Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

 
Rest In Peace

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In the Field

Rest in Peace. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. May 27, 2012.

Nope, not dead - just sleeping. But the title of this image nicely summarizes the philosophy that we approach bear photography with in the Khutzeymateen and in the Great Bear Rainforest in general. It's impossible to deny that wildlife photography can have a negative impact on the very subjects we revere, stalk and photograph. Any ethical wildlife photographer will do his or her utmost to minimize the negative impact on our subjects. And, of course, many wildlife photographers "do the right thing" and actively promote or initiate conservation causes.

The Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary is Canada's only grizzly sanctuary and is found in a very remote and inaccessible location. It is closed to the public and visited by under 200 humans per year. And, the two guides who are allowed to escort guests into the sanctuary treat the bears with the utmost of respect. On my annual photo tours into the Khutzeymateen I always work with one outfitter - Ocean Light II Adventures (you can check them out right here). One of the main reasons I chose to work with them is that we share the same philosophy about how the 60 or so bears that make the Khutzeymateen such an amazing place should be treated.

How do we judge when we've been successful in an encounter with a bear? Is it when we come back with great photos? Is it when we've witnessed a bear do something dramatic or something we've never seen before, like sparring with another bear? No. The best encounters are when we work with a bear for a while and it remains so calm and relaxed that it finally stops what it's doing, lies down, and goes to sleep right in front of us. And, as soon as the bear nods off we quietly withdraw, complete with the comforting knowledge that the bear trusted us fully and had a low-stress encounter.

Rest in peace buddy - and adios for now...

Here's a higher resolution (2400 pixel) version of the shot for those wanting to see more detail:

Rest in Peace: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 2.7 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. This image was captured during one of my two spring "Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen" photo tours in May/June of 2012. 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/luring devices (including vocalizations or other sounds).

Behind the Camera

Rest in Peace. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. May 27, 2012.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 2200

Nikon D4 paired with Nikkor 400mm f2.8 VRII lens. Hand held from floating Zodiac. VR on and in normal mode.

1/400s @ f6.3; -0.33 stop compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Rest in Peace. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. May 27, 2012.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including first-pass/capture sharpening using Capture One Pro Version 6. Three raw variants (processed from raw) differing by a total of 1.2 stops in exposure.

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CS6 and Light Craft's Lightzone. Photoshop adjustments included compositing the raw conversion exposure variants, selective minor tweaks to exposure, selective colour saturation and desaturation, and selective sharpening for web output. Final tone tweaking performed using tonemapper/re-light tool in Lightzone.

Conservation

Rest in Peace. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. May 27, 2012.

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 carcasses 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