Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

The Itchy Clammer

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In the Field

The Itchy Clammer. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest. June 17, 2023.

The grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen live in an ever-changing environment driven by tidal cycles. At high tide both the estuary itself and the alluvial fans offer grass and sedges for the bears to munch on. At low tide beaches and mud flats are exposed, dramatically increasing the area for the bears to wander around in, and providing opportunities for the bears to feast on seafood, especially clams. Some of the bears seem to particularly enjoy clamming (or at least they enjoy the fruits of their "clamming" labour!). This is one of those bears - during our stay in the Khutzeymateen it was found on a particular alluvial fan daily, and at every low tide it was out on the flats digging for clams.

Low tide brings out more than clamming bears - it also tends to bring out the bugs, including small biting midges of the family Ceratopogonidae (AKA no-see-ums!). At times you'll see swarms of these midges around and on the bears, but the bears don't seem to react to them (or perhaps they're just resigned to living with them!). That said, this clamming bear spent a good chunk of time scratching itself, which might be due to irritation from bug bites? Oh...and those small white spots visible above the bear aren't bugs...they're raindrops.

Here's a larger version (4800 pixel) of this itchy ursid for your perusal:

The Itchy Clammer: Download 4800 pixel image (JPEG: 4.3 MB)


1. These images - in all resolutions - are 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. Like all photographs on this website, these images were 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.

3. This image was captured during my Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen Instructional Photo Tour in the spring of 2023. Each year I offer trips into two different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well as one to photograph aquatic mammals and oceanscapes on the northern and west coasts of Vancouver Island. Details about these trips can be found on the Photo Tours page of this website.

Behind the Camera

The Itchy Clammer. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest. June 17, 2023.

High Efficiency* Compressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 1250.

Nikon Z 9 paired with Z Nikkor 400mm f2.8S. Hand-held from floating Zodiac. VR on in Sport mode. 3D-tracking AF area mode with subject detection on "Animal".

1/1000s @ f3.2; +0.3 stop compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

The Itchy Clammer. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest. June 17, 2023.

Initial noise reduction and capture sharpening on the .nef (raw) file using the DeepPRIME XD algorithm of DXO PhotoLab 6.7 Elite.

Subsequent adjustments to the adjusted linear DNG file (exported from PhotoLab 6.7) and conversion to 16-bit TIFF file (and JPEG files for web use) - including all global and selective adjustments - made using Phase One's Capture One Pro 23. In the case of this image the sole global adjustments was a tweak to overall contrast (a Levels adjustment). Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case small adjustments were made on 6 separate layers and ALL were under the general umbrella of "exposure balancing", with one or more highly targeted and selective tweaks to brightness (mid-tone exposure), clarity (mid-tone contrast), the highlights, blacks, and shadows. There were no enhancements to the colour saturation of this image during post-processing.

Photoshop modifications were limited to the insertion of the watermark and/or text.


The Itchy Clammer. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest. June 17, 2023.

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.

On December 18, 2017 the government of British Columbia banned grizzly hunting across the entire province. This major conservation victory came after decades of tireless work by many dedicated conservationists and ecologists and, most importantly, it reflects the opinion of the vast majority of British Columbians. And, it means that AT LEAST while the current government remains in power grizzlies are finally "safe" in British Columbia.

Now that we've at least temporarily won the battle to save grizzlies in BC, it's time to re-focus our efforts toward protecting ALL of BC's carnivores, including Gray Wolves, Black Bears, Cougars, Wolverines, and more! Simply put, there are no ecological, economic, or ethical arguments supporting the trophy hunting of carnivores.

*as determined by COSEWIC: The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada