Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

 
On the Prowl

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In the Field

On the Prowl. Great Bear Rainforest, Northern BC Coast, Canada. September 25, 2017.

This was one of those classic "incredible to view, but REAL tough to depict with a photograph" scenes! It occurred during an incredibly foggy/misty afternoon on one of my "Into the Great Bear Rainforest" photo tours in the autumn of 2017. We had been searching for grizzlies in an estuary at the end of a long inlet. After finding no bears for most of the day we were almost ready to pack it in when we saw this female grizzly literally walk out of the fog! She was slowly prowling the shoreline of the estuary's main channel in search of spawning salmon and completely indifferent to our presence. Between the sound of nearby gulls and eagles crying out and the sight of this almost ghost-like bear doing her thing the experience was almost the definition of "surreal". So cool...

I captured this image with a Nikon D850 very shortly after the camera was released. Regardless of the Nikon DSLR I shoot with, I use Matrix Metering about 99% of the time. I have done so for years and consequently I have become very comfortable with how matrix metering performs, including being able to instantly judge how much exposure compensation is needed for a particular scene (with a particular camera model). Of course, over that time matrix metering has evolved significantly.

So...my thoughts on the matrix metering of the D850? Well...in my first few shots with the camera I noticed that if you shoot high-contrast scenes "dead on" (i.e., with no exposure compensation) the D850 tends to "blow-out" (loses light-on-light detail) LESS than any other Nikon I have shot with. This doesn't mean you CAN'T blow out the highlights with a D850 - just that it doesn't tend to do so quite so readily.

So what has produced this reduced tendency in the D850 to blow-out highlights in high contrast scenes? Hard to say...it could be a function of the increased dynamic range of the camera. It could be that Nikon has simply tweaked the complex algorithm behind the matrix metering. Or...it could be a bit of both.

Two additional observations lead me to believe that the tendency to blow out highlights LESS with the D850 is likely due to a change to the matrix metering. First, even at higher ISO's (ISO 2000 to 4000 range) I have noticed that this trend of NOT blowing out highlights is still evident. And in this ISO range the D850 has LESS dynamic range than the D5 (yet still retains highlights better than the D5). So I don't think increased dynamic range alone explains the better retention of highlights.

Second, in scenarios where you have bright scene with a dark subject (like this shot!), the D850 "blocks up" shadows (loses shadow detail) just as quickly (or even faster) than the D5 (or, for that matter, the D500) if you rely on matrix metering. Which means you need as much or more "positive" exposure compensation than you would with a D5 or D500. So...while this is probably an oversimplification of the situation...I think the most likely explanation for the D850's tendency to hold highlight detail better is that the matrix metering algorithm has been tweaked a little by Nikon and is now more biased towards under-exposure (at least in high-contrast situations).

Anyway...saving highlight detail is almost always a good thing...and as a raw shooter I find I have to think about blowing out highlights a little less with the D850 than with any other Nikon DSLR. So no complaints from me!

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this classic Great Bear Rainforest scene:

On the Prowl: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 0.7 MB)

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

1. This image was captured during my autumn"Into the Great Bear Rainforest" Instructional photo tour in the summer of 2017. Each year I offer trips into two different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well as one to photograph marine 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 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 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

On the Prowl. Great Bear Rainforest, Northern BC Coast, Canada. September 25, 2017.

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

Nikon D850 paired with Nikkor 400mm f2.8E. Hand-held. VR on and in Sport mode.

1/800s @ f3.5; +0.67 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

On the Prowl. Great Bear Rainforest, Northern BC Coast, Canada. September 25, 2017.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 10. Adjustments made during raw conversion included Levels adjustment, and a minor exposure adjustment (0.2 stops).

Further digital correction on resulting 16-bit TIFF file using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2018. Photoshop adjustments included additional selective exposure tweaks, selective contrast (curves) adjustment, and final selective sharpening for web output.

Conservation

On the Prowl. Great Bear Rainforest, Northern BC Coast, Canada. September 25, 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 this bear resides in BC, there's a very real chance that its life will be ended by a bullet. And, its head and paws will be cut off (leaving the carcass 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