Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Humpback Humour - Photobombing the Harbour Seals

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In the Field

Humpback Humour - Photobombing the Harbour Seals. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. December 29, 2022.

Many marine mammals experts spend a lot of time talking about how intelligent whales are. And, anyone who has witnessed a number of Humpbacks engaging in cooperative bubble-netting feeding behaviour would similarly conclude that Humpbacks are indeed quite brainy. But who would have thought they had an advanced sense of humour and enjoyed photobombing their distant relatives - Harbour Seals?

When we were first approaching these hauled-out seals the goal was simply to get some good seal shots. And we had no idea a Humpback was cruising underwater just behind them. But once it surfaced and took a few breaths it dawned on me that a shot of it fluking in the background behind the seals might make for an interesting shot. Ultimately it didn't dive in the exact spot I was hoping for gotta go with what you're given - right?

Regular visitors to this website will know I spend a lot of my time in the field in BC's Great Bear Rainforest. This image holds a partial answer to why I focus so heavily on the "Great Bear" - it's largely about the diversity and abundance of wildlife there! There are, of course, times when you have to really go looking to find the wildlife, but at times you have more wildlife around you than you know what to do with! And, I'm still running into new photographic challenges in the Great Bear.

Here's a larger version (4800 pixel) of this Humpback trying to steal the show from the Harbour Seals:

Humpback Humour - Photobombing the Harbour Seals: 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 one of my "Into the Great Bear Rainforest" exploratory photo adventure in the summer of 2022. 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

Humpback Humour - Photobombing the Harbour Seals. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. December 29, 2022.

Lossless compressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 720.

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

1/1000s @ f8; -0.7 stop compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Humpback Humour - Photobombing the Harbour Seals. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. December 29, 2022.

Initial noise reduction and sharpening on the .nef (raw) file using the DeepPRIME XD algorithm of DXO PhotoLab 6 Elite.

Subsequent adjustments to the adjusted linear DNG file (exported from PhotoLab 6) 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. Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case selective adjustments were made on 5 separate layers and most were under the general umbrella of "exposure balancing", with one or more selective tweaks to brightness (mid-tone exposure), blacks, clarity (mid-tone contrast), highlights, whites, and colour saturation.

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


Humpback Humour - Photobombing the Harbour Seals. Findlay Creek, BC, Canada. December 29, 2022.

Species Status in Canada*: Humpback Whales: Special Concern - North Pacific population (June 2017); Harbour Seals: Not At Risk (Pacific subspecies)

Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeagnliae) are active, acrobatic whales that can throw themselves completely clear of the water (a behaviour known as breaching) and will swim on their backs with both flippers in the air. Humpbacks are large (up to 14m - or 46 feet - in length and 40 tonnes in weight) and with huge flippers.

Humpbacks are found in tropical, temperate, and sub-polar waters around the world. They are found on both the east and west coasts of North America. The North Pacific population has been estimated at between 6,000 and 8,000 individuals, but only a few hundred of these are found in the waters off the coast of British Columbia.

While Humpbacks are recovering from the damage done to their populations by commercial fishing, the are still subject to a variety of threats from human activities, including becoming entangled in fishing nets, noise and chemical pollution and habitat destruction.

The Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina) is found on both the eastern and western coasts of North America. They tend not to make long migrations and in many areas they are present year-round. When foraging Harbour Seals normally dive to between 30 and 100 metres in depth and stay below the surface for 5 to 6 minutes. On occasion they have been known to dive to depths of over 450 metres and have stay submerged for almost 30 minutes. Harbour Seals have a diverse diet, including cephalopod, crustacceans and a variety of fish such as herring, eulachon, pollock, and salmon.

Historically bounty programs were used in both Canada and the USA to reduce populations of Harbour Seals. In more recent times seals have become protected over much of North America and some populations have rebounded strongly (it is estimated that over 150,000 seals now occupy the coast of British Columbia). There is a land-locked and freshwater sub-species of the Harbour Seal found on the Ungava Peninsula of northern Quebec. This population is now down to an estimated 100 individuals and is listed as Endangered by COSEWIC.

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