Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Casual Dining

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In the Field

Casual Dining. Great Bear Rainforest, Northern BC Coast, Canada. September 24, 2016.

"Sit up straight! Get your elbows off the table!" would appear that THIS black bear didn't get the proper etiquette lessons to prepare him for fine dining! But then again, this is a pretty darned casual sushi restaurant! ;-)

I captured this rainy day LONG shot (825mm EFL!) in September of 2016 in British Columbia's incomparable Great Bear Rainforest. And, it was a long shot in more ways than one...I was definitely pushing the envelope on this one! In my time shooting the Nikon D500 I have learned that while it has a very solid autofocus system, at the uber long focal lengths (400mm in full-frame terms or longer) the AF system doesn't "hit" with quite the reliability as the D5 does. And, this seems even more true if teleconverters are involved (as one was in this shot). And truer yet if you're hand-holding the big glass. This doesn't mean that the D500 doesn't WORK with the long lenses, simply that the "tack sharp hit rate" is a little lower than with the D5.

Another thing I've learned about the D500 is how high I can push the ISO and still get results that work for ME. I almost never take the D500 above ISO 3200, and if possible I like to keep it under 2000 ISO.

SO...when I framed up this shot with my D500 and 400mm f2.8E prime lens WITH a 1.4x teleconverter attached - all while dealing with low light (and with a pretty finite self-imposed ISO limit nagging at me) - I knew I'd be pushing the envelope a little. And that my chances of getting a sharp shot were...uhhh...less than 100%. Given the shutter speeds involved to keep the ISO reasonable (this one was captured at 1/320s and 1400 ISO) I opted to pull out my tripod and gimbal head. If it was practical I would have tried to up my chances of "perfect" focus via using Live View, but given the rainy conditions and the way I had to position myself to get the shot that simply wasn't a viable option.

Anyway, and as it turns out, this time the "long shot" worked out! I guess when all "chancing it" costs is a few electrons, why not go for it? ;-)

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this laid back bear for your pixel-peeping perusal:

Casual Dining: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.46 MB)


1. This image was captured during my "Into the Great Bear Rainforest" Instructional photo tour in the autumn of 2016. 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

Casual Dining. Great Bear Rainforest, Northern BC Coast, Canada. September 24, 2016.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 1400.

Nikon D500 paired with Nikon 400mm f2.8E super-telephoto prime lens plus TC-14EIII (1.4x) teleconverter, for a total EFL of 825mm. Supported on Really Right Stuff TVC-24 tripod with Jobu Jr. 3 Deluxe gimbal head. VR on and in Sport mode.

1/320s @ f5.6; -0.67 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting

At the Computer

Casual Dining. Great Bear Rainforest, Northern BC Coast, Canada. September 24, 2016.

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 10 separate layers and included local/selective editing (or application of) exposure, colour desaturation, curves (contrast) adjustment, clarity, shadow recovery, and highlight retrieval.

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.


Casual Dining. Great Bear Rainforest, Northern BC Coast, Canada. September 24, 2016.

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

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

This black 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.

*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