Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

One Unique Grizzly Please - On the Rocks!

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In the Field

One Unique Grizzly Please - On the Rocks! Taku River Drainage, northern BC, Canada. August 5, 2016.

As someone who has photographed bears - and especially brown (or Grizzly) bears - for over a decade, one thing has really struck me: just how much they can vary in appearance. This variation in appearance can be quite local - in some coastal inlets many of the resident bears may be very similar to one another but quite different from grizzlies in another nearby inlet. I have recently begun offering fishing grizzlies photo tours in a new "not quite coastal" region close to the BC-Yukon border where the bears are far enough away from the coastal areas that gene flow with coastal bears is probably quite limited. And in this region we are encountering some INCREDIBLY unique grizzlies. I have to say the bear pictured here (which the bear guides refer to as "Spot") may have the most unique coat I have ever seen on a grizzly! This bear is mid-way through shedding its heavy winter coat (which adds a little to its unique appearance) and is showing a fascinating mix of orange-red "accents" on its legs and head, a mostly brown body, and an almost white collar! I nabbed this shot when the bear had taken a brief break from fishing and is still on the wet side (at least on its lower portions).

I captured this shot with a Nikon D5 and 400mm f2.8E super telephoto lens in the late evening. Light was very low and I was keeping my camera in a "ready for action" group of settings (a Shooting Bank with a high shutter speed as set in the Auto ISO dialog box) and so I was letting the ISO climb quite high. In this case the image was captured at ISO 9000...and even though I have shot over 20,000 shots with the D5 now, I am still blown away by how well the D5 retains colour depth and tonal range in the ISO 6400 to 16,000 (and sometimes higher) range. It's pretty sweet being able to shoot action shots at dusk and sometimes beyond!

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this unique grizzly for your perusal:

One Unique Grizzly Please - On the Rocks: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 2.6 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. This image was 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).

Behind the Camera

One Unique Grizzly Please - On the Rocks! Taku River Drainage, northern BC, Canada. August 5, 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. 72-point Dynamic Area focusing mode focused on bear's cheek.

1/1250s @ f4.5; No compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

One Unique Grizzly Please - On the Rocks! Taku River Drainage, northern BC, Canada. August 5, 2016.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 9.2. Two raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing in exposure setting (0.4 stop total difference between the variants). Minor (and identical) Levels adjustment on both variants during raw conversion.

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 two output files from the raw converter, selective contrast adjustment (via a curves adjustment laver), and final selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


One Unique Grizzly Please - On the Rocks! Taku River Drainage, northern BC, Canada. August 5, 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 this bear resides in BC, there's a very real chance that its life will be ended by a bullet. And, its head and paws will be cut off (leaving its carcass 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