Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

A Little Back Talk

Availability: Undetermined - Enquiries?

Previous Gallery Next Gallery

In the Field

A Little Back Talk. Chilkat River, Alaska, USA. November 23, 2016.

Put eagles together in a group and invariably you get a lot of action. That action can take the form of physical interactions like dives at one another or even fights between birds, or something a bit more benign like mouthing off at one another! In this case, these two adult Bald Eagles were sitting calmly when a 3rd eagle flew directly over them (just out of view off the top of the frame) and set these two off in an extended bout of chattering. I liked how the eagle on the left kept calling as its eyes (and head!) followed the interloper as it flew overhead.

Anyone who has spent time shooting with me (or has attended any of my workshops or seminars where we discussed image capture techniques) knows that the thing I tend to be the MOST anal about when shooting is how the in- and out-of-focus zones are distributed in a shot. One of my least favourite things in almost any photo is the common phenomenon of having 3 distinct zones of focus - an out-of-focus foreground, an in-focus band (often in the "vertical middle" of the shot), and an out-of-focus background. There CAN be situations where this focus "banding" can work (in a creative sense), but more often than not it simply looks sloppy to me (and certainly doesn't mimic in any way how our visual system works in separating a subject from the background). Please note that I have absolutely NOTHING against (and often love) images with TWO zones of focus...which most often takes the form of a subject in focus with the background OUT of focus (it can also take the form of having BOTH the foreground and subject in focus, with the background pleasingly softened).

This shot (which I'd never describe as a potential award winner!) typifies what I try to achieve in the field. The tendency in dealing with a scene like this (and when using a super-telephoto this case a 500mm lens on a D500 for an EFL of 750mm) is to open the aperture quite wide open to soften the background as much as possible. Normally the photographer is thinking only about isolating (or separating) the subject from the background. In this case if I had shot at f4 through about f5.6 I COULD have softened the background more, but odds are my foreground would have gone blurry and we'd be back to the 3 zones of focus (which - at least in my opinion - would have been less visually appealing). Instead, I intentionally stopped down to f8 and lowered the subjects in the frame a little to include a BIT less foreground...all with the intention of gong from 3 to 2 zones of focus (i.e., a focused foreground and subjects and a single out-of-focus zone behind the birds).

Anyway...just a little food for thought...and an effort to get you thinking about the topic of how you distribute your out-of-focus zones in a shot! ;-)

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this proud pair:

A Little Back Talk: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.0 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. This image was captured while sussing out a new area for possible inclusion in a future photo tour. As of this writing (January 18, 2017) it is LIKELY that it will be added to the 2017 Photo Tour schedule - final decision will be made by the end of April 2017. Keep an eye on the Photo Tours page of this website for more details...

3. 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 or sounds).

Behind the Camera

A Little Back Talk. Chilkat River, Alaska, USA. November 23, 2016.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 1250.

Nikon D500 paired with Nikkor 500mm f4G VR (for an EFL of 750mm). Hand-held. VR on and in "Normal" mode.

1/400s @ f8; +1.67 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

A Little Back Talk. Chilkat River, Alaska, USA. November 23, 2016.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 10.0. Four raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing in exposure settings (0.67 stop total difference between the variants), noise reduction settings, and shadow recovery 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 exposure tweaks, and final selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


A Little Back Talk. Chilkat River, Alaska, USA. November 23, 2016.

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

Species Status in Canada*: This species is not designated as at risk. The Bald Eagle was listed as "Endangered" in the contiguous US states from 1967 to 1995. In 1995 it was downlisted to "Threatened". On June 28, 2007 Bald Eagles were removed from the list of endangered and threatened species - a true American conservation success story.

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is a very large bird of prey with broad wings. Adults possess characteristic white ("bald") heads. It takes Bald Eagles a full five years to attain their characteristic adult plumage (including their nearly pure white head and tail). In the years prior to the development of their adult plumage they are easy to confuse with Golden Eagles. Being very broad-winged Bald Eagles are able to use an energy-efficient flapping-soaring style of flight. While many people like to think of the Bald Eagle as a fierce hunter, in reality they hunt only as a last resort. More commonly they scavenge for their prey. Additionally, they often klepto-parasitize other weaker species such as Osprey, commonly stealing the other species hard-earned prey items. The Bald Eagle is, of course, the national emblem of the United States (Benjamin Franklin argued against this - his preference was for the Wild Turkey).

While Bald Eagles are currently not under the threat of extinction, they do, of course, require suitable breeding habitat to continue to thrive. The Raincoast Conservation Society (and Foundation) is an effective and efficient organization that has been fighting for protection of one of Canada's most unique ecosystems - The Great Bear Rainforest. 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