Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Dall Dreamin'

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In the Field

Dall Dreamin'. Southwest Yukon Territory, Canada. April 1, 2017.

Sometimes working hard for something makes it that much sweeter when you finally get it. That's certainly the case with this photo. Dall sheep are a northern species found in some pretty rugged terrain - think mountain, think steep, think cold, think rocky! This ram was with a same-sex group that included several others and we had spotted them from the valley bottom. To access them we had to hike a little over 5 kilometers on a snowy, uphill trail while carrying a whole lot of gear...and once we reached them we had to work on steep and slippery slopes. So...definitely not a shot from the "out the car window" genre of photography!

After alerting the rams to our presence and waiting for them to accept us our small group moved a little closer to them. This handsome ram was sitting on ridge with the white, snow-covered valley (the background in this shot) far below. The ram was on exposed rock, but there was band of snow on the ground between us. I had an unobscured view of the ram, but thought that going low (as in "laying on the ground") could produce a "dreamy" out-of-focus white foreground if I shot "through" the snowbank. For what seemed forever (but was probably only 10 minutes!) the ram looked around (mostly into the distance) and, while I shot many shots with its eyes open, I was hoping it would close its eyes and grab a few winks. Finally it nodded off, and gave me the peaceful, "dreaming" (and dreamy) shot I was hoping for. And, in this case, the light helped me out a me lots of detail and texture to work with. Sometimes everything goes right (and it feels all that much better if you physically worked hard for the shot).

There's nothing wrong with roadside wildlife photography (assuming you behave in a fashion that's safe for the subject and for yourself), but I have to say my own preference is to get "far from the madding crowd" when I'm creating my own images.

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this Dall Dreamer that shows some pretty scrumptious detail...

Dall Dreamin': Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 0.6 MB)


1. The "dreamy" effect in this image was created fully in-camera (i.e., optically) using a super-telephoto lens (in this case a Sigma 500mm f4 Sport lens on a Nikon D500 camera) - not by digital manipulation. The digital corrections performed on the image were limited to minor exposure tweaks and exposure balancing.

2. 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!

3. Like all wildlife photographs on this website, this image was 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

Dall Dreamin'. Southwest Yukon Territory, Canada. April 1, 2017.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 100.

Nikon D500 paired with Sigma 500mm f4 Sport lens. Supported on Really Right Stuff TVC-24 tripod with an Acratech Long Lens Head. OS on and in "OS1" mode, with OS1 stabilization customized to Moderate View mode; AF customized to Fast Priority AF.

1/1600s @ f5.6; No compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Dall Dreamin'. Southwest Yukon Territory, Canada. April 1, 2017.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 10. Four raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing in exposure settings (0.33 stop total difference between the variants), shadow recovery, and highlight retrieval settings.

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2017 and Light Crafts Lightzone. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the four output files from the raw converter, minor selective curves (contrast) adjustment, and final selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


Dall Dreamin'. Southwest Yukon Territory, Canada. April 1, 2017.

Species Status in Canada*: Not listed as of Special Concern, Threatened, or Endangered.

The Dall Sheep (Ovis dalli) is a species of sheep native to northwestern North America. They inhabit the subarctic mountain ranges of Alaska, the Yukon Territory, the MacKenzie Mounntains in the Northwest Territories, and both central and northern British Columbia. The more southern form is known as the Stone Sheep and is slaty brown in colour with some white patches on the rump on the inside of the hind legs. Dall sheep are found in comparatively dry country and tend to be found in a unique combination of open alpine ridges, meadows, and steep slopes with extremely rugged ground (usually referred to as escape terrain) in the immediate vicinity. This escape terrain allows the sheep to escape from predators that can't travel as fast as these sure-footed sheep. The primary predators of Dall sheep include wolves, coyotes, black and grizzly bears and, during the lambing season, both golden eagles and wolverines.

While not technically endangered in Canada this Stone Sheep was photographed in the southwest portion of the Yukon Territory - and in this region poorly regulated and poorly managed hunting has reduced many local populations by over 50% compared to historical levels. In some populations local extirpation is likely if hunting practices are not radically changed or completely suspended.

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