Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Steamy Sunrise in the Great Bear

Availability: Undetermined - Enquiries?

Previous Gallery Next Gallery

In the Field

Steamy Sunrise in the Great Bear. Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 18 September 2019.

This was one of those "WOW" moments you occasionally have if you spend enough time photographing wildlife. Seconds before capturing this image I was looking in the opposite direction (downstream) as the sun began to peek over a nearby mountain ridge. There WAS a bear downstream that was front-lit, but the distance to that bear plus the mottled lighting it was in combined to make it a "meh" shot. Then I turned around and looked upstream and saw this black bear walking into the light...just as steam started rising from the wet rocks that were surrounding the bear. I LOVED the contrasty scene and how - at least to me - it captured the feeling of just so many Great Bear Rainforest moments!

I've always been drawn to naturally high contrast scenes like this one. They can be very tricky to capture correctly; getting the exposure "right" - including leaving enough detail in the dark regions while not completely blowing out the highlights - can be REAL tricky! And, processing the raw file can be even trickier, usually involving a lot of selective adjustments to both exposure and contrast. So if you're not comfortable with working with layers and masks (be it in Capture One Pro or Photoshop) you're at a big disadvantage. With this image I utilized Capture One Pro 12's excellent implementation of luminosity masking to bring back the contrast between the rising steam and the background that I remembered seeing in the field. This IS an accurate representation of what I remember seeing in the field, though I make no claim for having a perfect memory!

Here's a considerably larger (2400 pixel) version of this steamy Black Bear for your perusal:

Steamy Sunrise in the Great Bear: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.0 MB)


1. This image was captured during our "Into the Great Bear Rainforest" exploratory photo adventure in September of 2019. Each year we 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

Steamy Sunrise in the Great Bear. Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 18 September 2019.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 560.

Nikon D5 paired with Nikkor 180-400mm f4E zoom lens at 560mm (with built-in 1.4x TC engaged). Hand-held. VR on and in Sport mode. 9-point Dynamic Area AF mode.

1/400s @ f5.6; -0.7 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Steamy Sunrise in the Great Bear. Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 18 September 2019.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit PSD file (and JPEG files for web use), including all global and selective adjustments, using Phase One's Capture One Pro 12. Global adjustments to this shot were limited to highlight and contrast (i.e., levels) adjustments. Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case adjustments were made on 5 separate layers and included local/selective editing of (or adjustment of) contrast (a curves adjustment), exposure, shadows, and highlights.

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


Steamy Sunrise in the Great Bear. Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 18 September 2019.

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.

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