Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Trust - With Conditions

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In the Field

Trust - With Conditions. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. May 25, 2017.

Over the years I've been privileged to see a lot of female grizzlies nursing their cubs. It's always a special sight - when a wild grizzly lets you watch the nursing from close proximity you know she trusts you (after all, both her and her cubs are in a very vulnerable position, to say the least). Some female grizzlies never get comfortable enough to nurse in "public" and, to this day, every time I've witnessed the intimate family act the mother has made it abundantly clear there are limits to her trust! In this case it was impossible not to hear her saying (or thinking!) "Yep, you can watch, but that's close enough!"

I captured this image with a "new" combination of gear that is rapidly climbing up my personal list of "most versatile" gear for the kind of wildlife shooting I like. The camera was a Nikon D500 that, at the time of this writing, is Nikon's top DX format camera and one that is extremely popular among wildlife photographers. The lens was a Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sport lens, which functionally becomes a 180-450mm f2.8 lens when paired up with the cropped sensor of the D500. This lens is a few years old and attracted quite a bit of attention when it was first introduced in 2013. I balked on acquiring one back then simply because Nikon didn't have a pro-level DX body at that time, and for my uses the 120-300mm focal length was a BIT short for a lot of my wildlife work. But now that Nikon has a great DX offering in the D500 the Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sport has become a highly valued part of my wildlife kit. As one who shoots a lot in low light, the fixed f2.8 aperture of this lens (along with the effective focal length of 180-450mm) has made my D500 a LOT more useful to me (who would've thunk, eh?).

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this special moment:

Trust - With Conditions: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.96 MB)


1. This image was captured during one of my "Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen" photo tour in the spring of 2017. Each year I offer trips into two different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well as one to photograph aquatic mammals and oceanscapes near the northern tip of Vancouver Island. And, in selected years, I also offer photo tours to locations to capture other highly sought-after subjects, such as various boreal owl species and wildlife of Canada's Arctic. 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 images on this website, the subject(s) is/are fully wild and completely unconstrained. Besides the potential impact of my/our presence, nothing has been done to intentionally alter or affect the ongoing behavior of the subject and, of course, there has been no use of any form of bait or other form of wildlife attractants/luring devices (including vocalizations or other sounds).

Behind the Camera

Water Trails. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 1, 2017.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 1250.

Nikon D500 paired with Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sport lens @ 300mm (for an EFL of 450mm). Hand-held from moving Zodiac. OS on and in "OS1" mode, with OS1 stabilization customized to Moderate View mode; AF customized to Fast Priority AF.

1/500s @ f5; no compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Water Trails. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 1, 2017.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 10. There raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing in exposure (0.4 stop total difference between the variants), saturation, and noise reduction settings.

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2017 and Light Crafts Lightzone. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the three output files from the raw converter, very minor exposure tweaks, and final selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


Water Trails. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 1, 2017.

Ten percent of the revenue generated by this image will be donated to Raincoast*.

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.

Sadly, because these bears reside in BC, there's a very real chance that their lives will be ended by a bullet. And, their heads and paws will be cut off (leaving the carcasses to simply rot) so that they can be mounted and adorn the wall of some fearless trophy hunter (who will, no doubt, be cheered on by all the grasses, sedges and clams that will be saved from being so mercilessly eaten by this fearsome beast).

The debate about the trophy hunting of carnivores can be broken into 3 arguments: the ethical, the economic, and the ecological. The ethical argument for the trophy hunting of grizzlies in BC? On that one - just go back and look at this image and read the paragraph immediately above. The economic argument? Well, it's on even shakier grounds - not only does bear-watching in BC generate 11-15 times as much revenue as bear hunting (and employ 10-15 times as many people), but the revenue generated by bear hunting doesn't even cover the cost to the BC Gov't of managing the hunt itself - it's a net loss to the taxpayers of BC (all studies related to these economic claims can be supplied on request). The ecological argument? Yep, you guessed right - there isn't one. As a matter of fact, an increasing body of sound, peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown how the guild of carnivores at the TOP of the food chain are exceptionally important to the overall health of ecosystems - everything from ensuring continued biodiversity through to maximizing that amount of carbon dioxide the ecosystem can absorb (climate change consequences, anyone?).

So why does the trophy hunting of carnivores (and bears in particular) continue to exist in BC? Good question. Well, it sure isn't because of public support - just under 90% of British Columbians are against it. And many First Nations have banned it in their territories. Sadly, it appears that little more than the fact that a handful of elected officials (MLA's) in a few rural ridings fear the backlash from voters if they stand against trophy hunting is keeping trophy hunting alive.

Those wishing to get active in helping to stop the trophy hunting of carnivores in BC are encouraged to visit this page on Raincoast's website. And please help spread the word!

*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