Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Float Like a Butterfly...

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In the Field

Float Like a Butterfly... Northern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 21, 2022.

While the stars of the show on my Great Bear Rainforest photo tours (including my Khutzeymateen Grizzlies photo tours) are commonly bears, we almost always have a lot of other subject matter to "play with". Often Bald Eagles are co-stars on the trip - after all, what wildlife photographer can turn down shots of eagles perched in stunning moss-laden trees or when in flight? ;-)

This image was captured during our Khutzeymateen Explorer photo tour - a new trip I added to our photo tour program in 2022. I shot a lengthy sequence of shots of this eagle, and this one where the eagle is looking downward and floating almost like a butterfly (any Ali fans still out there?) was one of my favorites.

During my spring photo tours in 2022 I experimented extensively with the 20 new (at the time) custom wide-area modes that were provided with the Z 9's firmware 2.0 update. One pattern that I found worked really well in a variety of shooting situations on this trip was wide-area 13x3, which provides you with a wide but quite narrow focus box. I successfully used this pattern to photograph marine mammals (Harbour Seals, Sea Otters, Killer Whales, Stellar Sea Lions), swimming bears, and several species of flying birds (including this eagle image). Of course, no single wide-area pattern will be optimal for all shooting scenarios. Which, I suppose, is why Nikon just gave us 20 more of them (plus the original 2 wide-area modes).

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

Float Like a Butterfly... Download 4800 pixel image (JPEG: 3.0 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.

3. This image was captured during one of my "Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen" photo tours in the spring of 2022. Each year I offer trips into two different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well as one to photograph aquatic mammals and oceanscapes on the northern and west coasts of Vancouver Island. Details about these trips can be found on the Photo Tours page of this website.

Behind the Camera

Float Like a Butterfly... Northern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 21, 2022.

Lossless compressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 1800.

Nikon Z 9 paired with Nikkor Z 400mm f2.8 TC VR S @ 560mm (built-in TC engaged). Hand-held from floating Zodiac. VR on in Sport mode. Wide-area custom AF area mode (13x3) with subject recognition on (in Animal mode).

1/2500s @ f5; no compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Float Like a Butterfly... Northern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 21, 2022.

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 22. Global adjustments made to this image include tweaks to the exposure, highlights, and brightness (mid-tone exposure). 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 included one or more tweaks to contrast (via a Levels adjustment), clarity, blacks, whites, and highlights.

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


Float Like a Butterfly... Northern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 21, 2022.

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