Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

A Real Stand-up Kinda Bear!

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In the Field

A Real Stand-up Kinda Bear! Taku River Drainage, northern BC, Canada. August 4, 2016.

I was going to call this image "Just a Stand-up Kinda Guy" but, given the bear is a female with a cub very close by, I thought that would have been a bit misleading! I captured this image of this just-so-curious bear from the deck of the cookhouse at the bear camp we used for our "Fishing Grizzlies of the Taku" photo tour. One of the coolest things about the bears in that region is that they've become totally comfortable with the presence of humans (as long as the humans stick to their "human places") and wander through the camp as though it's theirs'! This mother bear knew we were on the deck long before it stood, but for some bear reason decided it still had to stand up and give us a good long stare anyway. Maybe it was looking to see if there was anyone in the group of "clumsy uprights" it knew. Who knows!

Historically I've been only lukewarm on the use of teleconverters and, unless I absolutely had to, I never used them. To this day you'll never see me put a teleconverter on any zoom lens. Anyway...I have found two Nikon telephoto prime lenses that seem to work particularly well with both the latest versions of the Nikkor 1.4x and 2x TC's (the TC-14EIII and the TC-20EIII). Those lenses would be the relatively rare Nikkor 200mm f2 VR and the Nikkor 400mm f2.8 VR (both the E and G versions). This image was captured with a Nikon D5 paired up with the 400mm f2.8E VR plus the TC-14EIII for a total focal length of 550mm (a combination I find myself using more and more all the time).

Sometimes a particular lens - or a lens/TC combination - works very well on one camera body but not quite as well on another. After several months of experimentation I can say that this is NOT the case with this lens combo (400mm plus 1.4x TC) and the Nikon D5 and D500 - it works great on both camera bodies! I can honestly say that as long as I have sufficient light, my preferred way to get to the 800mm focal range (besides using the 800mm f5.6 VR, which I don't own) is using the D500 with the 400mm f2.8E VR plus TC-14EIII...which gives the user an "effective" focal length (full-frame equivalent) of 825mm. In the past I have commented on how well the 400mm f2.8E VR combined with the 2x TC (the TC-20EIII) on a full-frame body. This is still true, but I am finding that overall I get a higher "keeper rate" when I use the D500 plus 400mm plus TC-14EIII pathway (rather than the D5-400-2x TC pathway).

Like almost all Nikon-shooting wildlife photographers I welcomed the addition of the D500 to the equipment "mix". But it has made me stop and test and experiment with many different gear combinations to fully "suss out" what combination of gear is optimal for particular conditions and subject matter. Sometimes don't you just kinda wish they'd slow down and quit monkeying with our gear and gear combos! ;-)

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this stand-up bear for your perusal:

A Real Stand-up Kinda Bear: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.2 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. 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

A Real Stand-up Kinda Bear! Taku River Drainage, northern BC, Canada. August 4, 2016.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 5600.

Nikon D5 paired with Nikkor 400mm f2.8E VR plus TC-14EIII (1.4x) teleconverter, for a total EFL of 550mm. Hand-held. VR on and in "Sport" mode.

1/400s @ f5; -0.33 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

A Real Stand-up Kinda Bear! Taku River Drainage, northern BC, Canada. August 4, 2016.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 9.2. Three raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing in exposure settings (0.7 stop total difference between the variants) and in noise reduction 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 three output files from the raw converter, minor exposure and colour saturation tweaks, and final selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


A Real Stand-up Kinda Bear! Taku River Drainage, northern BC, Canada. August 4, 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