Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

The Pounce!

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In the Field

The Pounce! Northern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 19 September 2018.

I captured this dramatic shot during an "Into the Great Bear Rainforest" Exploratory Photo Adventure in the autumn of 2018. Between an AMAZING bumper crop of berries and a weak salmon run we had to work hard to find bears on this trip (the salmon streams did NOT have their normal "magnetic" affect on the bears!). In fact, this is the only Spirit Bear we managed to find in 2018. But, I think as this image shows - you actually don't need a whole lot of bears to get a dramatic shot! ;-)

This shot is a result (possibly a very lucky result) of me adopting a "go-big-or-go-home" attitude to a rare photo op! This very healthy and attractive Spirit Bear was working its way upstream towards us and fishing in all the pools along the way. Which means we saw it coming and had time to prepare for its arrival. As it was getting very close I decided to go vertical and go for a VERY tight shot of it diving at a fish (this version is full-frame horizontally with only a slight crop off the bottom). So I cranked my 180-400mm f4E out to 400mm and engaged the built-in TC and waited for the bear to rush at a fish. Of course, I was aware that I might clip the bear, but figured "What the heck...if the bear rushes at a fish and right at me I want this one real tight and dramatic." And, I DID clip the back and the side of the bear in a few shots before this one, but...who the heck cares? ;-)

Some may be aware that I extensively tested the Nikkor 180-400mm f4E in 2018. I'm often asked why I go to the bother with all the gear testing (especially given I don't get paid for it - or accrue any financial benefits - for doing so). Well...this shot says it all. Because I had tested the 180-400mm extensively I knew it was capable of producing tack sharp images, even at its longest focal length WITH the built-in teleconverter engaged. Moreover, my testing revealed that this sharpness was found at ALL apertures, including when the lens was shot wide open (which is a bit of a first in itself). this opportunity was unfolding I didn't even remotely hesitate to zoom the lens right out and open the aperture right up. If I had relied on published MTF curves - or some other reviews of the lens that claim the TC should only be used as a "last resort" - I never would have "risked" the go-big-or-go-home approach on this one.

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this diving Spirit Bear for your perusal:

The Pounce! Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.62 MB)


1. This image was captured during one of my "Into the Great Bear Rainforest" Exploratory Photo Adventures in the autumn of 2018. 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 the northern portion 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 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

The Pounce! Northern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 19 September 2018.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 800.

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

1/1250s @ f5.6; -1.0 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

The Pounce! Northern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 19 September 2018.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including all global and selective adjustments, using Phase One's Capture One Pro 11.2.2. Global adjustments to this shot were limited to highlight retrieval. Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case adjustments were made on 4 separate layers and included local/selective editing of (or adjustment of) shadow recovery and exposure (balancing).

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.


The Pounce! Northern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 19 September 2018.

Ten percent of the revenue generated by this image will be donated to Raincoast*.

Species Status in Canada**: Not currently listed as Threatened or Endangered.

The "Spirit" Bear is a rare genetically-based colour variant of the common Black Bear (Ursus americana). It has been estimated that less than 300 Spirit Bears exist today. Because the Black Bear is not considered under threat as a species, the Spirit Bear suffers 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.

*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