Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

About to Take the Plunge

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In the Field

About to Take the Plunge. Khutzeymateen Inlet (Great Bear Rainforest), BC. June 2, 2009.

Despite being very large carnivores, grizzly bears can be very gentle and graceful in their movements. This adult male grizzly demonstrated this as it smoothly edged its way into the calm waters of the Khutzeymateen Inlet and produced hardly a ripple. To me, this image is almost metaphorical - this bear is about to take a leap of faith and plunge into the unknown, but is clearly focused on his end goal (in this case, a shoreline about one hundred meters distant) and will get there by taking one small step (or stroke) at a time...

What works best for me in this image is the bear's eye contact - I like how the bear's eyes are clearly visible (and showing some nice highlights - or catchlights) but he's clearly completely uninterested in me - nothing matters to this bear but that distant shoreline!

I posted this image on an online gallery (on the Nature Photographer's Network, where I moderate the Fauna Gallery) and received a few emails about the extreme selective focus I used here (if you look closely you'll see that only the region of the bear's nose through to just behind the eyes is in sharp focus, with the rest of the image increasingly blurred as one moves away from the nose and eyes). Specifically, I was asked about what I "did" (meaning "altered in Photoshop") to the background to make it so "smooth and clean". The answer: nothing. The smooth background is completely a function of aperture choice (this was shot wide open at f4) AND the quality of the lens used to capture the image. The term "bokeh" refers to the quality ("quality" here means the smoothness of the completely out-of-focus zones as well as the smoothness of the transition from the sharp focus zones to the out-of-focus zones) and the best lenses have the best bokeh. Ultimately, there IS a reason for buying those hyper-expensive super telephotos!

This image was captured during my annual "Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen" Instructional Photo Tour in the spring of 2009. If you're interested in joining me on one of my photo tours into the Great Bear Rainforest, check out the details on my "Photo Tours" page. My Instructional Photo Tours into the Great Bear Rainforest are run in conjunction with Ocean Light II Adventures - they offer a number of amazing adventure tours (including top-notch bear-viewing tours as well as tours of exploration of the Queen Charlotte Islands) and I highly recommend them!

Behind the Camera

About to Take the Plunge. Khutzeymateen Inlet (Great Bear Rainforest), BC. June 2, 2009.

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

Nikon D3 with Nikkor 600 mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S VR lens - hand-held. VR on and set to "Normal" mode.

1/250s @ f4; no compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting of camera.

At the Computer

About to Take the Plunge. Khutzeymateen Inlet (Great Bear Rainforest), BC. June 2, 2009.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including first-pass/capture sharpening using Phase One's Capture One Pro 5. Three RAW conversions at different exposure settings. Exposure settings of -0.67 stops (to recover highlight detail in the reflections) through to +0.75 stops (to recover shadow detail on portions of the bear).

Further digital corrections on 16-bit TIFF file using Adobe's Photoshop CS4 and Light Craft's LightZone. Photoshop adjustments included compositing and masking of 3 exposure versions, selective saturation and de-saturation of colours, and selective sharpening for web output. Final tonemapping, balancing and tweaking performed using the Tonemapper/Re-light tool in LightZone.


About to Take the Plunge. Khutzeymateen Inlet (Great Bear Rainforest), BC. June 2, 2009.

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.

*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