Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Scare Bear

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In the Field

Scare Bear - Now with MORE Bear and LESS Scare! Khutzeymateen Inlet, northern BC Coast, Canada. May 30, 2016.

If you've met one grizzly you've met them all - right? NOPE. Wrong! In many respects grizzlies are a lot like humans, including how each of them has a unique personality. The bear shown here has been "kicking around" the Khutzeymateen for a long time - close to a decade. He's probably somewhere around 12 to 15 years old. Now the bears in the Khutzeymateen are FULLY wild and none have been handled by man (none are radio-collared, and, unless they've wandered out of the Khutzeymateen Sanctuary, none have been abused by humans). Each year new bears - both young and old - that have never been seen in the area show their face in the Khutzeymateen. Some are very wary when they first show up, and run for the hills the minute they detect humans. Usually, over time, these newcomers settle down and before long just completely ignore the few humans that find their way into the area. And the vast majority soon show their baseline "bear" personality that is best summarized in one word - gentle.

And then there's Scare Bear. He's just nuts - and has been forever! He got his name from unpredictably exploding in bluff charges at the two inflatable boats that bring bear-watchers and bear-photographers into the Khutzeymateen. If he doesn't act in a threatening way he often does the exact opposite - he runs away like a scalded banshee if we have the nerve to approach to closer than a kilometer or so from him! At times we've watched him in the distance through binoculars when he was all by himself in the middle of a large grassy field. What was he doing? Bucking up and kicking his hind legs like a mad stallion - like he was just pissed at the world! For years we've thought up excuses to explain way his owly demeanor - things like "...he's being prevented from mating by the REALLY big males and is just a little frustrated", or "...he was obviously abused as a cub", et cetera. But...sometimes there's no escaping the truth - this guy just isn't a nice bear.

So...come May 2016 and who do we find acting almost like a normal bear? Scare Bear! In this shot (which is the absolute best shot I've ever captured of Scare Bear - by a mile!) he's almost calm...and obviously more interested in eating grass than running from (or at) us! What the heck happened?'s anyone's guess, but he's now getting pretty darned big...maybe he WAS a frustrated breeder-wannabe who WAS getting kicked around by the big males and is finally big enough to kick back? But whatever the reason, it was a huge shock to see Scare Bear turn over a new leaf!

Changing gears...anyone who has attended one of my instructional photo tours (or spent time with me in a private tutoring session) knows I'm kinda anal about how depth-of-field (DoF) and out-of-focus (OOF) zones are used in a photo. Of course, when shooting free-ranging wildlife in a field setting you have little-to-no control over where your subject may show up or, for instance, what's in the foreground and background and how those elements are positioned within the frame. So...when Scare Bear pulled this "now I'm friendly" trick (and knowing this bear maybe it WAS a trick to lure us in!) I was pleasantly surprised. But when I noticed how he was positioned on a grassy point with a deep channel behind him (functionally moving the visible background much further behind him), thus allowing me to stop down enough to keep the full foreground in focus while softening the background enough to make good ol' Scare Bear "pop" (in an almost 3-dimensional way)...well...I was just thrilled!

This shot made me realize one thing I had never noticed the end of the day, and despite his "very iffy-but-possibly-improving" personality, Scare Bear is actually a pretty nice looking bear! ;-)

Here's a higher resolution (2400 pixel) shot of the infamous Scare Bear for your perusal:

Scare Bear: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.9 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 one of my two spring "Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen" photo tours in May/June of 2016. Each year I offer trips into two different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well as one to photograph aquatic 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.

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

Scare Bear - Now with MORE Bear and LESS Scare! Khutzeymateen Inlet, northern BC Coast, Canada. May 30, 2016.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 560.

Nikon D500 paired with Nikkor 400mm f2.8E VR. Hand-held from floating Zodiac. VR on and in "Sport" mode.

1/400s @ f6.3; No compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Scare Bear - Now with MORE Bear and LESS Scare! Khutzeymateen Inlet, northern BC Coast, Canada. May 30, 2016.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 9. Four raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing in exposure settings (0.66 stop total difference between the variants) and both highlight 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, selective colour desaturation, and final selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


Scare Bear - Now with MORE Bear and LESS Scare! Khutzeymateen Inlet, northern BC Coast, Canada. May 30, 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