Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

The Antiterrestrial

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In the Field

The Antiterrestrial. Northern Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. August 10, 2015.

I've long felt that Harbor Seals are under-appreciated, both as photographic subjects and as fascinating animals that just look really cool. Of course a large part of their fascinating look comes from their amazingly large and dark eyes which, in many situations, appear to be very dark magenta in colour. Behaviourally Harbor Seals often exhibit a kind of yin-yang "curiosity with wariness" - so they commonly swim up moderately closely to you, but instantly disappear between the surface (usually with a big splash) if you move too quickly or point a camera at them!

I like shooting low-level shots of wildlife, especially those in water. In this case I was shooting from a Zodiac inflatable boat and got as low as I could to minimize the impression I was looking down at the seal. Additionally, I shot the image with quite a long lens (600mm), again for the reason of creating the illusion I was in the water with the seal (using a longer lens allows you to pick up and capture the subject at a greater distance, thus reducing the downward angle of the camera).

This image was captured using a Nikon D4s paired with the Sigma Sport 150-600mm "ultra-zoom" lens at its maximum focal length (600mm). While I have historically never shot 3rd party lenses, I am VERY glad I decided to test out the Sigma zoom. Optically it's excellent - most reviews indicate it's softest (least sharp) at 600mm, and while I won't disagree with that statement, it sure isn't TOO soft at that focal length! Overall the optical quality, build quality, and focal range make the Sigma an incredibly convenient and versatile lens for a wildlife photographer. For me it's definitely a keeper!

The image title? Oh...that's a reference to how much more at home seals are in the water than on land (so graceful in the water, so awkward on land!). Ironically, the comfort of seals in water (and their instinctive behaviour of fleeing into it when danger approaches) can be counterproductive at times. On one occasion a group of us watched as a pod of transient Killer Whales (which selectively eat marine mammals) approached a group of Harbor Seals that were safely sitting up on haul-out rocks. As the Killer Whales approached the seals got increasingly agitated, and began jumping into the water to escape the danger. Hmmmm...

Here's a higher resolution version of the shot (2400-pixel) for your perusal:

The Antiterrestrial: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.1 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 my mid-summer "Humpbacks, Orcas, Sea Lions & More" photo tour in August of 2015. Each year I offer trips into two different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well as one to photograph marine 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

The Antiterrestrial. Northern Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. August 10, 2015.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 1000.

Nikon D4s paired with Sigma Sport 150-600mm zoom @ 600mm. Hand-held from floating Zodiac. Optical Stabilization (OS) on and in OS1 mode.

1/1250s @ f8; -0.33 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

The Antiterrestrial. Northern Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. August 10, 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, with the variants differing in exposure (1.0 stop total difference between the variants) AND shadow recovery 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, minor selective exposure adjustments, minor selective colour saturation and desaturation, and selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


The Antiterrestrial. Northern Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. August 10, 2015.

Ten percent of the revenue generated by this image will be donated to The Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Species Status in Canada*: Most Harbour Seal populations in Canada are not listed as Threatened or Endangered. The Lac des Loups Marins landlocked population of Quebec (Ungave Peninsula) currently listed as Endangered (most recent assessment update - November 2007).

The Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina) is found on both the eastern and western coasts of North America. They tend not to make long migrations and in many areas they are present year-round. When foraging Harbor Seals normally dive to between 30 and 100 metres in depth and stay below the surface for 5 to 6 minutes. On occasion they have been known to dive to depths of over 450 metres and have stay submerged for almost 30 minutes. Harbor Seals have a diverse diet, including cephalopod, crustacceans and a variety of fish such as herring, eulachon, pollock, and salmon.

Historically bounty programs were used in both Canada and the USA to reduce populations of Harbor Seals. In more recent times seals have become protected over much of North America and some populations have rebounded strongly (it is estimated that over 150,000 seals now occupy the coast of British Columbia). There is a land-locked and freshwater sub-species of the Harbour Seal found on the Ungava Peninsula of northern Quebec. This population is now down to an estimated 100 individuals and is listed as Endangered by COSEWIC.

The 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.

For more information on the status of Brown (Grizzly) Bears in Canada, go to: and search under "Grizzly Bears"

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