Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Launching the Attack

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In the Field

Launching the Attack. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest. June 18, 2023.

While the Khutzeymateen is world-renown for its grizzly bears, there are many other residents species found there that are very worthy photographic subjects. And that includes Bald Eagles - I've been running photo tours in the Khutzeymateen annually since 2007 and I don't think I've ever been there and not seen Bald Eagles.

This Bald Eagle encounter was particularly interesting. We spotted it standing in water at the edge of a large alluvial fan. At the time it was strongly side-lit. We slowly approached it in our Zodiac and were happily shooting it in the water when it turned and took off directly into the sun (as you can see with this shot!). Its flight plan gave us some very nice low level flight shots, but what happened next was even better. Shortly after take-off it veered toward the middle of the channel and was joined by a second adult eagle, who we later concluded was likely its mate. The two of them tag-teamed hitting a small group of Common Mergansers that were swimming on the surface of the channel. And, they successfully captured one of the merganser chicks in the group. While I did get photos of the attack, it occurred hundreds of meters away and even with my Z 800mm lens the resulting shots were pretty much of the "documentary" nature. Little did we know when we began shooting the eagle (which initially appeared to be looking right at us) that it was actually watching the mergansers WAY out in the middle of the channel - and when it took off it was actually launching its attack! Very cool...

Many have noticed that I began using the DeepPRIME XD algorithm of DxO PhotoLab during the last year for the initial noise reduction and capture sharpening of my raw images. Just before I left for the Khutzeymateen DxO added lens profiles for the Nikkor Z 800mm f6.3S. While I was initially very happy about this, I've been finding that when used in PhotoLab (and possibly in PureRAW3) this lens profile seems to contribute to dramatically over-sharpening images captured with the Z 800mm. This is especially noticeable if your subject is covered in feathers or fur (think "crunchy" and with pronounced halos). In PhotoLab you can access the default sharpening adjustments and pull them back far enough so that the Z 800mm images are rendered very sharp but not "over-sharpened". I'm not sure this can be done in PureRAW3 (but don't have a copy available right now to test this). So at least for Z 800mm owners who use DxO PhotoLab this new lens profile is still definitely a net advantage to them.

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

Launching the Attack: Download 4800 pixel image (JPEG: 3.4 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

Launching the Attack. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest. June 18, 2023.

High Efficiency* Compressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 2200.

Nikon Z 9 paired with Z Nikkor 800mm f6.3S. Hand-held from floating Zodiac. VR on in Sport mode. Wide-area Custom (13x3) AF area mode with subject detection on "Auto".

1/6400s @ f6.3; -1.7 stop compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Launching the Attack. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest. June 18, 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 there were no global adjustments made to the image. Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case selective adjustments were made on 4 separate layers and almost 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 whites.

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


Launching the Attack. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest. June 18, 2023.

Species Status in Canada*: This species is not designated as at risk. The Bald Eagle was listed as "Endangered" in the contiguous US states from 1967 to 1995. In 1995 it was downlisted to "Threatened". On June 28, 2007 Bald Eagles were removed from the list of endangered and threatened species - a true American conservation success story.

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is a very large bird of prey with broad wings. Adults possess characteristic white ("bald") heads. It takes Bald Eagles a full five years to attain their characteristic adult plumage (including their nearly pure white head and tail). In the years prior to the development of their adult plumage they are easy to confuse with Golden Eagles. Being very broad-winged Bald Eagles are able to use an energy-efficient flapping-soaring style of flight. While many people like to think of the Bald Eagle as a fierce hunter, in reality they hunt only as a last resort. More commonly they scavenge for their prey. Additionally, they often klepto-parasitize other weaker species such as Osprey, commonly stealing the other species hard-earned prey items. The Bald Eagle is, of course, the national emblem of the United States (Benjamin Franklin argued against this - his preference was for the Wild Turkey).

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