Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Sly Eye - From The Guy

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In the Field

Sly Eye - From "The Guy". Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast, Canada, BC, Canada. May 29, 2015.

The spring of 2015 saw a changing of the guard and overall social order in the Khutzyemateen Grizzly Sanctuary. For over a decade a single very large dominant bear (who many called Brutus) ruled the region. And, it appeared as though most of the other bears in the area accepted his dominance and there was relative peace in the Khutzeymateen. From what we could tell Brutus did the "lion's share" of the mating, and definitely chased other large males out of the area. But even during the spring of 2014 we rarely saw Brutus, and it appeared as though the influence of this 30-something year old bear was waning. As an example, the male bear pictured here starting acting very dominant and cantankerous - in fact in the summer of 2014 he killed a female grizzly who had two very cute and photogenic cubs (which didn't win him any popularity contests among the humans who regularly visit the area). And, both the longtime bear guide in the Khutzeymateen (Tom Ellison) and I had picked this guy as the new "alpha dog". And we nicknamed him simply "The Guy".

Fast forward to spring 2015. No sign of Brutus. And The Guy is fighting fit. But, very interestingly, it seems like several other bigger bears (including ones we had never seen) are coming out of the woodwork and are far MORE fit. Tom and I were dead-wrong! Turns out "The Guy" didn't do too well in his quest for supreme dominance and has the scars and scabs to show it. And he even pretty much even stopped acting aggressively and belligerent. So much for our predictions! ;-)

I captured this image of The Guy giving me this "sly eye" look using a Nikon D750 camera and with my favourite go-to wildlife lens - the Nikkor 400mm f2.8E VR. And, in this case, it was paired up with the TC-20EIII (2x) teleconverter - meaning the image was shot at 800mm. To date I haven't found another lens that pairs up as well with teleconverters as the 400mm f2.8E VR - and that's one of many reasons I consider it the most versatile (and, for me, most valuable) of Nikon's super-telephotos. Shoot it native (sans teleconverters) and it is unbelievably sharp and with unmatched bokeh (out of focus zones). Pair it up with the TC-14EIII (1.4x) teleconverter and you have a 550mm f4 lens that can produce output as good as the 600mm f4 VR (even when carefully upsized to match the exact magnification of the 600mm lens). And, pair it up with the TC-20EIII (2.0x) teleconverter and you have a high-quality 800mm f5.6 lens that can produce output good enough for virtually any use.

For the pixel-peepers...hey...the makeshift 800mm f5.6 looks good at any resolution! Here's a 2400-pixel version for your perusal:

Sly Eye - From "The Guy" Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 2.3 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. Like all wildlife images on this website, the subject(s) is/are 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 spring "Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen" photo tours in May/June of 2015. 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

Sly Eye - From "The Guy". Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast, Canada, BC, Canada. May 29, 2015.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 1400.

Nikon D750 paired with Nikkor 400mm f2.8E VR plus TC-20EIII (2x) teleconverter (800mm total focal length). Hand-held from floating Zodiac, VR on and in "Sport" mode.

1/800s @ f7.1; no compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting

At the Computer

Sly Eye - From "The Guy". Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast, Canada, BC, Canada. May 29, 2015.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 8. Four raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, differing by a total of 1.25 stops in exposure (as well as differences in highlight and shadow retrieval 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 four output files from the raw converter, selective colour desaturation, and selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


Sly Eye - From "The Guy". Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, northern BC coast, Canada, BC, Canada. May 29, 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 his life will be ended by a bullet. And, his heads will be cut off (leaving his carcasses 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