Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

 
Cuddling...Cautiously!

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In the Field

Cuddling...Cautiously! Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. May 28, 2012.

It's funny how fast you get can used to advances in technology and start taking them for granted. I captured this image from a floating Zodiac inflatable boat - the subjects (a female grizzly with two cubs snuggled up against her back) were behind a log and sitting in near darkness. I was hand-holding a darned big lens (Nikon's 400mm f2.8G VR) and knew to get enough depth of field to render the critical portions of both cubs (and mom) sharp I could not shoot with the aperture wide open. Well, no problem - just stop down to f5 and let the ISO climb up - in this case up to ISO 12,800! So where is the golf-ball sized "grain" (noise) and why haven't the shaded regions blocked up and the highlights (on the right-most cub's chin) blown out? Oh...that's what happened with 3 year-old gear...not the latest gear available in 2012! What one can capture these days - and how you can capture it - is becoming absolutely mind-boggling! Makes me want to re-shoot almost everything in my collection that's more than a couple of years old!

What I personally like about this image is that the behaviour of the two cubs - one happily snoring away and the other warily watching me - totally reflects how they acted all the time and their personalities. We had the bold guy (a young male) and we had the cautious one (a young female). Even when resting their personalities couldn't help but shine through!

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

Cuddling...Cautiously! Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. May 28, 2012.

Digital Capture; RAW 14-bit format; ISO 12,800.

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

1/320s @ f5; -1.0 stop compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting. Auto ISO engaged with Auto shutter speed enabled (shutter speed keyed to focal length of lens with no compensation).

At the Computer

Cuddling...Cautiously! Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. May 28, 2012.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including first-pass/capture sharpening using Capture One Pro. Four raw variants (processed from raw) differing by a total of 1.7 stops in exposure - from -1.7 stops from original exposure to 0.0 stops from original exposure.

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CS6 and Light Craft's Lightzone. Photoshop adjustments including compositing the raw conversion variants (layering and masking), selective application of a warming filter (adjustment layer), and selective sharpening for web output. Final tone tweaking performed using tonemapper/re-light tool in Lightzone.

Conservation

Cuddling...Cautiously! Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary, Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. May 28, 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