Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

 
Chaos, Conflict, & Cuddles - The Life of a Steller Sea Lion

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In the Field

Chaos, Conflict, & Cuddles - The Life of a Steller Sea Lion. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. 13 July 2019.

If you're the "lone wolf" type like me - or happen to have a large "personal space" - you wouldn't do well as a Steller Sea Lion! When on land Steller's are almost always jammed up together with many other sea lions and continuously interacting with them. Those interactions run the full gamut - from gentle cuddling while they sleep through to mouth-to-mouth screaming matches, and even full-flown battles where a lot of blood is drawn. This scene - captured in the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve on the coast of BC - absolutely typifies the life (or at least the on-shore life) of a Steller's Sea Lion!

I got away with a technical faux pas when I captured this shot (and it didn't kill me or the shot!). I was shooting with a Nikkor 180-400mm f4E zoom lens (with a built-in 1.4x TC) at the time, and was using the zoom AND engaging (and disengaging) the TC a lot (sea lion photography from a small Zodiac is very dynamic, to say the least). I had been zoomed in tight (all the way to 560mm) working on isolating a pair of jousting sea lions when I "saw" this wider scene and liked the mix of dynamics it revealed. I quickly zoomed all the way back to 280mm to capture the shot. My mistake? I forgot to disengage the TC and ended up shooting the scene at a focal length the lens could manage (280mm) without the TC engaged. So...I gave up at least a little image quality. Oops! But, fortunately, the 180-400mm is so good optically that engaging the TC has only a limited impact on image quality, and the mistake wasn't a deal-breaker.

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this chaotic scene:

Chaos, Conflict, & Cuddles - The Life of a Steller Sea Lion: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.71 MB)

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

1. This image was captured during our "Gwaii Haanas Explorer" photo tour in July 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

Chaos, Conflict, & Cuddles - The Life of a Steller Sea Lion. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. 13 July 2019.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 1000.

Nikon D5 paired with Nikkor 180-400mm f4E at 280mm (with TC engaged...oops!). Hand-held from floating Zodiac. VR on and in Sport mode. 9-Point Dynamic Area AF mode.

1/4000s @ f6.3; No compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Chaos, Conflict, & Cuddles - The Life of a Steller Sea Lion. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. 13 July 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 included minor modifications to highlights and shadow detail and a levels adjustment. Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case adjustments were made on 3 separate layers and included local/selective editing of (or adjustment of) clarity and a further adjustment to shadow details.

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

Conservation

Chaos, Conflict, & Cuddles - The Life of a Steller Sea Lion. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. 13 July 2019.

Species Status in Canada*: Special Concern (November 2003) - protected in Canada since 1970.

The Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus) is the largest of the sea-lions, and males can weigh up to a ton (females are considerably smaller and rarely weigh over 600 lb). Males compete among themselves for females, and successful males end up breeding with several females within their harem.

From the early 1900's through to the 1970's huge numbers of Steller's Sea-Lions were culled for their fur and to remove a competitor (for humans) for salmon. During that time approximately 55,000 sea lions were killed and the breeding population of BC was lowered to about 4,000 animals. Since the Steller Sea Lion first received protection in 1970 the population in the coastal waters of BC has grown to between 18,000 to 19,700 animals (7,600 or so of these are of breeding age).

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