Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Spring Griz

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In the Field

Spring Griz. Southern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 1, 2022.

I captured this image of a sturdy and solid male grizzly bear during my Spring in the Southern Great Bear Exploratory Photo Adventure on the first day of June, 2022. This good-sized male was actively courting a female bear at the time, along with munching on grass and taking the occasional drink. Although I spend a lot of time in the Great Bear Rainforest, this was the first time I had visited this particular inlet and estuary in the spring. And it didn't disappoint - we had wildflowers, ample cooperative bears, and mostly good weather. Actually, our biggest foe on this trip was one we don't often battle in the Great Bear Rainforest - the sun! When I captured this mid-day shot we had an extremely thin cloud cover, which cut the contrast just enough to make the light "workable".

I have two technical comments about this image and the gear I captured it with. First, for some reason this spring's Great Bear Rainforest photo tours were slightly "longer" focal length trips than normal. My go-to telephoto lens on this trip was the new Nikkor Z 400mm f2.8S and I ended up using it with its internal 1.4x TC engaged (making it a 560mm f4 lens) or with the Z TC-2x teleconverter (making it an 800mm f5.6 lens) more than expected. Even though I had tested the lens thoroughly before the trip and knew what to expect out of the lens when shot with the various TC's, I have to say its performance at 560mm and 800mm pretty much blew me away. Though this lens is very expensive, its "3-in-1" versatility was super-appreciated on this trip. This image was captured hand-held with the internal TC engaged (560mm).

Second, this image was captured not long after firmware 2.0 for the Nikon Z 9 was released. One of the major updates with this firmware was the addition of 20 new Wide-Area AF patterns. During the trip I had a lot of time to experiment with many different wide-area AF configurations and found that two patterns were particularly useful for me - Wide-area 1x1 and Wide-area 13x3. This particular image was captured using Wide-area 1x1 with subject detection on (in Animal mode). This configuration is functionally the same as using Single-point AF (in terms of the area of the focus point and how it works), EXCEPT it adds subject detection (Single-point AF doesn't support subjection detection). When did I use it? In instances where the bear's eyes or head wasn't visible (e.g., bear facing away from us and showing us just its butt or with head down buried in grass) the 1x1 pattern allowed me to position the focus point close to where the head/eye was likely to become visible. Then, when the head/eye became visible, it locked on to the eye super-fast (much faster than I could have focused on the eye without subject detection). Note that when using 1x1 wide-area mode in this fashion you have to have the point somewhere on the subject (i.e., touching it) for the subject detection to be "waiting" for the eye or head to show.

One of the clearest trends I (and all my guests that were on the trips) noticed with my Z 9 image captures during this year's spring photo tours were how many shots were sharply focused - the hit rate of in-focus images was just amazing. This, in turn, caused me to change my shooting style very quickly via shooting much shorter bursts of images. And in a time when cameras have become so fast and we can spend so much time culling images, having a higher hit rate and shooting shorter bursts is very welcomed.

Here's a larger version (4800 pixel) of this spring Griz for your perusal:

Spring Griz: Download 4800 pixel image (JPEG: 6.5 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 one of my "Spring in the Southern Great Bear" photo tours in the spring of 2022. 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

Spring Griz. Southern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 1, 2022.

Lossless compressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 640.

Nikon Z 9 paired with Nikkor Z 400mm f2.8 TC VR S @ 560mm (built-in TC engaged). Hand-held. VR on in Sport mode. Wide-area custom AF area mode (1x1) with subject recognition on (in Animal mode).

1/1000s @ f7.1; no compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Spring Griz. Southern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 1, 2022.

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 22. Global adjustments made to this image include tweaks to the blacks and brightness (mid-tone exposure). Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case selective adjustments were made on 7 separate layers and included one or more tweaks to brightness, clarity, highlights, and shadows.

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


Spring Griz. Southern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 1, 2022.

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