Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Course Correction to Starboard Side

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In the Field

Course Correction to Starboard Side. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest. June 18, 2023.

If you're into seeing and photographing swimming grizzlies there's no place better than the estuary of the Khutzeymateen Inlet. The estuary of the Khutzeymateen commonly experiences tides swings in the 15' to 20' range. At low tide the grizzlies walk out into the middle of the estuary to feed on sedges and grasses. Six hours later the bears find themselves on small (and shrinking) grassy islands which may totally end up submerged (depending on how high the high tide is). So at that point the bears have two options - swim off the islands or swim off the islands! So if you happen upon one of these stranded bears you pretty much have to wait and - "voila" - you have a swimming bear! Simple as pie.

Two technical comments about this shot. I'm still getting emails asking me if the Z 400mm f2.8S produces sharp images when its built-in 1.4x TC is engaged. Yep - it's amazingly sharp @ 560mm. This image was captured with the TC engaged and with the lens wide open (f4 with the TC engaged). Feel free to check out the 4800 pixel version of the image (link below) if you doubt me. There is absolutely no sharpness-related reason to avoid shooting this lens with its TC engaged (including when shooting wide open).

Second, just before the photo tour I shot this image on began Nikon updated the Z 9's firmware to version 4.0. Among the listed changes to the firmware was this rather vague statement "Made other improvements to the autofocus operation and its reliability". thing I can say about a Z 9 with firmware 4.0 is that it is a whole lot better at picking up a dark eye on a dark-faced bear than previous firmware was. Odd that they didn't specifically point this out in the firmware update notes, eh? 😉

Here's a larger version (4800 pixel) of this aquatic ursid for your scrutiny:

Course Correction to Starboard Side: Download 4800 pixel image (JPEG: 2.6 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 my Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen Instructional Photo Tour in the spring of 2023. 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

Course Correction to Starboard Side. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest. June 18, 2023.

High Efficiency* Compressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 400.

Nikon Z 9 paired with Z Nikkor 400mm f2.8S @ 560mm (built-in TC engaged). Hand-held from floating Zodiac. VR on in Sport mode. 3D-tracking area mode with subject detection on "Animal".

1/1000s @ f4; -0.7 stop compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Course Correction to Starboard Side. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest. June 18, 2023.

Initial noise reduction and capture sharpening on the .nef (raw) file using the DeepPRIME XD algorithm of DXO PhotoLab 6.7 Elite.

Subsequent adjustments to the adjusted linear DNG file (exported from PhotoLab 6.7) 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 the only global adjustment was a minor lens correction (a slight Light Falloff tweak). 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 all were under the general umbrella of "exposure balancing",with one or more highly targeted and selective tweaks to brightness (mid-tone exposure), exposure, clarity (mid-tone contrast), the highlights, blacks, and whites.

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


Course Correction to Starboard Side. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest. June 18, 2023.

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.

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