5.6E PF telephoto lens. Yes...I know that many don't consider the Z7 a good wildlife camera and I am "going against the flow" by using it for wildlife, but as one who spends LONG hours hand-holding lenses (and hiking to remote locations) I REALLY like the size and weight of this gear combination. I readily admit that the Z7 is NOT Nikon's best offering for shooting extreme action, but I have two quick retorts to this rationale for discounting the Z7's value as a wildlife camera. First, how much wildlife photography can really be described as "extreme action?". Sure, there are SOME wildlife shooters that specialize in shooting birds in flight, but the vast majority do not. I shoot a LOT more action than many wildlife photographers I know, and most of my wildlife shooting is NOT of extreme action. Second...well...that's what a D5 is for (and why I shoot with one when action is likely to break out or if I don't have the light that a high resolution camera demands).

What about the 500mm f5.6E PF - do I ever find myself "missing" shooting with my Nikkor 500mm f4E or my Sigma Sport 500mm f4? Nope. The 500mm f5.6E is the sharpest of the bunch when each is shot wide open, and equally as sharp at f5.6 as the other two lenses. Autofocus is, as best as I can ascertain, FASTER than the larger and heavier f4 lenses. And, as a traveling wildlife photographer who does NOT employ a sherpa to carry my gear, I can not emphasize enough how much I appreciate the small size and low weight of the 500mm f5.6E PF.

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this subtle-yet-stunning jntertidal inhabitant!

Black Oystercatcher - Just Chillin': Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 0.85 MB)


1. This image was captured during our "Gwaii Haanas Explorer" photo tour in July of 2019. Each year we offer photo tours into several different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well trips to photograph marine mammals and oceanscapes in locations on Vancouver Island. And, in selected years, I also offer photo tours to locations to capture other highly sought-after subjects, such as Dall Sheep, Bald Eagles, and more. Details about these trips can be found on the Photo Tours page of this website.

2. 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!

3. Like all wildlife 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

Black Oystercatcher - Just Chillin'. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. 7 July 2019.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 500.

Nikon Z7 paired with Nikkor 500mm f5.6E PF prime lens. Hand-held from floating Zodiac. VR on and in Sport mode. Single Point Area AF mode.

1/1250s @ f5.6; No compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Black Oystercatcher - Just Chillin'. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. 7 July 2019.

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 12. Global adjustments to this shot included minor modifications to exposure and shadow detail. Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case adjustments were made on 7 separate layers and included local/selective editing of (or adjustment of) clarity, colour (via the colour editor), shadow detail, tone curve, and more!

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


Black Oystercatcher - Just Chillin'. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. 7 July 2019.

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

The Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani) is a highly conspicuous member of rocky intertidal communities along the west coast of North America. It is fully dependent on marine shorelines for its food and nesting. The Black Oystercatcher is a monogamous, long-lived bird and breeding pairs establish well-defined, composite feeding and nesting territories. They generally occupy the same territory year after year, often along gravel or rocky shorelines where intertidal prey are easily found. Pairs nest just above the high-tide line and use the intertidal zone to feed themselves and provision their chicks. Diets of adults and chicks consist mainly of molluscs; principally mussels and limpets (and, interestingly, not just oysters!).

Throughout its range the Black Oystercatcher is uncommon and patchily distributed. Western hemisphere population probably <11,000 individuals. Species is regularly recorded on only small numbers of Christmas Bird Counts in Alaska, British Columbia, California, Oregon, and Washington.

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