Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

The Thinker

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In the Field

The Thinker. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. June 24, 2005.

One of the first lessons you learn when studying animal behaviour is that it is dangerous to anthropomorphize (attribute human characteristics, qualities or emotions to nonhuman beings). You really have no idea what is going on in an animal's mind when you're watching it perform a specific behaviour. That being said, when I watched this dragonfly scratch it's chin, it was very hard not to think it was pondering its next move!

The critical technical issue in capturing this image was deciding how much of the dragonfly I wanted in sharp focus. I knew I wanted to have the entire head and forelegs (and their bristles) plus at least part of the wings in sharp focus. But I wanted the background to gradually fall-off and soften. So, I tried several different apertures and used my Depth of Field Preview button to assess the focus. In the end, I was forced to go with quite a small aperture in order to ensure that the critical parts of the dragonfly were in focus. If you enjoy macro photography, make sure you select a camera that offers a depth of field preview function. Without it, you're pretty much shooting blind!

Behind the Camera

The Thinker. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. June 24, 2005.

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

Nikon D2X with Nikon AF Micro 200 mm f/4 ED lens (300 mm equivalent with digital conversion factor) supported on Gitzo G2220 Explorer tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead. Sigma EM-140DG Macro flash.

1/100s @ f11; no compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting; balanced TTL flash exposure with -0.33 stop compensation on EM-140DG.

At the Computer

The Thinker. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. June 24, 2005.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including first-pass sharpening, exposure compensation, and tone curve adjustment, using Phase One's C1 Pro.

All further digital correction on 16-bit TIFF file using Adobe's Photoshop CS2, including selective saturation enhancement, and selective sharpening for web output.


The Thinker. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. June 24, 2005.

Species Status in Canada*: Currently none of Canada's dragonflies, damselflies or darners are considered at risk.

This large dragonfly was photographed in the Columbia Valley of the East Kootenays. While this species is not currently not considered at risk itself, many ecosystems within the Columbia Valley face development pressure, including pressure from logging operations. Wildsight is an effective conservation organization that protects biodiversity and promotes sustainable communities in Canada's Columbia and Rocky Mountains. Support for Wildsight, through donation or becoming a member, will help ensure that they remain effective in their efforts to conserve threatened or endangered species and ecosystems.

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