Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Congestion @ the On-ramp

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In the Field

Congestion @ the On-ramp. Great Bear Rainforest (northern BC coast), BC, Canada. October 4, 2014.

One of my favorite things about the Great Bear Rainforest is that the only traffic jams you'll ever see are more likely to involve grizzlies than cars! This traffic congestion was caused by the leading cub just not being bold enough to merge off the on-ramp and onto the log bridge that spanned a deep channel in a coastal estuary. But the tail-gating little bruins here put enough forward pressure on the nervous nelly to get it to swing around and finally navigate the crossing. Now that was a sight to see (and photograph)!

Kidding and metaphors aside, the absolute solitude and isolation (along with the abundant wildlife) are huge factors in why I've returned to the Great Bear Rainforest each autumn for the last 9 years. Not only did our small group find this family of grizzlies all on our own, but we were able to spend as long as the bears allowed watching them in complete isolation from other humans. There was absolutely no one within tens of miles of our location. So for the handful of us there it became an incredibly personal and unique experience.

When I returned to the area a few days later with another group of intrepid adventurers the uniqueness of the original experience really hit home to me - in the days between visits a combination of high tides and high river flow had swept the log bridge away. So those lucky few folks who watched and photographed the cubs playing on the log were likely the only humans EVER to do so (and no one will have that same scene to work with again). To me that's pretty special - and increasingly rare in our Google-Maps-been-there-seen-that world.

Unique scenes, unique memories - and unique photos: to me that touches the essence of what the Great Bear is all about...

Like most animalscapes or enviroscapes, this image tends to look better when seen large. So here's a 2400 pixel version for your scrutiny and/or viewing pleasure...

Congestion @ the On-ramp: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.4 MB)


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!

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).

3. This image was captured during one of my two autumn "Into the Great Bear Rainforest" photo tours in October 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.

4. Alert - Digitally Manipulated Image: This image clearly crosses the line from simple digital correction to digital manipulation. In this particular case there was a stout stick that was running up from the log and poking into the butt of the cub facing to the right in the image - and it was removed from the image during post-processing.

It is my policy to clearly identify ANY images on this website that overstep the bounds of digital correction and enter the territory of digital manipulation (see Voice: Commentary: Digital Correction vs. Digital Manipulation).

Behind the Camera

Congestion @ the On-ramp. Great Bear Rainforest (northern BC coast), BC, Canada. October 4, 2014.

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

Nikon D4 paired paired with Nikkor AF-S 80-400mm f4.5-5.6E VR @ 260mm - hand-held from from Zodiac. VR on and in Active mode.

1/320s @ f6.3; -0.3 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Congestion @ the On-ramp. Great Bear Rainforest (northern BC coast), BC, Canada. October 4, 2014.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including first-pass/capture sharpening using Phase One's Capture One Pro 8. Four raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, differing by a total of 0.5 stops in exposure.

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2014 and Light Crafts Lightzone. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the four output files from the raw converter, selective colour desaturation, selective curves (contrast) adjustment, and selective sharpening for web output. Final tweaking of dark-on-dark tones on the bear's coat performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


Congestion @ the On-ramp. Great Bear Rainforest (northern BC coast), BC, Canada. October 4, 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.

Sadly, because this bear family resides in BC, there's a very real chance that their lives will be ended by a bullet. And, their heads will be cut off (leaving their 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 these fearsome beasts).

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