Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

 
Steller Sea Lions - Mom & Pup on a Smoky August Afternoon

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In the Field

Steller Sea Lions - Mom & Pup on a Smoky August Afternoon. Northern Vancouver Island region, British Columbia, Canada. August 21, 2018.

Another one from the archives finally seeing the light of day owing to my "get caught up with the image culling and processing backlog" pandemic project!

I've never made any bones about the fact that I enjoy watching and photographing carnivores. For most people this will conjure up thoughts of bears, wolves, various cat species, and perhaps the larger members of the weasel family like wolverines. But over the last decade my love of shooting marine carnivores like Steller Sea Lions, Sea Otters, and various species of seals has grown exponentially. Just like their terrestrial counterparts mammalian marine carnivores are fascinating animals with complex behavior patterns and are just a blast to photograph!

I captured this shot of a female Steller's Sea Lion with its cute and dark little pup under pretty odd conditions in the summer of 2018. This location is close to as far west as you can get in Canada and, in a region where most of the weather and winds come from the west (the open ocean!). So about the last you expect is to be shooting images of sea lions in the dense smoke of forest fires! Yet, in 2018 that's what we faced...cloudless, yellow - and almost smudgy - skies as backdrops. But that smoke did act as a very effective diffusing filter and we didn't have to fight harsh, excessively contrasty lighting conditions! As a wildlife photographer you have to go with what you're given (or you're going to spend a LOT of time being frustrated!).

Here's a larger version (2400 pixel) of Ma sea lion and her pup:

Steller Sea Lions - Mom & Pup on a Smoky August Afternoon: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.6 MB)

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

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 photographs on this website, this image was captured following the strict ethical guidelines described in The Wildlife FIRST! Principles of Photographer Conduct. I encourage all wildlife photographers to always put the welfare of their subjects above the value of their photographs.

3. This image was captured during one of my "Marine Mammals of the Central Pacific Coast" photo tours in the summer of 2018. Each year we offer trips into two different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well as one to photograph aquatic mammals and oceanscapes on the northern and west coasts of Vancouver Island. Details about these trips can be found on the Photo Tours page of this website.

Behind the Camera

Steller Sea Lions - Mom & Pup on a Smoky August Afternoon. Northern Vancouver Island region, British Columbia, Canada. August 21, 2018.

Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 800.

Nikon D5 paired with Nikkor 180-400mm f4E @ 560mm (built-in TC engaged). Hand-held from floating Zodiac. VR on and in Sport mode. 9-point Dynamic Area AF area mode.

1/1600s @ f6.3; No compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting

At the Computer

Steller Sea Lions - Mom & Pup on a Smoky August Afternoon. Northern Vancouver Island region, British Columbia, Canada. August 21, 2018.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit PSD file (and JPEG files for web use), including all global and selective adjustments, using Phase One's Capture One Pro 21. Global adjustments were limited to a slight tweak to the Blacks. Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case selective adjustments were made on 5 separate layers and included one or more tweaks to color (using the Color Balance tool), contrast (using the Dehaze tool) blacks, and brightness.

Photoshop modifications were limited to the insertion of the watermark and/or text.

Conservation

Steller Sea Lions - Mom & Pup on a Smoky August Afternoon. Northern Vancouver Island region, British Columbia, Canada. August 21, 2018.

Species Status in Canada*: Special Concern (November 2003) - protected in Canada since 1970.

The Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus) is the largest of the sea-lions, and males can weigh up to a ton (females are considerably smaller and rarely weigh over 600 lb). Males compete among themselves for females, and successful males end up breeding with several females within their harem.

From the early 1900's through to the 1970's huge numbers of Steller's Sea-Lions were culled for their fur and to remove a competitor (for humans) for salmon. During that time approximately 55,000 sea lions were killed and the breeding population of BC was lowered to about 4,000 animals. Since the Steller Sea Lion first received protection in 1970 the population in the coastal waters of BC has grown to between 18,000 to 19,700 animals (7,600 or so of these are of breeding age).

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