Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Madame Goat

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In the Field

Madame Goat. East Kootenays, BC, Canada. June 2, 2023.

I've always been partial to Mountain Goats, but over the years I haven't had many opportunities to photograph them. So in early June of 2023 I decided to change that and go "hunting" for them. Almost surprisingly I didn't have too much trouble tracking a couple of them down not too far from my home in the East Kootenays. Now in this case there happened to be a very big difference between initially finding them and then maneuvering into a good position to photograph them...a difference of about 2,000 vertical feet! Once I climbed up the steep and mostly "gravelly" high ridges to get them, they gave me 45 minutes or so of wonderful photo ops, making it well worth the effort and sweat to get to them. In our shared time I captured about 1000 images of them with my Z 8 and Z 800mm, and the cooperative white beasts gave me everything from tight portraits through to enviroscapes and animalscapes of them. Besides being a whole lot of fun, it was just an amazingly good "real-world test session" for the Z 8 & Z 800mm combo. My thanks are extended to the two very helpful bovids! And, by the way, this is the female of the pair...distinguishable by subtle differences in the horns (slightly narrower bases and with the curve occurring primarily near the tips as opposed to over the full length of the horns).

There's at least a couple of things about this image and the gear I used to capture it that are worth discussing. did the Z 8 do during this shooting session? Well...overall...extremely well. While I was grunting up the ridges to access the goats I didn't mind at all that the camera was almost a full pound (438 gm on my scales) lighter than my Z 9. But, on the flip side, while I was absolutely able to hand-hold the Z 800mm f6.3 with the Z 8 attached, I do have to admit that the Z 800mm - Z 9 combination is better balanced and thus handles better when shooting hand-held. And, I do prefer using vertical controls when shooting portrait format (i.e., vertical) images...though I have run into photographers who actually don't like using vertical controls. If I didn't already own two Z 9's I and depended solely on a Z 8 for my wildlife work I'd definitely add a MB-N12 battery pack (that has vertical controls) to it. Ironically, adding that battery pack/grip would make the Z 8 come in heavier than a Z 9 (but by only 17 grams)!

Second...why did I use single-point AF on this shot rather than an AF area mode featuring subject (and eye) detection? Was it because the subject-detection couldn't pick up the eyes? Nope...that's not the reason at ALL - the Z 8 had no problem finding and sticking to this nanny goat's eyes. The reason I used single-point AF area mode is because I did not WANT the focus on the eyes in this shot. Yes, of course I wanted the eyes in focus (and they are). BUT...I shot this image wide open (f6.3) and I was very close to the nanny, which meant I had a paper thin DoF. And I wanted ALL the critical bits sharp, meaning the nose tip, the hair along the snout, the eyes, and the horns. So, I had to focus on something that was half-way between the closest "critical bit" (the tip of the nose) and the most distant "critical bit" (the horns). So I toggled my single point AF "focus box" to about 1/2 way between the horns and the nose tip, which in this case meant just below that darker vertical line on the snout of the goat. Luckily, it appears that my guess of "where should I put the darned focus point?" worked out just about right...

While I do prefer my Z 9 over my Z 8 for "serious" wildlife photography, I think that any serious wildlife photographer who likes to shoot with two bodies (and the vast majority that I know DO shoot with two bodies) should really consider a Z 8/Z 9 combination. Not only can the two cameras be set up very similarly, but having one smaller, lighter option and one larger-but-more-full-featured option is really nice. I'm certainly not struggling to find a way to use both a Z 8 and a Z 9!

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

Madame Goat: Download 4800 pixel image (JPEG: 4.5 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

Madame Goat. East Kootenays, BC, Canada. June 2, 2023.

Lossless compressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 125.

Nikon Z 8 paired with Z Nikkor 800mm f6.3S. Hand-held. VR on in Sport mode. Single-point AF area mode.

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

At the Computer

Madame Goat. East Kootenays, BC, Canada. June 2, 2023.

Initial noise reduction and capture sharpening on the .nef (raw) file using the DeepPRIME XD algorithm of DXO PhotoLab 6.7 Elite.

Subsequent adjustments to the adjusted linear DNG file (exported from PhotoLab 6.7) 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 the only global adjustment was an overall contrast (i.e., levels) adjustment. Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case selective adjustments were made on 6 separate layers and almost all were under the general umbrella of "exposure balancing",with one or more highly targeted and selective tweaks to brightness (mid-tone exposure), clarity (mid-tone contrast), the highlights, blacks, and whites.

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


Madame Goat. East Kootenays, BC, Canada. June 2, 2023.

Canadian & IUCN Conservation Status*: Species of Least Concern.

The Mountain Goat (Oreamnos americanus) is a hoofed mammal found in mountainous areas of western North America. A subalpine to alpine species, it is a very sure-footed climber commonly seen on very steep cliffs and ice.

Both male and female Mountain Goats have beards, short tails, and long dark horns which often show yearly growth rings. They are protected from the elements by their woolly creamy-white double coats. The fine, dense wool of their undercoats is covered by an outer layer of longer, hollow hairs. These coats help them to withstand winter temperatures as low as -46C (-51F) and winds of up to 160 kilometres per hour (99 mph).

While many tend to think of Mountain Goats as a non-aggressive species, females (nannies) can be very competitive and protective of their space and food sources. They fight with one another for dominance in conflicts that can ultimately include all the nannies in the herd. These conflicts can occasionally lead to injury or death, but are usually harmless. Additionally, nannies will use their fighting abilities to protect themselves and their offspring from predators that can include wolves, wolverines, lynxes, bears, and mountain lions.

Those interested in learning more about Mountain Goats are encouraged to read "A Beast the Color of Winter" - a highly interesting and entertaining book by Doug Chadwick.

*as determined by COSEWIC (The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) and the IUCN (The Internation Union for Conservation of Nature - see