Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Spirit Bear - Scaling the Waterfalls

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In the Field

Spirit Bear - Scaling the Waterfalls. Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 15 September 2019.

In 2019 we chose to go well off the beaten path on the majority of our Great Bear Rainforest photo tours with the goal of finding wildlife (including Spirit Bears) in unique settings - and where they have been photographed less commonly. While it's tempting to return to known "hot spots" where the probability of encountering selected species of wildlife is a little higher, if you want rarer (or even one-of-a-kind) shots sometimes you have to stick your neck out a little! 2019 our "let's go for it" strategy played out really well...and we had great success in finding coastal Gray Wolves and Spirit Bears in new locations. In this shot a male (and really big!) Spirit Bear is "bouldering" up the side of an impressive waterfall seemingly as easily as we go up a staircase! The more I watch and photograph mammals the wimpier I feel our own species is! ;-)

In 2020 we are going to employ the same "off the beaten path" strategy to the vast majority of our Great Bear Rainforest photo tours. I am super excited about them and can hardly wait to get going!

Here's a considerably larger (2400 pixel) version of this rock-climbing specialist:

Spirit Bear - Scaling the Waterfalls: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.4 MB)


1. This image was captured during our "Into the Great Bear Rainforest" exploratory photo adventure in September of 2019. Each year we 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

Spirit Bear - Scaling the Waterfalls. Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 15 September 2019.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 360.

Nikon Z7 paired with Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8E zoom lens at 200mm. Hand-held. VR on and in Sport mode. Single Point AF area mode.

1/400s @ f2.8; No compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Spirit Bear - Scaling the Waterfalls. Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 15 September 2019.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit PSD file (and JPEG files for web use), including all global and selective adjustments, using Phase One's Capture One Pro 12. Global adjustments to this shot were limited to a tweak to levels, clarity, and highlight retrieval. Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case adjustments were made on 3 separate layers and included one or more tweaks and/or local/selective edits to (or adjustment of) exposure, clarity, sharpness, and the highlights.

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


Spirit Bear - Scaling the Waterfalls. Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 15 September 2019.

Species Status in Canada*: Not currently listed as Threatened or Endangered.

This white-coloured Black Bear (also known as a "Spirit Bear") is a member of the subspecies "Kermodei" (Ursus americana kermodei). This subspecies is unique in that the population is characterized by having an unusually high proportion of a recessive gene that produces white coat colour (found on the "Spirit Bears"). Because the Black Bear is not considered under threat as a species, both the Kermodei subspecies and the very rare Spirit Bear suffer from having the same conservation designation (it should be acknowledged that in British Columbia - the jurisdiction of greatest Spirit Bear abundance - hunting of these white-coated bears is not permitted). For reasons that are not fully understood, the Spirit Bear occurs with greater frequency in a relatively small geographic area within The Great Bear Rainforest of the central and northern coast of British Columbia. In this area 10 to 30% of the bears possess white coats. Many of the black-coloured Black Bears in this region carry the gene for white coats, so allowing hunting of ANY Black Bears in this region can reduce the frequency of the gene for white coats. Thus, to protect the Spirit Bear, it is necessary to prohibit the hunting of ALL Black Bears in this region. And, very unfortunately, the globally unique ecosystem that contains the Spirit Bear is under development pressure, especially from the forestry industry. If this unique environment is altered, we may lose the wonderful genetic anomaly known as the Spirit Bear forever.

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