Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Caught With Its Pants Down!

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In the Field

Caught With Its Pants Down! Southern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 7 May 2019.

What do coastal grizzlies eat in the spring? Well...besides grasses and sedges (which is a HUGE part of their diet in the spring), they really like working the shorelines at low tide in search of crabs, clams, and pretty much anything edible that might have washed up on the shore. This sub-adult bear was really focused on foraging when we encountered it at the end of a VERY long channel early in our 2019 Spring in the Southern Great Bear photo much so that it pretty much ignored our Zodiac as it approached.

I was kinda chuckling to myself when I captured this shot - the bear was (quite obviously) going through a heavy shedding of its winter coat and when it turned its head towards us it seemed almost like a " caught me with my pants down" moment! ;-)

I captured this image using a Nikon D500 combined with Nikon's newish (and still not too readily available) 500mm f56.E PF super-telephoto lens. The question I get MOST about the lens is about how effective it is at isolating a subject from its background. I almost always respond to this comment with a " depends" caveat. And, exactly WHAT it depends on includes a lot of factors, including distance to the background BEHIND the subject, whether or not the situation allows you open up the aperture (and still have sufficient DoF to create the image you want), et cetera. As an example, in this case, I shot the 500mm PF wide open at f5.6 and it DID soften up the background quite significantly (and thus isolating the subject from the background quite effectively). BUT...even if I was shooting a 500mm f4 lens at the time, I would have not opened up the aperture any further anyway. Why? Well...of course opening up to f4 WOULD soften the background more, but it would also thrown more of the foreground out of focus, which wouldn't have worked for me. And, the subject simply wouldn't have been as sharp (my own testing has shown that the 500mm PF is sharper when shot wide open than a 500mm f4 is when it is also shot wide open).

Bottom line? The 500mm PF is working really well for me in the field and even with the smaller maximum aperture I still prefer it to any 500mm f4 lens currently available.

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this bold and not-so-bashful bruin:

Caught With Its Pants Down! Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.0 MB)


1. This image was captured during our "Spring in the Southern Great Bear" photo tour in May of 2019. 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 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

Caught With Its Pants Down! Southern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 7 May 2019.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 220.

Nikon D500 paired with Nikkor 500mm f5.6E PF super-telephoto lens (for an EFL of 750mm). Hand-held from floating Zodiac. VR on and in Sport mode. Single Point AF mode.

1/1250s @ f5.6; -0.33 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Caught With Its Pants Down! Southern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 7 May 2019.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including all global and selective adjustments, using Phase One's Capture One Pro 12. Global adjustments to this shot included modifications to exposure and highlight (retrieval). Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case adjustments were made on 6 separate layers and included local/selective editing of (or adjustment of) highlights, sharpening, exposure (i.e., exposure balancing), shadow retrieval, and colour balance.

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.


Caught With Its Pants Down! Southern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 7 May 2019.

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.

On December 18, 2017 the government of British Columbia banned grizzly hunting across the entire province. This major conservation victory came after decades of tireless work by many dedicated conservationists and ecologists and, most importantly, it reflects the opinion of the vast majority of British Columbians. And, it means that AT LEAST while the current government remains in power grizzlies are finally "safe" in British Columbia.

Now that we've at least temporarily won the battle to save grizzlies in BC, it's time to re-focus our efforts toward protecting ALL of BC's carnivores, including Gray Wolves, Black Bears, Cougars, Wolverines, and more! Simply put, there are no ecological, economic, or ethical arguments supporting the trophy hunting of carnivores.

In a great first step towards ending the hunting of carnivores throughout BC the Raincoast Conservation Foundation has developed a program designed to protect ALL carnivores within the Great Bear Rainforest. Details about this program can be found on this page on Raincoast's website. Check it out and, better yet, make a donation to help Raincoast purchase the remaining commercial hunting tenures in the Great Bear!

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