Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Fishing Tutorial @ Taku U

Availability: Undetermined - Enquiries?

Previous Gallery Next Gallery

In the Field

Fishing Tutorial @ Taku U. Taku River Drainage, northern BC, Canada. August 6, 2016.

Female grizzlies and their cubs have a stunningly complex relationship - the cubs depend on Ma for virtually everything during their first few years of life. That includes protection from harm, the provisioning of food, and, of course, teaching them the "life skills" that they'll need to survive on their own after weaning. The cubs are like information vacuums - they watch their mom closely and just suck up everything she does - what she feeds on, how she captures prey, and a whole lot more. Here an inquisitive cub watches mom charge into shallow water in pursuit of a pink salmon. Beyond picking up on fishing techniques, this little tyke is about to find out if mom's efforts will result in some food he can pilfer from her!

It's hard to find a serious wildlife photographer (i.e., one that deliberately shoots with a DSLR and not an iPhone!) that doesn't know that the depth-of-field (or DoF) of an image is related to the aperture it was shot at. But it's way harder to find one that truly appreciates and considers (while in the field) how the DoF of an image can influence eye-flow and even the story-telling power of an image. For me this image is about MORE than just the fishing's about the relationship of mom (the fishing bear of course) and the cub. If only mom was in focus the viewer's eye would be drawn to her...and the "fishing bear" theme would be the dominant one. However, with both mom AND cub in focus, the eye flows back and forth between the two and the interaction between the two becomes the dominant theme of the shot. Thinking beyond simply "...isolating the main subject from the background" and using your DoF more thoughtfully can result in the creation of far more interesting images...

The clever viewer (which includes everyone looking at this shot, right?) who has checked out the tech specs on this image will notice it is shot ALMOST wide open (f4 on an f2.8 lens) is likely wondering how I got so much DoF on this shot. Truth be told a bit of skullduggery is going on here. This action broke out spontaneously and under some pretty low light (this image was captured at ISO 9000). I blew the focus on the first shot in the sequence from which this shot is taken from - instead of nailing the focus on the fishing bear my focus was on the background cub. In shots 2 thru 14 in the sequence mom (the fishing bear) is tack sharp. "create" this image with extended DoF I simply made a composite of image 1 (with the cub in focus) and image 2 (with mom in focus) using Photoshop. In this case to shoot a single frame with sufficient DoF to have both mother and cub in focus would have required an aperture of around f11 or so...which would have required an ISO of about 72,000 if I wanted to shoot at the same shutter speed. Between its AF and ISO performance the Nikon D5 has definitely extended the range of what you can capture in the field, but it hasn't totally removed all limitations. So it was Photoshop to the rescue in this case!

Here's larger (2400 pixel) versions of both the composite shot shown above (with extended DoF) and the second-in-the-sequence (and "non-manipulated") shot with the thinner DoF for your perusal...

Fishing Tutorial @ Taku U (composite image): Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.9 MB)

Fishing Tutorial @ Taku U: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.9 MB)


1. These images - 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. These images were captured during my August 2016 "Fishing Grizzlies of the Taku" photo tour. Details about all my photo tours 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).

4. Alert - Digitally Manipulated Image: This image clearly crosses the line from simple digital correction to digital manipulation (it is a composite of two separate images as described above. 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

Fishing Tutorial @ Taku U. Taku River Drainage, northern BC, Canada. August 6, 2016.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 9000.

Nikon D5 paired with Nikkor 400mm f2.8E VR. Hand-held. VR on and in "Sport" mode.

1/1250s @ f4; -0.67 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Fishing Tutorial @ Taku U. Taku River Drainage, northern BC, Canada. August 6, 2016.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 9.2. Four raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing in exposure settings (0.5 stop total difference between the variants) noise reduction settings, and shadow retrieval settings.

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, and final selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


Fishing Tutorial @ Taku U. Taku River Drainage, northern BC, Canada. August 6, 2016.

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 these bears reside in BC, there's a very real chance that their lives will be ended by a bullet. And, their heads and paws 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 salmon 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