Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

The Focused Fisherman

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In the Field

The Focused Fisherman. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), BC, Canada. October 15, 2015.

I opportunistically captured this image of a Belted Kingfisher fully focused on watching the water's surface while we were exploring a new (to us) coastal inlet in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest. I consider Kingfishers among the smartest of birds - they're the only birds I know that have the ability to look at photographers from a distance, assess the gear in their hands, and pick the EXACT right time to fly off in order to deprive EVERYONE in the group - including those with the longest telephoto lenses - of the perfect shot! In this case I decided to get cagey - I slipped a cropped sensor camera AND a teleconverter onto my 400mm lens before we moved in on this bird. So...instead of pointing a "true" 400mm lens at this bird I was actually using the equivalent of an 840mm lens. Apparently my guile paid off - this bird stayed still and didn't fly off until we got to about the distance you would have needed to be if shooting a 400mm lens! Small victory perhaps, but I gotta take 'em whenever I can!

Kidding aside, I do find Kingfishers to be fascinating birds. Their dramatic head-first plunges into lakes, rivers, and even oceans to capture their prey is a stunning behavior to observe. And, at times they DO almost seem to have a second sense about how close you need to get to them to photograph them - I don't know how many times they've decided to vamoose a millisecond before I snapped the shutter. As they fly away - often giving their rat-a-tat-tat-tat call - they almost seem to be taunting you! Another interesting thing about Kingfishers is that they exhibit something biologists called "reversed sexual dimorphism" with the female exhibiting more striking colors (in the form of a bold rusty lower breast band) than the males. In fact, I may get flak from some for the title I've given to this image - close examination of this image shows the beginning of a rusty band and may well be a juvenile female (likely in its first autumn).

On the technical side, I tend to prefer Nikon's full-frame (FX) cameras over their cropped sensor (DX) bodies for wildlife photography. Of course most wildlife photographers - including me - like the idea of the "extra reach" of the DX bodies, but as one who often shoots in low light environments I place more emphasis on ISO performance over absolute reach in choosing my gear. And, of course, most FX bodies (with their "almost-always" greater pixel pitch) outperform their DX "cousins" in low-light performance. Moreover, Nikon has chosen to place their DX sensors in non-professional bodies which means a number of the camera's features are a bit substandard for professional use (including build quality, environmental sealing and durability, and autofocus performance). My own experience is that even the DX "flagship" (currently the D7200) struggles a BIT with AF performance when paired with some of the biggest Nikkor telephoto lenses. However, I have found that the D7200 pairs up (and performs) very well with the Nikkor 400mm f2.8E VR lens, even if a 1.4x teleconverter is added to the mix. Because of this I often carry a D7200 body in my field kit for those instances where I need to get to 600mm (or, in this case, to 840mm) in order to get the shot I want (when, of course, I have sufficient light to shoot at about ISO 2500 or below).

Here's a higher-resolution (2400-pixel) version of this sassy fisherman (fisherperson?) for your perusal and downloading pleasure:

The Focused Fisherman: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.7 MB)


1. 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!

2. Like all wildlife images on this website, the subject(s) is/are fully wild and completely unconstrained. Besides the potential impact of my/our presence, nothing has been done to intentionally alter or affect the ongoing behavior of the subject and, of course, there has been no use of any form of bait or other form of wildlife attractants (including vocalizations).

3. This image was captured during my autumn "Into the Great Bear Rainforest" photo tour in October of 2015. Each year I offer trips into two different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well as one to photograph marine mammals and oceanscapes near the northern tip of Vancouver Island. And, in selected years, I also offer photo tours to locations to capture other highly sought-after subjects, such as various boreal owl species and wildlife of Canada's Arctic. Details about these trips can be found on the Photo Tours page of this website.

Behind the Camera

The Focused Fisherman. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), BC, Canada. October 15, 2015.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 2500.

Nikon D7200 paired with Nikkor 400mm f2.8E VR plus TC-14EIII (1.4x) teleconverter (producing an EFL of 840mm). Hand-held from floating Zodiac inflatable boat. VR on and in "Sport" mode.

1/1000s @ f5.6; -1.0 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

The Focused Fisherman. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), BC, Canada. October 15, 2015.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 8. Three raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing in exposure (0.33 stop total difference between the variants) and in noise reduction settings.

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2015 and Light Crafts Lightzone. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the three output files from the raw converter, minor exposure tweaks, and final selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


The Focused Fisherman. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), BC, Canada. October 15, 2015.

Ten percent of the revenue generated by this image will be donated to Raincoast*.

Species Status in Canada**: Not currently listed as Threatened or Endangered.

Despite being very widely distributed in North America, the Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) remains quite poorly studied. They ARE well-named - the bulk of their diet is fish, but they do also feed on other aquatic animals including crayfish. Most kingfisher migrate, with some wintering as far south as northern South America.

Many species of birds have faired poorly in their interactions with humans. Kingfishers may be a bit of an exception to this "rule" - in at least some areas the digging of sand and gravel pits by humans (some of which fill with water) have provided suitable habitat for nesting sites for Kingfishers (they excavate nesting burrows near their fishing territories).

*The Raincoast Conservation Society (and Foundation) is an effective and efficient organization that has been fighting for protection of this unique habitat. If you are looking for a meaningful way to contribute to the conservation of this amazing ecosystem, Raincoast will provide maximal "bang" for your conservation dollars.

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