Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Welcoming the Spring Melt

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In the Field

Welcoming the Spring Melt. Southwest Yukon Territory, Canada. April 1, 2017.

When you spend your entire life on a wind-swept subarctic mountain it must be a relief when the temperatures break the freezing mark and the snow begins to recede. But, then again, maybe that's just my biased human perspective - perhaps this young Dall ram is thinking " am I going to survive the next 5 months of scorching heat?" ;-)

This scene - and this shot - was an unexpected bonus. We had spotted a group of male Dall Sheep from several kilometers away and hiked in to photograph them. Given the nature of the terrain we were pretty sure we had found - and were working with - the entire group of rams. Seconds before I captured this image I was pointed in the opposite direction working with the other males using my D500 and a long lens (my Sigma 500mm f4 Sport). I heard someone whisper "Brad...turn around" and I saw this young ram RIGHT behind me. As it turned out, two additional rams (including the one in this shot) had come down from high on the mountain while we were working with the others (presumably to join them). Anyway...very fortunately I was "wearing" a shorter focal length setup (my D5 and 70-200mm f4 VR) and was able to quickly pull it out of its holster and nab this shot. Sometimes you just get lucky!

This is the type of shot I think of as an "Enviroscape" - a shot where you show the animal in its preferred and almost "diagnostic" habitat (Habitatoscape might be a technically more accurate term, but just doesn't roll off the lips well!). Capturing good animalscapes and good enviroscapes can be really tough - and most wildlife photographers have to almost "de-program" themselves out of the "closer is better" mindset before they can even SEE good enviroscape and animalscape scenarios setting themselves up in the field. You can read more about the details and considerations in capturing animalscapes and enviroscapes right here...

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this proud young ram...

Welcoming the Spring Melt: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 0.9 MB)


1. This image was captured while scouting an area for possible inclusion in a future photo tour. Long story short, we liked what we saw and experienced (a LOT)! We are hoping to include this location in photo tours as early as late 2017. Those who think they might be interesting in joining us should contact me at and I will forward details to you as they become available. But please note that this trip should only be considered by those that are highly mobile, in good physical condition, and are willing to "pay the price" (physically!) to capture some pretty unique wildlife photos!

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 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/luring devices (including vocalizations or other sounds).

Behind the Camera

Welcoming the Spring Melt. Southwest Yukon Territory, Canada. April 1, 2017.

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

Nikon D5 paired with Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f4 VR zoom at 200mm. Hand-held. VR On and in Normal mode.

1/1600s @ f6.3; -0.33 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Welcoming the Spring Melt. 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 (0.5 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, very minor exposure tweaks, and final selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


Welcoming the Spring Melt. 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 imminent if hunting practices are not radically changed or completely suspended.

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