Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Clark's Nutcracker - Sigma Sport 500mm f4

Availability: Undetermined - Enquiries?

Previous Gallery Next Gallery

In the Field

Clark's Nutcracker - Sigma Sport 500mm f4. Findlay Creek Drainage, BC, Canada. January 19, 2017.

I captured this image while testing two exceptional super-telephoto lenses - the Nikkor 500mm f4E VR and the Sigma Sport 500mm f4. This image was captured using the Sigma 500 paired with a Nikon D5 body.

I've found these two lenses to be virtual clones of one another optically. This image illustrates something that is very critical to me in a telephoto lens. Of course, it must be sharp...and there's no question that both of these lenses are crazy sharp. But, I pay almost as much attention to the quality of the out-of-focus zones (many refer to this as the lens's bokeh). Again, both of these lenses have great bokeh...and I haven't found ANY differences in the quality of the out-of-focus zones between the two lenses. This image illustrates something that separates a good prime lens from almost all (at least most I've used or tested!) zoom lenses - that when you stop the aperture down with a good prime lens (this image at f9) the out-of-focus zones STAY smooth and almost "buttery" in appearance. Most zooms, in contrast, show hints of jagged lines and almost appear "nervous" when you stop them down.

Why is this important? Well...the reality of shooting birds and/or small mammals (like squirrels) with a super-telephoto lens is that you have to stop down a fair amount to ensure you have enough depth of field (or DoF) to keep the critical areas on the subject in focus. And, when you do so you want those out-of-focus zones (and the transition to the out-of-focus zones) to stay smooth.

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this cocky member of the crow family for those who'd like to do a little pixel-peeping:

Clark's Nutcracker - Sigma Sport 500mm f4: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 0.9 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. 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

Clark's Nutcracker - Sigma Sport 500mm f4. Findlay Creek Drainage, BC, Canada. January 19, 2017.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 220.

Nikon D5 paired with Sigma Sport 500mm f4. Supported on Jobu Algonquin tripod with Jobu Heavy Duty MkIV gimbal head (with all tensioners loose). OS on and in "OS1" mode, with OS1 stabilization customized to Dynamic View mode. AF customized to Fast Priority AF.

1/400s @ f9; -0.33 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Clark's Nutcracker - Sigma Sport 500mm f4. Findlay Creek Drainage, BC, Canada. January 19, 2017.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 10. Three raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing in exposure settings (0.3 stop total difference between the variants), and both highlight 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 three output files from the raw converter and final selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


Clark's Nutcracker - Sigma Sport 500mm f4. Findlay Creek Drainage, BC, Canada. January 19, 2017.

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 Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) is a nosey and noisy member of the jay family and is found in coniferous forests in the mountains of North America. Clark's Nutcrackers feed primarily on pine seeds but show extreme flexibility in adapting to new food sources, including using bird feeders or robbing food from campgrounds.

This Clark's Nutcracker was photographed in the Columbia Valley of the East Kootenays. While this species is not currently considered at risk, it is vulnerable to habitat loss due to logging activities. Many ecosystems within the Columbia Valley face development pressure, including pressure from logging operations.

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