Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Exposed - And Vigilant

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In the Field

Exposed - And Vigilant. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 18, 2022.

This handsome grizzly bear was doing some serious clamming on a large tidal flat when I captured this image. When clamming in such a location all but the largest and most dominant of bears tend to be on edge, largely owing to how "exposed" they are on the tidal flats. This young bear was no exception, and while it seemed to be having a great time wolfing down clams, it never forgot that it was in a vulnerable location and kept an active eye out for other (and possibly dangerous) bears.

One of the main reasons wildlife and sport photographers go for "very big and very heavy" fast prime lenses is the degree of subject isolating power they provide. While recent models of super-telephoto primes lenses have come down in weight a considerable amount, they are still significantly bigger and heavier than most of the "super-zooms" that may offer as long (or longer) focal lengths. While some of the "super-zooms" can match (or nearly match) the sharpness of the best prime lenses, they simply can't match the quality of the out-of-focus zones (or "bokeh") of the big primes, and consequently can't provide the same kind of subject-isolating power. So the photographer has the choice of going for the more portable and cheaper option (with the super-zooms) or the bigger, heavier, and more expensive option (with the big primes) that STILL offer the ultimate in image quality.

This shot? Captured with the Z 400mm f2.8 TC VR S with its built-in TC engaged (so at 560mm). And, it was shot wide open at f4. And it's a pretty darned good example of what a "big" prime can do in terms of subject isolation. And, it pretty much shows where I stand in the "prime lens vs. super-zoom" debate! ;-)

Here's a larger version (4800 pixel) of this spring Griz for your perusal:

Exposed - And Vigilant: Download 4800 pixel image (JPEG: 3.7 MB)


1. These images - in all resolutions - are 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 photographs on this website, these images were captured following the strict ethical guidelines described in The Wildlife FIRST! Principles of Photographer Conduct. I encourage all wildlife photographers to always put the welfare of their subjects above the value of their photographs.

3. This image was captured during one of my "Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen" photo tours in the spring of 2022. Each year I offer trips into two different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well as one to photograph aquatic mammals and oceanscapes on the northern and west coasts of Vancouver Island. Details about these trips can be found on the Photo Tours page of this website.

Behind the Camera

Exposed - And Vigilant. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 18, 2022.

Lossless compressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 200.

Nikon Z 9 paired with Nikkor Z 400mm f2.8 TC VR S @ 560mm (built-in TC engaged). Hand-held from floating Zodiac. VR on in Sport mode. Single-point AF area mode.

1/1000s @ f4; -0.3 stop compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Exposed - And Vigilant. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 18, 2022.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit PSD file (and JPEG files for web use), including all global and selective adjustments, using Phase One's Capture One Pro 22. Global adjustments made to this image include tweaks to the highlights and brightness (mid-tone exposure). Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case selective adjustments were made on 3 separate layers and included one or more tweaks to clarity, highlights, shadows, and colour saturation.

Photoshop modifications were limited to the insertion of the watermark and/or text.


Exposed - And Vigilant. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 18, 2022.

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.

On December 18, 2017 the government of British Columbia banned grizzly hunting across the entire province. This major conservation victory came after decades of tireless work by many dedicated conservationists and ecologists and, most importantly, it reflects the opinion of the vast majority of British Columbians. And, it means that AT LEAST while the current government remains in power grizzlies are finally "safe" in British Columbia.

Now that we've at least temporarily won the battle to save grizzlies in BC, it's time to re-focus our efforts toward protecting ALL of BC's carnivores, including Gray Wolves, Black Bears, Cougars, Wolverines, and more! Simply put, there are no ecological, economic, or ethical arguments supporting the trophy hunting of carnivores.

*as determined by COSEWIC: The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada