Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

The Great Bear Hangout

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In the Field

The Great Bear Hangout. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), BC, Canada. October 11, 2015.

I captured this image while our group was hiding out from a hurricane in an relatively sheltered inlet on BC's central coast (it was a little wet - and certainly raining when this image was shot - but at least it wasn't windy!). While I have been spending quality time with bears for years, I have to say it ranked near the top of my most memorable bear experiences. Not only was the bear incredibly gentle and virtually indifferent to our presence, but we were able to follow it through the most amazingly beautiful stretch of rainforest shoreline that I know of. When we saw this moss-covered stump/root system approaching (as the bear swam along the shoreline) we turned to each other and asked "no...we couldn't be so lucky to have the bear cross that, could we?" Well, the bear didn't just cross the stump - it climbed and then laid down on it - and just hung out. And posed. Rainforest nirvana for all of us!

This shot - which is absolutely full frame - was captured using the Sigma Sport 150-600mm zoom lens @ 240mm. Over the week preceding the posting of this image I had been exchanging emails with several photographers regarding the merits of various lenses - and specifically primes versus zoom lenses - in wildlife photography. While most followers of this website (and any of my image galleries) know I'm a big fan of super-telephoto primes (and specifically Nikon's 400mm f2.8E VR) there are instances where the flexibility offered by the range of focal lengths of a good zoom takes precedence over the absolute sharpness and large apertures (and their associated ability to separate a subject from their background) of a big prime. When I shot this image I was with several other photographers, and a few of them had only big primes readily available for use. Which means that they had no choice BUT to shoot a tight shot of the bear (and I think most would agree that the setting makes this shot as much as the bear itself does). And, in this case the subject-isolating capabilities of a fast, big prime lens are pretty much neutralized anyway - most of the surroundings around this bear are so close to being on the same focal plane that even a 800mm f1.4 lens (if such a thing existed) couldn't effectively separate this bear from the foreground and background! I don't believe in fighting the zoom vs. prime battle (kinda reminds me of the Canon vs. Nikon thing or the Mac vs. PC thing) - each have their place in wildlife photography. The real trick is understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each and using them appropriately.

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

The Great Bear Hangout: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 2.2 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/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).

3. This image was captured during my autumn "Into the Great Bear Rainforest" photo tour in October 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 Great Bear Hangout. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), BC, Canada. October 11, 2015.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 5000.

Nikon D4s paired with Sigma Sport 150-600mm zoom at 240mm. Hand-held from floating Zodiac inflatable boat; optical stabilization on and in OS1 mode.

1/200s @ f6.3; -0.67 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

The Great Bear Hangout. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), BC, Canada. October 11, 2015.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 8. Three raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing in exposure (0.8 stop total difference between the variants) and in noise reduction settings. Other adjustments made during raw conversion included selective colour adjustments (hue rotations to the greens and magentas using the Colour Editor) and slight tweaks to clarity.

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 three output files from the raw converter, minor selective colour saturation and desaturation, selective contrast adjustment via selective curves adjustment, and selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


The Great Bear Hangout. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), BC, Canada. October 11, 2015.

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