Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Blackfish Sound, BC

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In the Field

Blackfish Sound, BC. Northern Vancouver Island Region, BC Canada. August 14, 2017.

I captured this scene of a Humpback Whale diving deep in one of my favourite places - an area wedged between northern Vancouver Island and the BC mainland that is known as Blackfish Sound. This scene is just so typical of what you see there - the diversity and absolute abundance of marine wildlife is just stunning, the backdrops are to die for, and commonly the "sea state" is just what you see here. As a lover of animalscape shots (and the scenery that leads to them) Blackfish Sound is simply pure Nirvana for me!

In this shot the tail of the Humpback (along with the hitch-hiking barnacles on the tips of the flukes) is the main subject or the "visual anchor". The supporting cast and elements includes both Common Murres and Rhinoceros Auklets along with the coast of mainland BC.

Like many, when Nikon introduced their latest 70-200mm f2.8 zoom lens (the 70-200mm f2.8E VR) I was stunned by the high price. In Canada it was going for around $3599 CAD (which is where it is still sitting). That's getting close to super-telephoto pricing! For a 70-200?? Well...I made the big mistake of testing one out (against the VERY competent Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 G2). Early on in my testing of the lens I was totally sold - the Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8E VR is incredible optically (for a zoom), has a great AF system, great VR system, and is built like a pro lens. And...probably one of its greatest features is that it has a VERY HIGH "can't miss" factor (something that few lenses really have). To me this means that all of its components combine in a way such that as long as I point it at something interesting (which isn't always so easy!), the images are almost always keepers.

I've heard some describe the Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8E VR as a lens that is as good as "a whole bunch of prime lenses." Do I agree with this? is arguably the best zoom lens I have ever owned, but I have some pretty amazing prime lenses in the 70-200mm range that DO outperform it. Some outperform it by only a little (e.g., the Nikkor 85mm f1.4G prime lens), while others outperform it by quite a bit (e.g., the Sigma Art 85mm f1.4). But...given its overall "close-to-prime" optical performance and its extremely useful and convenient focal range this lens is making me say something I thought I'd never say about it: For me it is actually worth the crazy price!

Will I end up saying the same thing about the even CRAZIER priced Nikkor 180-400mm f4E TC1.4 zoom lens? To be honest, I doubt it. But never say never - right? ;-)

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this spectacular BC scene for your perusal:

Blackfish Sound, BC: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1 MB)


1. This image was captured during my "Humpback, Sea Lions & More" Marine Mammals photo tour in the summer of 2017. 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 locations to capture other highly sought-after subjects, such as various boreal owl species and wildlife of Canada's Arctic. Details about these trips can be found on the Photo Tours page of this website.

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 photographs on this website, this image was captured following the strict ethical guidelines described in The Wildlife FIRST! Principles of Photographer Conduct. I encourage all wildlife photographers to always put the welfare of their subjects above the value of their photographs.

Behind the Camera

Blackfish Sound, BC. Northern Vancouver Island Region, BC Canada. August 14, 2017.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 400.

Nikon D500 paired with Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8E VR at 200mm. Hand-held. VR on and in Sport mode.

1/1250s @ f6.3; +0.67 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Blackfish Sound, BC. Northern Vancouver Island Region, BC Canada. August 14, 2017.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including all global and selective adjustments, using Phase One's Capture One Pro 11. Selective local adjustments accomplished using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case adjustments were made on 5 separate layers and included local/selective editing or application of exposure, contrast (via a curves adjustment) and both minor highlight retrieval and shadow recovery.

Photoshop adjustments were limited to image re-sizing, conversion of Prophoto RGB colour gamut (to sRGB), final sharpening for online display, and insertion of watermark.


Blackfish Sound, BC. Northern Vancouver Island Region, BC Canada. August 14, 2017.

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