Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

 
Spring Sunset in Lavington Meadows

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In the Field

Spring Sunset in Lavington Meadows. Findlay Creek Region, East Kootenays, BC, Canada. May 9, 2015.

I make no claims to be a landscape photographer - while I probably have enough discipline and fastidiousness for the task, the reality is that I simply enjoy my time shooting wildlife so much that there's not really much of it left over for chasing landscapes! But, I will take advantage of a good scene when I pull a Forrest Gump and bump into one. On the evening I took this shot (not far from my home in the East Kootenays of BC), I had been photographing an Osprey and adult Bald Eagle duking it over the fishing rights to a large pond. When that action was done I turned to hike out of the area and was presented with this pleasant scene on a platter. At the time I had a single camera and single lens with me - and no tripod. The lens was the Sigma Sport 150-600mm zoom that I had recently acquired. Anyway - I thought "hmmm...why not give it a whirl on this scene" and I backed off the zoom to 165mm and shot this image hand-held. When I got home and downloaded the images and began scrutinizing them I was shocked and pleasantly surprised at the quality (the sharpness) of the hand-held "grab shot".

I have to admit that I've carried a bias against 3rd party lenses for decades. That bias was rooted in early experiences I had with some Tamron lenses that under-performed compared to my equivalent Nikkors. As I write this commentary I've just completed my image quality testing of the Sigma lens against several of my trusty Nikkor lenses - including the AF-S 80-400mm f4.5-5.6 VR, the 300mm f2.8 VRII, the 300mm f4 PF VR, the 400mm f2.8E VR, and the 600mm f4 VR. While I can find small differences in image quality and overall performance of the Sigma lens and the prime lenses listed above, they are incredibly small. And - to my surprise - with the exception of focus-tracking ability (where the Sigma 150-600 and the Nikkor 80-400 were in a dead heat), the Sigma "ultra zoom" out-performed the highly regarded Nikkor AF-S 80-400mm VR in all regards (image sharpness at all distances and focal lengths, bokeh quality, etc.).

To date, I haven't found a zoom lens that doesn't come with some form of compromise. And the Sigma lens has some too - it's certainly not svelte (but it's a whole lot more compact and light than a 600mm f4 prime!) and at f5 to f6.3 it's not the brightest lens on the planet to look through. But optically - wow...it's a shocker to me how well it performs!

Pixel-peeping a 2400 pixel version of this image will help give you feel for its detail and the sharpness of the lens. This image is full-frame horizontally with a sliver off the bottom and a larger crop off the top:

Spring Sunset in Lavington Meadows: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.8 MB)

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

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!

Behind the Camera

Spring Sunset in Lavington Meadows. Findlay Creek Region, East Kootenays, BC, Canada. May 9, 2015.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 400.

Nikon D750 paired with Sigma Sport 150-600mm lens @ 165mm. Hand-held with optical stabilization ON and in OS1 mode.

1/500 @ f7.1; No compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Spring Sunset in Lavington Meadows. Findlay Creek Region, East Kootenays, BC, Canada. May 9, 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, differing by a total of 1.5 stops in exposure (as well as differences in highlight and shadow retrieval between the variants).

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2014 and Light Crafts Lightzone. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the three output files from the raw converter, selective contrast control via a curves adjustment layer, selective colour saturation and desaturation, and selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.

Conservation

Spring Sunset in Lavington Meadows. Findlay Creek Region, East Kootenays, BC, Canada. May 9, 2015.

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

Species Status in Canada**: Not Applicable.

*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