Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill


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In the Field

Bedtime. Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast, Canada, BC, Canada. May 30, 2015.

I captured this image late one evening in May of 2015. The sun was just going down, and so was the bear! We watched the bear quietly bed down only moments later. Dreamy light just before dream time. What could be better for a keen wildlife photographer? This opportunity was a good reminder that at the end of the day, it's ALWAYS about seeing and capturing the light...

I tend to like scenes and images that are on the very "edge" of what our cameras can capture and render. Commonly these scenes are outside of what the camera can capture "on its own" - meaning that the contrast or dynamic range is such that realistically rendering the scene requires a lot of post-processing work. This image - while really very simple and consisting of only 4 elements (the horizontal band of light, the softly illuminated tree, the bear, and the subtle background) - is a good case in point. While making the exposure in the field wasn't too tough (I only needed to under-expose the image by 0.3 stops less than the light meter "suggested" to retain all the highlights), I had to blend 5 different derivatives of the raw file (raw "clones" or "variants") that differed in exposure to get this one right (and note that here I'm using "right" in the sense of "in the way I remember the scene"). So not only was this scene outside where you could push a single raw file during processing, it is WAY outside what the camera could do on its own (which, of course, makes it WAY outside the in-camera "JPEG Zone").

Over the years I've noticed that a lot of neophyte and/or developing wildlife photographers put their cameras down just when things are getting interesting, like during strong side-lighting (as in this scene), strong backlighting, or whenever contrast is high. I'll grant that these situations often force the photographer to "take control" of their cameras (for instance, making exposure compensation decisions, and sometimes pretty extreme compensation decisions) and also demand that they understand what they can (and can't) do during post-processing. But if you want to capture compelling shots, you just gotta take those leaps at some stage! ;-)

This one kinda demands to be seen bigger - so here's higher-resolution (2400-pixel) version of it:

Bedtime: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.1 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 two spring "Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen" photo tours in May/June of 2011. 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.

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

Bedtime. Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast, Canada, BC, Canada. May 30, 2015.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 2800.

Nikon D4s paired with Nikkor 400mm f2.8E VR. Hand-held from floating Zodiac. VR on and in "Sport" mode.

1/400s @ f8; -0.3 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Bedtime. 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 9. Five raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing in exposure (1.5 stop total difference between the variants) and shadow retrieval settings.

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2015. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the five output files from the raw converter, minor exposure tweaks, and final selective sharpening for web output. No colour saturation adjustments (increasing or decreasing saturation) made during any phase of the post-processing.


Bedtime. 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 its life will be ended by a bullet. And, its head and paws will be cut off (leaving its 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 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