Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Rainforest Nobility

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In the Field

Rainforest Nobility. Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast (Great Bear Rainforest), Canada. May 29, 2014.

You're sitting right at the top of the food chain. You're sitting high on a rock overlooking a long coastal inlet on one side, and a thick section of temperate rainforest on the other. Your cubs are fed, safely tucked in, and snoozing just below you. What's there to do? Relax, look around with your nose slightly upturned, and convey as much of an air of royal haughtiness that your status as rainforest nobility allows you to. After all, right now you're the self-proclaimed Queen of the Khutzeymateen!

I've always had a liking for simple, clean wildlife photos that contain only a few elements - and only those elements that make a contribution to the theme of the image or that help convey a sense of place (and that "place" being almost diagnostic of where that particular subject is found). I've also been a bit fanatical about using the twin concepts of selective focus and depth-of-field (DoF) to do two things - draw attention to the subject (often by separating the subject from the background) and also often to put a bit of a "hierarchy" to the elements in an image. At the same time I've almost always found images that have multiple, distinct out-of-focus zones (which most commonly means an out-of-focus foreground, in-focus subject, and out-of-focus background) as almost unnatural looking and - at least to my eye - kind of visually unappealing (or "anti-aesthetic" if you will). I acknowledge that avoiding situations of multiple, discrete out-of-focus zones in wildlife images can be REALLY tough to do, especially when using super-telephoto lenses. When I'm in the field the act of controlling my out-of-focus zones is one of my primary concerns. That might be one of the reasons that my favorite lens for wildlife photography is the 400mm f2.8 - with lenses longer than 400mm controlling out-of-focus zones becomes increasingly challenging. It's certainly one reason why owning an 800mm lens has limited appeal for me (I know I'd rarely be in a situation where I could use it with the DoF- and out-of-focus-zone control I like to have).

Anyway with all that in might now make some sense when I say this is definitely one of my favorite images that I captured during my Khutzeymateen photo tours in 2014. Nope, not the most dramatic subject or the most dramatic lighting (not that either the subject or the lighting are that bad!). And odds are it won't be even close to being my most popular image (in the view of others) or best-selling shots from Khutzeymateen 2014. But it's just one of those moments and situations where I was able to capture the type of image that works for me and that I just don't get bored of looking at! Odds are this one will be hanging in a prominent place on a wall in my home! ;-)

Here's a higher resolution (2400 pixel) version of the image for those wishing to scrutinize it a little more thoroughly:

Rainforest Nobility: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.5 MB)

NOTE 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!

NOTE 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).

NOTE 3: This image was captured during one of my "Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen" photo tour in the spring 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

Rainforest Nobility. Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast (Great Bear Rainforest), Canada. May 29, 2014.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 1000.

Nikon D4s paired with Nikkor AF-S 400mm f2.8 VR - hand-held from floating Zodiac. VR on in Normal mode.

1/500s @ f6.3; -0.33 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Rainforest Nobility. Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast (Great Bear Rainforest), Canada. May 29, 2014.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including first-pass/capture sharpening using Phase One's Capture One Pro. Four raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, differing by a total of 1.1 stops in exposure.

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2014. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the four output files from the raw converter, further slight exposure adjustments/tweaks, minor colour desaturation (to background trees and foreground algae) and selective sharpening for web output.


Rainforest Nobility. Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast (Great Bear Rainforest), Canada. May 29, 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.

The region this image was shot in is, at the time of this writing (July 7, 2014), facing a new and potentially catastrophic threat. There is a proposal to bring oil super-tankers through the narrow and treacherous channels of the Great Bear Rainforest. Any mishap - such as the one that sunk the Queen of the North ferry on March 22, 2006 - could result in an oilspill with disasterous consequences.

*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