Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Just Pissed!

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In the Field

Just Pissed! Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast, Canada, BC, Canada. May 30, 2015.

While our views of the intelligence and the degree of both self-awareness and consciousness possessed by animals have liberalized over the years, there is still a feeling among some who study animal behavior that we should always avoid attributing human feelings or emotions to animals (i.e., we should consciously avoid anthropomorphizing). My own view is that balance is required - just like with humans, guessing motivation or the emotions behind an observed behavior can be tricky, but sometimes ignoring the obvious can pretty much blind us as to what we're observing...

This is a female grizzly who - if she was a human - would be described by other females with...uhhhh...perceived higher a bit of a tramp. You know, fun-loving and with kinda flexible morals. Over the course of 5 days we watched her pursue - and cavort with - any male (bear) that came by. And, we watched her chase a number of other females away from "her" males (defined as any male who came within the zone over which she could sense his presence!).

So what's going on here? Well...turns out she couldn't protect ALL her males from ALL the other females ALL the time - and here's she's watching one of her boys messing around with another female. And, while it may be anthropomorphic to say this, she sure the heck does not look even remotely happy about the situation. One could even say she looks...well...just pissed! But let's not get anthropomorphic here - right? ;-)

This image was first posted on this website only days after Nikon announced the update of two of their super-telephoto lenses - the 500mm f4 VR and the 600mm f4 VR. Shortly after that announcement was made, I started receiving a lot of emails asking me which of the three "new" E versions I would recommend for individual users. Of course, every photographer is different and the variables (and weighting of the variables) that impact on the answer to the "which super-telephoto to buy?" question varies between users. One of the many variables to consider - especially for those looking to get "beyond 600mm" in focal length - is how well each of the lenses pairs up with teleconverters. My personal experience is that exceptional optical quality and the f2.8 maximum aperture of the 400mm f2.8 VR (BOTH the new "E" version AND the older "G" version) results in that lens performing superbly with Nikon's 1.4x (version II or version III) and 2x (version III ONLY) teleconverters. This shot, as an example, was captured with the 400mm f2.8E VR paired with the 2x TC-20EIII teleconverter, resulting in a very usable "faux" 800mm f5.6 lens (in this case it was paired up with a Nikon D4s and shot hand-held from a floating zodiac). So...if you choose the 400mm f2.8E VR and buy a few teleconverters, you end up with an unbelievably good 400mm f2.8 lens, a 550mm f4 VR lens that compares favourably to BOTH the 500mm f4 VR and the 600mm f4 VR, and a highly usable 800mm f5.6 VR!

I'm not saying the 400mm f2.8E VR is the right super-telephoto for everyone, but its excellent performance with teleconverters means that it gives wildlife photographers a lot of good options in a field setting. So don't forget to keep "...real world usability with teleconverters" in mind when choosing your new super-telephoto!

Some might enjoy seeing a larger version of this shot - so here's a 2400-pixel version for your perusal:

Just Pissed! Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.9 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 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 one of my two spring "Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen" photo tours in May/June of 2015. Each year I offer trips into two different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well as one to photograph aquatic 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.

Behind the Camera

Just Pissed! Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast, Canada, BC, Canada. May 30, 2015.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 800.

Nikon D4s paired with Nikkor 400mm f2.8E VR plus TC-20EIII (2x) teleconverter (800mm total focal length). Hand-held from floating Zodiac, VR on and in "Sport" mode.

1/800s @ f8; no compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Just Pissed! Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast, Canada, BC, Canada. May 30, 2015.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 8. Two raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with a total of 0.4 stops in exposure difference over them (plus some small differences in highlight suppression between variants).

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2015 and Light Crafts Lightzone. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the two output files from the raw converter, minor selective exposure adjustments, and selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


Just Pissed! Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast, Canada, BC, Canada. May 30, 2015.

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

Species Status in Canada**: Special Concern (May 2002).

While Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos) are not technically listed as "Endangered" in Canada, they have been extirpated from most of their historical range. Grizzly Bears are far more sensitive to intrusion/disturbance in their habitat than are Black Bears and are being increasingly forced into marginal habitat by human encroachment. The Great Bear Rainforest along the central and northern coast of British Columbia is one of the last strongholds of the Grizzly Bear in Canada, and even this population is coming under increasing pressure.

Sadly, because this bear resides in BC, there's a very real chance that his life will be ended by a bullet. And, his heads will be cut off (leaving his carcasses to simply rot) so that they can be mounted and adorn the wall of some fearless trophy hunter (who will, no doubt, be cheered on by all the grasses, sedges and clams that will be saved from being so mercilessly eaten by this fearsome beast).

The debate about the trophy hunting of carnivores can be broken into 3 arguments: the ethical, the economic, and the ecological. The ethical argument for the trophy hunting of grizzlies in BC? On that one - just go back and look at this image and read the paragraph immediately above. The economic argument? Well, it's on even shakier grounds - not only does bear-watching in BC generate 11-15 times as much revenue as bear hunting (and employ 10-15 times as many people), but the revenue generated by bear hunting doesn't even cover the cost to the BC Gov't of managing the hunt itself - it's a net loss to the taxpayers of BC (all studies related to these economic claims can be supplied on request). The ecological argument? Yep, you guessed right - there isn't one. As a matter of fact, an increasing body of sound, peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown how the guild of carnivores at the TOP of the food chain are exceptionally important to the overall health of ecosystems - everything from ensuring continued biodiversity through to maximizing that amount of carbon dioxide the ecosystem can absorb (climate change consequences, anyone?).

So why does the trophy hunting of carnivores (and bears in particular) continue to exist in BC? Good question. Well, it sure isn't because of public support - just under 90% of British Columbians are against it. And many First Nations have banned it in their territories. Sadly, it appears that little more than the fact that a handful of elected officials (MLA's) in a few rural ridings fear the backlash from voters if they stand against trophy hunting is keeping trophy hunting alive.

Those wishing to get active in helping to stop the trophy hunting of carnivores in BC are encouraged to visit this page on Raincoast's website. And please help spread the word!

*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