Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Coming and Going

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In the Field

Coming and Going. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), Canada. October 4, 2016.

Those who have spent a decade or more in BC's famous Great Bear Rainforest have witnessed an amazing conservation success story - the return (in huge numbers) of the Humpback Whale. Ten to fifteen years ago seeing a single humpback in the sheltered inlets and channels of the Great Bear gave one cause to cheer and exchange high-fives. In late September and early October of 2016 we saw HUNDREDS of humpbacks, and when I captured this image we had between 15 and 20 around our boat. What a spectacular experience! I don't know if anyone could definitively state if the humpback's total numbers are up that much or if they have just moved into this region after almost a hundred year near absence, but the whales of the Great Bear are becoming a huge draw (along with those "kinda interesting" Spirit Bears! ;-)

Photographing any whale from above the surface of the water is challenging. With humpbacks you generally have the opportunity to capture 4 different types of behaviors: blows (as they surface), tails (as they initiate a deep dive), breaches (when they spectacularly jump out of the water), and a bubble-netting and/or lunge-feeding. In 2016 we were privileged to see and photograph ALL of these behaviors over the course of two weeks.

This shot came together as we were watching a whole whack (they were dispersed enough that it wouldn't be accurate to call it a pod) of whales at varying distance from our boat. We had brilliant sunshine at the time and a group of about 8 whales swam away from us into the distance and into a strongly backlit scene. I saw this whale blow in the near perfect position for someone like me who likes to use leading lines when positioning their subject in a frame. When the blow slowly drifted away and the whale decided to dive deep and show its tail I was nearly ecstatic - it was the first time I've ever been able to capture evidence of a whale "Coming and Going" in a single frame. To have the whale do it with dramatic backlighting and in the perfect position relative to the sloping headlands...well...for me that was wildlife photography nirvana!

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this Great Bear (Great Whale?) scene:

Coming and Going: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 0.8 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 during one of my autumn "Into the Great Bear Rainforest" photo tours in 2016. Each year I offer trips into two different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well as one to photograph marine mammals and oceanscapes near the northern tip of Vancouver Island. And, in selected years, I also offer photo tours to additional locations to capture other highly sought-after subjects, such as various boreal owl species, fishing grizzlies, and more. Details about these trips can be found on the Photo Tours page of this website.

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).

Behind the Camera

Coming and Going. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), Canada. October 4, 2016.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 250.

Nikon D5 paired with Sigma Sport 150-600mm zoom @ 600mm. Hand-held from sailboat. OS on and in "Mode 1".

1/1000s @ f8; -0.67 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Coming and Going. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), Canada. October 4, 2016.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 9.3. Two raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing only in exposure settings (0.25 stop total difference between the variants).

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2015. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the two output files from the raw converter, selective contrast adjustment (using 3 curves adjustment layers), and final selective sharpening for web output.


Coming and Going. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), Canada. October 4, 2016.

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

Species Status in Canada**: Threatened - North Pacific population (May 2003).

Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeagnliae) are active, acrobatic whales that can throw themselves completely clear of the water (a behaviour known as breaching) and will swim on their backs with both flippers in the air. Humpbacks are large (up to 14m - or 46 feet - in length and 40 tonnes in weight) and with huge flippers.

Humpbacks are found in tropical, temperate, and sub-polar waters around the world. They are found on both the east and west coasts of North America. The North Pacific population has been estimated at between 6,000 and 8,000 individuals, but only a few hundred of these are found in the waters off the coast of British Columbia.

While Humpbacks are recovering from the damage done to their populations by commercial fishing, the are still subject to a variety of threats from human activities, including becoming entangled in fishing nets, noise and chemical pollution and habitat destruction.

*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