Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill


About Brad Hill: Biography

Today, I'm a full-time rabid nature photographer whose major focus is conservation. I reside in the southern Columbia Valley of British Columbia, wedged between the Rocky Mountains to the east and the Purcells to the west, with my longtime partner Patti. The area in which I live has been called the "Serengeti of North America." It's not a bad place for a nature photographer to live, I say with my tongue firmly in place in my cheek!

I currently concentrate my photographic efforts in North America and, in particular, western Canada. I use the term "nature photographer" to describe myself, rather than the more limiting terms of "wildlife photographer" or even "bear photographer" (though I suspect some of the locals in the community in which I live probably think I'm a bit of a "bear nut"). I'm keen to aim my camera at anything "natural", though I only shoot landscapes opportunistically.

My photographic goal has been the same for decades: to extract and expose the "natural art" that is all around us. The approach that works best for me in my attempt to create natural art is to concentrate on locations that are "close to home" where I can become intimately familiar with the local flora and fauna, their annual cycles, and the area's lighting characteristics. I also spend a great deal of time shooting on British Columbia's spectacular west coast, and I normally lead a good half-dozen or more photo tours annually to various locations on the BC coast.

Over the years I have become increasingly concerned about the ethical side of nature and wildlife photography. Unfortunately this concern developed and grew because of first-hand observations of photographers behaving in ways that harmed or unnecessarily impacted on either their subject or the environment they are found in. To help combat this, I developed my own ethical framework and guidelines that govern my own behaviour and that of my photo tour guests - my Wildlife FIRST! Principles of Photographer Conduct.

What pathway led me to where I am today? A somewhat indirect one, but one that almost "pre-adapted me" to becoming a professional nature photographer: Biologist and Lecturer, Entrepreneur and Small Business Owner, Communications Consultant, Hi Tech Worker, and finally, Nature Photographer.

Biologist and University Lecturer - The Very Distant Past

My original training - far too many decades ago - was in biology. I completed a B.Sc. is in Environmental Biology and a M.Sc. in Behavioural Ecology (the study of animal behaviour from an evolutionary perspective). My own research was in animal communication and territoriality and I used songbirds as my study subjects, in particular White-crowned Sparrows and both Mountain and Black-capped Chickadees (none of those macho-enhancing carnivores for me - I wanted good data!). While conducting my own studies I assisted in other projects on Snowy Owls, Red-tailed and Swainson's Hawks, Cougars, Black Bears, and Grizzly Bears in my spare time. And I was already actively pursuing "natural art" with my film-based Minolta SLR's!

Following completion of my master's degree I spent a few years lecturing at the University of Calgary and a local college while I published the results of my research work. I have the perception (or possibly misconception) that I was an excellent lecturer for the keen and enthusiastic students, but I suspect the other students might describe me otherwise...

Entrepreneur and Small Business Owner - Still Long Ago

An odd transition (even for me!) left me as an entrepreneur and a small business owner. OK, I'll admit it - I was a partner in a high-end bicycle shop. For 10 years. During a local economic downturn. Hey...I learned a LOT and it was a great way to fund the passions of a slightly-too-big and slight-too-heavy bicycle road racer! And I got to point my cameras (now Nikons) at bike racers in action!

Communications Consultant - Slightly More Recent Times

Somewhere along the line I purchased myself a Macintosh computer (a truly life-changing event!) and taught myself a little about print layout and web design. And, before long I was busy designing and producing print ads and catalogs, websites, and writing for a few magazines. In a strange way it was good training enroute to becoming a nature photographer.

Hi-Tech Worker - Only a Few Decades Back!

Next came a multi-year stint in the Hi-Tech sector. Caffeine-charged stuff. Good fun and heady times. I worked with Adobe Systems in San Jose (as Project Manager of the Plug-in Project and Director of Worldwide Merchandising for and Getty Images in Seattle (as Site Manager of all their royalty-free websites and Vice President of the Online Strategy and Design Department). Perfect training for a soon-to-be full-time nature photographer. Really.

2005 - Present: Full-Time Nature Photographer

In 2005 I closed the loop and decided to return to work with nature on a full-time basis. But now, instead of studying it, I'm photographing it. It's hard work, tough to make a living in, and decidely less glamourous than the life that many imagine it to be. And I love it.