Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Timber - New Year's Day Frolic

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In the Field

Timber - New Year's Day Frolic. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. January 1, 2023.

Meet Timber - a six-month old multi-pedigree pup that unknowingly but happily helped me test the autofocus (AF) performance of the Z 600mm f4S over the winter holiday season of 2022. Timber owns a human who is a friend of mine and another keen photographer, so it didn't take much convincing by me to get him to bring Timber (and Marley...another fine multi-pedigree pup) to my place so we could shoot a whole bunch of action sequences of the two dogs!

Assessing the effectiveness of a lens's AF system in capturing action shots is hard to do in a quantitative way that yields hard data that has true relevance to field shooting. On this fine New Year's day I shot sequence after sequence of both Timber and Marley in full snowy sprints using both the Z 600mm f4S (at both 600mm and 840mm) and the Z 800mm f6.3S. One of the things that really stood out for me was the incredibly high hit rate of tack sharp shots when the Z 600mm f4S was shot at 600mm. This image is one such example of what I mean (and a much larger version is available for your perusal using the link below). And, this image was shot at f4, so absolutely wide open...which means this image has an incredibly thin DoF (so ANY miss in focus would be glaringly apparent). But, while reviewing the images of this shooting session I was blown away by how many (like virtually ALL) of the 600mm images were just biting sharp (and perfectly focused). Have I ever seen another lens that yielded such a high hit rate of perfectly focused action shots? Yep, but only one - the Z Nikkor 400mm f2.8S when shot @ 400mm on a Z 9.

One final point on this shot and on judging AF performance of a lens. AF performance is, of course, a function not only of the lens you are shooting, but the entire AF system "chain", including the camera used. This image was captured using a Nikon Z 9 with firmware 3.01 and was shot using the Wide-Area S AF area mode with subject detection on and set to "Animal". Note that one of the changes in Z 9 firmware 3.0 was an improvement to image tracking when using any of the Wide-area modes and, at least subjectively, it seems to me that this AF improvement was both real and noticeable. Which means comparing the hit rates of in-focus shots taken with the Z 600mm on a Z 9 with firmware 3.01 and when using a Wide-area AF are mode to those of another lens using a Z 9 with firmware prior to version 3.0 is of questionable worth. But even with this proviso I can still say is this: If you're shooting action using a Z 9 with current firmware and the Z 600mm f4S @ 600mm you'll NOT be disappointed one bit in the resulting AF performance! ;-)

Here's a larger version (4800 pixel) of Timber in action:

Timber - New Year's Day Frolic: 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

Timber - New Year's Day Frolic. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. January 1, 2023.

Lossless compressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 400.

Nikon Z 9 paired with Z Nikkor 600mm f4S @ 600mm. Hand-held. VR on in Sport mode. Wide-area S area mode with subject detection on (in Animal mode).

1/4000s @ f4; no compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Timber - New Year's Day Frolic. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. January 1, 2023.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF file (and JPEG files for web use), including all global and selective adjustments, using Phase One's Capture One Pro 23. Global adjustments made to this image were limited to a single tweak to 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 4 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.


Timber - New Year's Day Frolic. 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).