Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

From the WETTEST PART of the Great Bear Rainforest

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In the Field

From the WETTEST PART of the Great Bear Rainforest. Southern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 12 May 2019.

What comes to YOUR mind when you hear the phrase "Great Bear Rainforest"? To many it would be a bear, and probably a toss-up between a white Spirit Bear or a salmon-munching grizzly. To others it might be a coastal gray wolf skulking through a misty forest. But odds are your first thought would NOT be "Oh...when I think Great Bear Rainforest I definitely think Pacific White-sided Dolphin - doesn't everyone??" ;-)

Almost like giving a wild animal a human name, there are upsides to associating a distinct descriptive name to a region. Attaching the "Great Bear Rainforest" moniker to a large and wild chunk of BC's central coast has had many benefits, including creating a useful "brand" that has tremendously aided conservation efforts in the region. But there can be some some less positive unintended consequences - and the one I see most commonly is that it can create the impression that the Great Bear Rainforest is all (or " only") about BEARS! Obviously the large and often conspicuous bear populations are a big part of the Great Bear, but over the years I have found many other species that are found in the region equally as compelling and fascinating as the bears! Almost ironically, the Great Bear is about SO MUCH MORE than "just" bears!

On that note - the species that stole the show during our 2019 "Spring in the Southern Great Bear Rainforest" photo tour was DEFINITELY the Pacific White-sided Dolphin. During the trip - and in inlets and channels that were almost as far as you could get from the open ocean - we encountered HUGE numbers of Pacific White-sides (they're also known as "lags" to many). On one day we encountered 3 separate super pods that each contained a minimum of 500 lags, and possibly a whole lot more. And we also saw them on other days as well and we guesstimated that we saw a minimum of over 3,000 of these energetic marine mammals.

So what the heck were the dolphins doing WAY up the inlets and channels of the southern Great Bear? Well, our best guess is that they were in the area to take advantage of (i.e., EAT!) the large spring Eulachon spawn. Eulachons, which are herring-sized "baitfish", are also known as candlefish (dry 'em out and because of their high fat content you can light them like a candle), seem to have bounced back to close to historic numbers in recent years. That's good news if you're a voracious marine mammals that eats a lot of fish! And, dolphins being dolphins (which means "smart animals"), they seem to have figured out this southern part of the Great Bear is a GREAT place to visit in the spring. And, you know what? They're right...

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this leaping lag for your perusal:

From the WETTEST PART of the Great Bear Rainforest: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.39 MB)


1. This image was captured during our "Spring in the Southern Great Bear" photo tour in May of 2019. Each year I offer photo tours into several different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well trips to photograph marine mammals and oceanscapes in locations on Vancouver Island. And, in selected years, I also offer photo tours to locations to capture other highly sought-after subjects, such as Dall Sheep, Bald Eagles, and more. Details about these trips can be found on the Photo Tours page of this website.

2. 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!

3. Like all wildlife photographs on this website, this image was captured following the strict ethical guidelines described in The Wildlife FIRST! Principles of Photographer Conduct. I encourage all wildlife photographers to always put the welfare of their subjects above the value of their photographs.

Behind the Camera

From the WETTEST PART of the Great Bear Rainforest. Southern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 12 May 2019.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 2800.

Nikon D5 paired with Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8E zoom at 200mm. Hand-held. VR on and in Sport mode. Group Area AF mode.

1/3200 @ f5.6; -0.33 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

From the WETTEST PART of the Great Bear Rainforest. Southern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 12 May 2019.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including all global and selective adjustments, using Phase One's Capture One Pro 12. Global adjustments to this shot included modifications to exposure and highlights. Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case adjustments were made on 4 separate layers and included local/selective editing of (or adjustment of) clarity, sharpening, exposure (i.e., exposure balancing), and noise reduction.

Photoshop adjustments were limited to image re-sizing, conversion of Prophoto RGB colour gamut (to sRGB), final sharpening for online display, and insertion of watermark.


From the WETTEST PART of the Great Bear Rainforest. Southern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 12 May 2019.

Species Status in Canada**: Not listed as Endangered, Threatened, or of "Special Concern"

Nicknamed the "Lag", the Pacific White-sided Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) is known for its exuberance and is one of the liveliest dolphins in the northern Pacific. They commonly leap clear of the water, perform flips and somersaults, and will often approach and ride the bow waves of ships.

Lags will often form schools of 1,000 or more individuals. Their social lives are dynamic, with groups frequently joining together and breaking apart. Even though both sharks and killer whales commonly feed on them, they frequently have long life spans and some have lived for 40 or more years in the wild!

*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