Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Marley in Action

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In the Field

Marley in Action. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. January 1, 2023.

I love photographing dogs as "proxies" for wildlife, especially when I'm testing out the autofocus systems of new lenses or cameras. If you want to know how a particular camera/lens combination will perform when shooting high-speed action, nothing beats using an energetic pup as a subject!

In this shot a friend's dog (code-named Marley) is in a full sprint coming directly at me while tossing her "ball of doom" around in her mouth. This is just one shot of a couple thousand I shot on New Year's day in 2023 while comparing the autofocus performance of the new Z 600mm f4 TC VR S lens (both at 600mm and 840mm...i.e., with its built-in TC engaged) against that of the Z 800mm f6.3S. This particular shot was captured with the Z 800mm f6.3S.

In a previous image commentary I have discussed the incredible image quality of the Z 600mm f4S when shooting static subjects with its built-in TC engaged (so at 840mm). In fact, in my testing I found that from an optical perspective the Z 600mm f4S shot with its built-in TC engaged produced very slightly sharper images of static subjects than the Z 800mm f6.3S. I also discussed (in another image commentary) how the Z 600mm f4S was amazingly effective in capturing action when shot at 600mm. Some may take these two separate findings and conclude that the Z 600mm f4S shot with its built-in TC (840mm) is an overall "better" 800mm-ish option than the Z 800mm f6.3S. Whoa! Not so fast!

This image of Marley - along with a whole bunch of others from the same session - demonstrated something very interesting: When capturing fast action in the 800mm range the Z 800mm f6.3S produced a higher hit rate of tack sharp images than the Z 600mm f4S with its built-in TC engaged. Said another way - I am experiencing slightly (but measurably) better AF performance when capturing fast action with the Z 800mm f6.3S than with the Z 600mm f4S with its built-in TC engaged. Don't get me wrong...the Z 600mm f4S has VERY effective AF when shot with its TC engaged, but it's just not quite as effective as that of the Z 800mm f6.3S.

SO...while the Z 600mm f4S (shot with its built-in TC engaged) has a very slight advantage in sharpness and bokeh over the Z 800mm f6.3S when shooting static subjects, when the action "heats up" the advantage (at least in terms of ratio of tack-sharp images) reverses over to the Z 800mm f6.3S! Keep in mind that I am splitting hairs a little here and in reality BOTH lenses do both things (shooting sharp images of static subjects AND capturing action) pretty darned well!

Here's a larger version (4800 pixel) of Marley enjoying dog life:

Marley in Action: Download 4800 pixel image (JPEG: 3.2 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

Marley in Action. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. January 1, 2023.

Lossless compressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 1800.

Nikon Z 9 paired with Z Nikkor 800mm f6.3S. Hand-held. VR on in Sport mode. Wide-area S area mode with subject detection on (in Animal mode).

1/4000s @ f6.3; +0.7 stop compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Marley in Action. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. January 1, 2023.

Initial noise reduction and sharpening on the .nef (raw) file using the DeepPRIME XD algorithm of DXO PhotoLab 6 Elite.

Subsequent adjustments to the adjusted linear DNG file (exported from PhotoLab 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. Global adjustments to this image included a tweak to overall contrast using the Levels tool. Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case selective adjustments were made on 2 separate layers and most were under the general umbrella of "exposure balancing", with one or more selective tweaks to brightness (mid-tone exposure), blacks, clarity (mid-tone contrast), highlights, and the whites.

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


Marley in Action. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. January 1, 2023.

Species Status in Canada: Not Applicable (by all accounts dogs are not in any way endangered in Canada).