Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Sweet Dreamin'

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In the Field

Sweet Dreamin'. Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast, Canada. May 27, 2013.

While I tend to take my photography very seriously, there are times when ya just gotta have a little fun! This was one of those times.

Most wild animals sleep a lot, and that includes grizzly bears just after they've come out of their annual "big sleep" (hibernation). If they're not in breeding mode (and this sub-adult male - while quite large - still wasn't a breeder when this image was shot) bears in the spring mostly do two things - eat and sleep. This guy had been munching sedges and grasses along the edge of a channel in the Khutzeymateen estuary when he apparently decided he'd had enough food and it was time to spend a little quality time snoozing. And, by the look on his face, it seems like he was definitely having some sweet dreams!

Folks who have shot with me know that I tend to be on the anal side about depth-of-field (DoF) and, perhaps a little more accurately, how I use and distribute in-focus and out-of-focus zones in a shot. There are, of course, times when you have little-to-no control over your position (relative to your subject) and little control over what aperture you shoot at (especially if you're shooting in low-light). But often simply considering the amount of foreground you include in images and the aperture you're shooting at can go a long ways towards controlling your DoF. In many - or most - cases having only a single transition from in-focus zones to out-of-focus zones (rather than having two transitions between focus zones, i.e., out-of-focus to in-focus to out-of-focus again) will lead to the production of a higher proportion of aesthetically-pleasing images. This doesn't mean that ALL images with out-of-focus foregrounds AND backgrounds are somehow inferior, but pulling them off successfully can be extremely tricky and tends to work the best when the foreground is quite even and without discrete objects in it (e.g., smooth water) or foreground and background are quite homogenous.

Here's a high-res version (2400 pixels wide) of this very happy appearing bear for your perusal:

Sweet Dreamin': Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 2.0 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 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 one of my two spring "Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen" photo tours in May/June of 2013. 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

Sweet Dreamin'. Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast, Canada. May 27, 2013.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 360.

Nikon D4 paired with Nikkor AF-S 400mm f2.8G VR - hand-held from floating Zodiac inflatable boat. VR on in Normal mode.

1/400s @ f5; No compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting

At the Computer

Sweet Dreamin'. Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast, Canada. May 27, 2013.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF Phase One's Capture One Pro 8. Three raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, differing by a total of 0.8 stops in exposure. Variation between variants also included differences to shadow and highlight retrieval settings.

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2014 and Light Crafts Lightzone. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the three output files from the raw converter, minor exposure tweaks, and selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


Sweet Dreamin'. Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast, Canada. May 27, 2013.

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 its life will be ended by a bullet. And, its head and paws will be cut off (leaving the carcass 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 these fearsome beasts).

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