Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Camou Clash!

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In the Field

Camou Clash! Great Bear Rainforest, Northern BC Coast, Canada. September 28, 2017.

Harbour Seals show amazing diversity in coat color. Within the Great Bear Rainforest we see seals ranging in colour from a "boring gray" through to spectacular mottled patterns, silver, absolute black, and even rusty red. When resting on the shorelines some match their backgrounds extremely well (and are almost impossible to see) while others stick out like a sore thumb. At first thought it's easy to think "Well...there's a HUGE mistake in camouflage strategy - that guy won't last long!" But...while some seals DO get taken on shore (by wolves or bears), it's important to remember that the primary predator for them in this region is the Killer Whale - an aquatic marine predator. Consequently, how they appear (or disappear!) on the shoreline is likely quite irrelevant to how well they survive Killer Whale attacks (which, of course, occurs in water). So it's entirely possible that coat colour is completely unrelated to survival in Harbour seals (which may explain why we see such a variety of coat colour and patterns - i.e., that there is no selective pressure for camouflage coats).

But I'm posting this image to make a different point - and one that can be important to keep in mind when composing your images (or even in the direction you "take" the post-processing of your images on your computer).

So...what "draws" your eye to various portions of an image? Or, said another way, what influences eye-flow when someone is looking at your images? Of course, it HAS been studied. And, it turns out that luminance (brightness) draws the eye stronger than anything else. Which means that if everything else is equal then your eye will be drawn to the brightest part of the image. In this shot, I suspect almost everyone viewing it saw the white-mottled seal WAY before they noticed the darker one (of course, a part of that is owing to position in the frame, but even if reversed in position it's likely a viewer would have picked up the light-coloured seal first). What's NEXT in eye-drawing power? Many folks think it's colour - but it isn't. Clarity (or sharpness) is the right after luminosity in eye-drawing power. So if you have an image with significantly sharper regions (and softer, out-of-focus areas as well), the eye is going to be drawn to and examine the sharper areas first. FINALLY, after both luminosity and clarity, the eye IS drawn to colour (and, most importantly, colour differences).

Good food for thought for (and from!) your friendly neighborhood wildlife photographer. And I'll leave it to you decide how you can use it! ;-)

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of these slick seals for your perusal:

Camou Clash! Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 2.0 MB)


1. This image was captured during my "Into the Great Bear Rainforest" Instructional photo tour in the autumn of 2017. 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 the northern portion of 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

Camou Clash! Great Bear Rainforest, Northern BC Coast, Canada. September 28, 2017.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 500.

Nikon D850 paired with Nikkor 400mm f2.8E. Hand-held from floating Zodiac. VR on and in Sport mode.

1/2000s @ f3.2; -1-0 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Camou Clash! Great Bear Rainforest, Northern BC Coast, Canada. September 28, 2017.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including all global and selective adjustments, using Phase One's Capture One Pro 11. Selective local adjustments accomplished using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case adjustments were made on 3 separate layers and included local/selective editing (or application of) colour saturation, colour desaturation and shadow recovery.

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.


Camou Clash! Great Bear Rainforest, Northern BC Coast, Canada. September 28, 2017.

Ten percent of the revenue generated by this image will be donated to The Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Species Status in Canada*: Most Harbour Seal populations in Canada are not listed as Threatened or Endangered. The Lac des Loups Marins landlocked population of Quebec (Ungave Peninsula) currently listed as Endangered (most recent assessment update - November 2007).

The Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina) is found on both the eastern and western coasts of North America. They tend not to make long migrations and in many areas they are present year-round. When foraging Harbour Seals normally dive to between 30 and 100 metres in depth and stay below the surface for 5 to 6 minutes. On occasion they have been known to dive to depths of over 450 metres and have stay submerged for almost 30 minutes. Harbour Seals have a diverse diet, including cephalopod, crustacceans and a variety of fish such as herring, eulachon, pollock, and salmon.

Historically bounty programs were used in both Canada and the USA to reduce populations of Harbour Seals. In more recent times seals have become protected over much of North America and some populations have rebounded strongly (it is estimated that over 150,000 seals now occupy the coast of British Columbia). There is a land-locked and freshwater sub-species of the Harbour Seal found on the Ungava Peninsula of northern Quebec. This population is now down to an estimated 100 individuals and is listed as Endangered by COSEWIC.

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.