Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Eagle Obscura

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In the Field

Eagle Obscura. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), Canada. October 2, 2016.

When most traveling wildlife photographers think about the Great Bear Rainforest they think of Spirit Bears. Some may also think about grizzly bears, and a few may even think about humpback whales or even coastal wolves. But not too many think about going there to photograph Bald Eagles. But...if you do happen to visit the area in the late summer or autumn when the salmon are running you can absolutely expect to see LOTS of Bald Eagles.

These days many wildlife shooters are almost preoccupied by shooting flight shots of birds. I get why - not only have advances in the quality of our autofocus systems made it much easier than in the past (assuming, of course, one knows how to use those increasingly sophisticated AF systems!), but with a little luck you can get some pretty eye-catching flight shots. Of course, this is possible in the Great Bear Rainforest as well - with luck (and by making a lot of the right photographic decisions) you CAN get great flight shots of eagles in the Great Bear. But, you can capture some pretty striking "perched eagle" shots while in the Great Bear as well - there are some AMAZING lichen and moss-covered trees that become strong elements in themselves (and can almost steal the show from the main subject). Even though I don't travel up to the Great Bear Rainforest with the sole purpose of photographing Bald Eagles (or any other single species), I do find it one of the BEST places around to get a good variety of interesting eagle shots...

In this scene I liked how the oh-so-green boughs of the cedar tree were almost obscuring this Bald Eagle. Having only a small unobscured "target" did make for a bit of an autofocus challenge, especially because I was standing in a moving Zodiac and hand-holding my camera with a 500mm lens (it was darned easy to have the focus point "slip off" the main subject). We were able to slowly move around this cooperative bird and get shots from several angles, but I liked this one the most as it showed a lot of interesting moss (and tree boughs and trunk), along with a lot of the orange-brown dying bits of cedar (that will be shed later in the autumn or early winter).

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this half-hidden Bald Eagle for your perusal:

Eagle Obscura: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 3.0 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. 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

Eagle Obscura. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), Canada. October 2, 2016.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 1800.

Nikon D500 paired with Nikkor 500mm f4E VR (for an EFL of 750mm). Hand-held from Zodiac. VR on and in "Sport" mode.

1/1000s @ f6.3; -1.33 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Eagle Obscura. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), Canada. October 2, 2016.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 9.3. Three raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing only in exposure settings (0.4 stop total difference between the 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 three output files from the raw converter, minor colour saturation and exposure tweaks, and final selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


Eagle Obscura. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), Canada. October 2, 2016.

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

Species Status in Canada*: This species is not designated as at risk. The Bald Eagle was listed as "Endangered" in the contiguous US states from 1967 to 1995. In 1995 it was downlisted to "Threatened". On June 28, 2007 Bald Eagles were removed from the list of endangered and threatened species - a true American conservation success story.

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is a very large bird of prey with broad wings. Adults possess characteristic white ("bald") heads. It takes Bald Eagles a full five years to attain their characteristic adult plumage (including their nearly pure white head and tail). In the years prior to the development of their adult plumage they are easy to confuse with Golden Eagles. Being very broad-winged Bald Eagles are able to use an energy-efficient flapping-soaring style of flight. While many people like to think of the Bald Eagle as a fierce hunter, in reality they hunt only as a last resort. More commonly they scavenge for their prey. Additionally, they often klepto-parasitize other weaker species such as Osprey, commonly stealing the other species hard-earned prey items. The Bald Eagle is, of course, the national emblem of the United States (Benjamin Franklin argued against this - his preference was for the Wild Turkey).

This Bald Eagle was photographed in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. While Bald Eagles are currently not under the threat of extinction, they do, of course, require suitable breeding habitat to continue to thrive. 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