Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

The Stuff of Mouse Nighmares!

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In the Field

The Stuff of Mouse Nightmares! Interlake Region, Manitoba, Canada. March 3, 2014.

Put yourself in the position of a mouse - could anything be more terrifying than seeing THIS "flying head" - complete with its dagger-like talons - coming at you with one purpose in mind only? Yikes!

I captured this Great Gray Owl image during my Owls of Manitoba photo tour way back in March 2014 (yep, just a LITTLE behind in my image processing!). While this is definitely NOT the sharpest bird-in-flight (BIF) shot I've ever taken, I think (hope) it conveys the action, dynamism, and pure drama of the moment. So I guess I'm hoping that the lack of technical perfection on this shot is over-shadowed by a certain electricity! Was the owl successful on this attack? I'm certain it supplied its intended target with lots of material for a nightmare or two!

There IS one technical aspect of this shot worth discussing. Many folks are aware that one of the new features of Photoshop CC was the "Shake Reduction" filter. It was designed to do precisely what it sounds like - to remove shaking of the camera at the time of exposure. It functionally "looks" for the direction of the blur in images and attempts to cancel it out. When I looked at the raw form of this image it was incredibly blurred - including in the facial region. It dawned on me (quite slowly, as always), that the blurriness of this image was attributable to motion blur (this flight happened so fast and unexpectedly that I didn't have a chance to bump my shutter speed up) and consequently had a strongly directional component to it. So...I thought it was POSSIBLE that the Shake Reduction filter might be helpful in rescuing the image from its pending journey to my trash bin. took a fair amount of experimenting (with both the position and direction of the "blur traces" used by the filter), but I have to say it ended up doing an absolutely STUNNING job of bringing the image back into focus - it quite literally resurrected the image. I ended up selectively applying the filter to the facial region and talons only and while still NOT the sharpest image on the planet, I think the relative sharpness of the head (versus the rest of the image) makes it workable. Ya gotta love digital photography and the tools we have at our disposal these days...

Here's a higher resolution (2400 pixel) version of the image for those wishing to scrutinize it a little more thoroughly - and you can see clearly determine for yourself how NOT sharp this image really is!

The Stuff of Mouse Nightmares! 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 it (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 is fully wild and completely unconstrained. Besides the potential impact of my 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).

3. This image was captured during my "Owls of Manitoba" photo tour in early March of 2014. For details about all the photo tours I'm currently offering just check out my Photo Tours page.

Behind the Camera

The Stuff of Mouse Nightmares! Interlake Region, Manitoba, Canada. March 3, 2014.

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

Nikon D800e paired with Nikkor AF-S 80-400mm f4.5-5.6 VR @ 400mm - shot from car window. VR on in Normal mode.

1/400s @ f6.3; No compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

The Stuff of Mouse Nightmares! Interlake Region, Manitoba, Canada. March 3, 2014.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including first-pass/capture sharpening using Phase One's Capture One Pro. Two raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, differing by a total of 0.7 stops in exposure.

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2014. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the two output files from the raw converter, selective application of the Shake Reduction filter (to owl's facial region and talons), minor selective colour desaturation and desaturation, and selective sharpening for web output.


The Stuff of Mouse Nightmares! Interlake Region, Manitoba, Canada. March 3, 2014.

Species Status in Canada*: Not at risk.

The Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) is North America's largest (but not heaviest) owl. This rodent-eating specialist and resident of northern boreal foress shows a moderately strong preference for areas nears bogs and especially along forest edges. It is the only member of its genus to breed in both the old and new worlds.

While the Great Gray Owl is not considered to be at risk in Canada, timber harvest - and the subsequent removal of large diameter trees typically used for nesting, roosting, and hunting - can have great impact on their populations. In Manitoba (where this Great Gray was photographed) their preferred habitat may be threatened by forestry, peat extraction, and agriculture.

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