Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Afternoon Sundog

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In the Field

Afternoon Sundog. Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory, Canadda. November 25, 2017.

In late 2017 I lead a photo tour up to Kluane National Park (in Canada's Yukon Territory) and Haines, Alaska. Our goal during the Kluane portion of the trip was to photograph beautiful white Dall's Sheep during their autumn rut. Unfortunately a day or two before we arrived a wolf pack arrived on the scene and killed at least one of the sheep and, more significantly to us, drove the rest of the sheep high up the mountain and into their preferred and safe escape terrain. We DID manage to get some interesting sheep shots, but we were treated to spectacular scenery that almost made up for the paucity of sheep! The cold temperatures and ice fog, combined with a perpetually low-on-the-horizon sun position, made for some jaw-dropping vistas.

In this scene the brilliant colour isn't a rainbow - it's one side of a sundog that is illuminating a distant ridge. A sundog (which is more formerly known as a parhelion) is an atmospheric optical phenomenon that usually consists of a bright spot to the left and right of the sun (and at the same altitude above the horizon as the sun). The two 'dogs most often flank the sun within a 22° halo and are caused by refraction of sunlight by ice crystals. In this shot you can see both snow and ice crystals being blown by high winds on the lower right portion of the sundog.

I captured this shot with a Nikon D850 camera paired up with the newest of Nikon's 70-200mm zooms - the 70-200mm f2.8E VR. At the time of this writing (4 January 2018) the "70-200mm wars" are heating up with several new models recently released into the market (or, in the case of the new Sigma 70-200, rumored to be released soon). While the latest Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 (the G2 version) is a very capable lens, the Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8E VR is nothing short of astonishing (as it should be given its lofty price!). Every aspect of its performance is cutting-edge, including sharpness across the entire frame (even on the D850), autofocus performance, and VR performance. I have a hard time recommending (or encouraging anyone to buy) a 70-200mm lens that costs close to twice that of its competition, but if you want the best performance possible there's no question in my mind that right now that's found in the Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8E VR. It will be more than a little interesting to see if Sigma does the expected and release their own updated 70-200mm f2.8 in the near future and, if they do, how it compares against the new reference standard (which is clearly the Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8E VR). When it comes to DSRL lenses I'm a firm believer that Sigma's ascension into the "top tier" of aftermarket lenses has added some very healthy competition to the market and has been beneficial to photographers of all stripes.

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this not-so-commonly-seen scene!

Afternoon Sundog: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 0.75 MB)


1. This image was captured during my "Kluane-Haines Explorer" Instructional photo tour in late autumn of 2017. 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 Dall Sheep, Bald Eagles, and more. Details about these trips can be found on the Photo Tours page of this website.

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!

Behind the Camera

Afternoon Sundog. Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory, Canadda. November 25, 2017.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 64.

Nikon D850 paired with Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8E VR at 200mm. Hand-held. VR on and in Sport mode.

1/640s @ f8; -1.0 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting

At the Computer

Afternoon Sundog. Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory, Canadda. November 25, 2017.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including all global and selective adjustments using Phase One's Capture One Pro 11. Selective local adjustments accomplished using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case adjustments were made on 5 separate layers and included local/selective editing of exposure, shadow retrieval, colour saturation and desaturation, clarity, and contrast (via a curves adjustment).

Photoshop adjustments were limited to image re-sizing, final sharpening for online display, and insertion of watermark.


Afternoon Sundog. Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory, Canadda. November 25, 2017.

Ten percent of the revenue generated by this image will be donated to The Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

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.