Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

The Sly Eye

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In the Field

The Sly Eye. Great Bear Rainforest (northern BC coast), BC Canada. October 4, 2014.

When not shot at, mismanaged, or otherwise abused, many grizzly bears can become quite tolerant of humans. Some even become downright gentle and surprisingly trusting. Yet even the most trusting of bears always like to keep tabs on nearby humans. Sometimes they do it by listening - and they're always ready to bolt or turn if they hear something that doesn't quite compute. But more often they do it be slipping a quick sideways glance at whoever is nearby - more or less giving the viewer a quick and subtle "sly eye". Cubs do this, sub-adults do this, and even fully mature adults do it. The bear might appear to be totally preoccupied with what it's doing, but then - and often for just a fraction of second - the eye quickly rotates and checks you out. Unless one is paying super close attention it's real easy to miss seeing the sly eye...but anyone who has spent time watching bears will know what I mean! ;-)

This adult female grizzly (who had three cubs very nearby) gave me the sly eye here in the middle of a fishing bout. While it's difficult to tell she's fishing in this shot, she was actually stirring up the bottom of a pool and trying to churn up fish carcasses when I snapped this shot. And, sure enough, a few seconds later she found a tasty (tho' incredibly gross looking) salmon carcass that she made a point of NOT sharing with her cubs!

This one is more fun when seen larger. So here's a 2400 pixel version for your scrutiny and/or viewing pleasure...

The Sly Eye: 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 one of my two autumn "Into the Great Bear Rainforest" photo tours in October of 2014. 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

The Sly Eye. Great Bear Rainforest (northern BC coast), BC Canada. October 4, 2014.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 2200.

Nikon D4s paired with Nikkor AF-S 400mm f2.8E VR plus TC-14EIII (1.4x) teleconverter (550mm total focal length) - hand-held from Zodiac. VR on and in Sport mode.

1/640s @ f5; -0.67 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

The Sly Eye. Great Bear Rainforest (northern BC coast), BC Canada. October 4, 2014.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including first-pass/capture sharpening using Phase One's Capture One Pro 8. Three raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, differing by a total of 0.5 stops in exposure.

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, selective colour desaturation, selective curves (contrast) adjustment, and selective sharpening for web output. Final tweaking of the subtle tone shifts on the bear's face performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


The Sly Eye. Great Bear Rainforest (northern BC coast), BC Canada. October 4, 2014.

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 female grizzly resides in BC, there's a very real chance that her life - and that of her cubs - may be ended by a bullet. And, if that happens, her 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.

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