Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Getting Ready to Rumble!

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In the Field

Getting Ready to Rumble! Khutzeymateen Inlet, Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. May 28, 2017.

Another of the things I've loved about spending a few weeks in the Khutzeymateen each spring (for the last 11 years!) is that you get to follow some bears as they grow up over the years. In this case "knowing" the two bears helped me anticipate the action and get the shot. These two grizzlies are actually male and female siblings who were weaned about 3 years ago (which puts them at about 6 years old). When they were still with mom these two bears LOVED wrestling with one another, especially if they could do it in water. When their paths happen to cross now (they generally don't hang out together day-to-day) they seem almost elated, and the female often initiates a play bout. How does she do that? Well...more often than not she just walks up to the male, cuffs him across the face and all hell breaks out!

Just before I captured this shot the two siblings swam across a channel about 30 meters wide. The female got to shore first and promptly turned around looking for the male. As she approached him she took a second to shake. Given the male (on the right side of the frame here) was just finishing his swim AND he had just watched her shake (and knowing that with bears there IS a monkey-see, monkey do "factor"!) I guessed he was just about to shake too. So I bumped the shutter speed, focused on his nose, and as soon as he started shaking I let the shutter rip! Of course, following shaking the female closed in on him, cuffed him across the face, and the fun began!

We often think of bears as solitary animals with no social life. Over the years I have spent in the Khutzeymateen I've learned that not only do the bears there all know one another (and act accordingly when near friend or foe), but some have very special relationships with one another. It will be fascinating to watch these grizzly sibs interact in future years as they go through normal development - will they still enjoy each other's company once they're of breeding age and they get interested in OTHER bears? Only time will tell. But I sure look forward to watching the saga evolve!

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of these fun-loving sibs (for those wanting to see MORE detail!):

Getting Ready to Rumble! Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.6 MB)


1. This image was captured during one of my "Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen" photo tour in the spring of 2017. Each year I offer trips into two different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well as one to photograph aquatic mammals and oceanscapes near the northern tip of Vancouver Island. And, in selected years, I also offer photo tours to locations to capture other highly sought-after subjects, such as various boreal owl species and wildlife of Canada's Arctic. 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 images on this website, the subject(s) is/are fully wild and completely unconstrained. Besides the potential impact of my/our presence, nothing has been done to intentionally alter or affect the ongoing behavior of the subject and, of course, there has been no use of any form of bait or other form of wildlife attractants/luring devices (including vocalizations or other sounds).

Behind the Camera

Getting Ready to Rumble! Khutzeymateen Inlet, Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. May 28, 2017.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 900.

Nikon D5 paired with Sigma 500mm f4 Sport lens. Hand-held from floating Zodiac. OS on and in "OS1" mode, with OS1 stabilization customized to Moderate View mode; AF customized to Fast Priority AF.

1/2500s @ f5; -0.67 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Getting Ready to Rumble! Khutzeymateen Inlet, Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. May 28, 2017.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 10. Four raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing in exposure settings (1.0 stop total difference between the variants) and shadow recovery settings.

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2017 and Light Crafts Lightzone. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the four output files from the raw converter, very minor exposure tweaks, and final selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


Getting Ready to Rumble! Khutzeymateen Inlet, Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. May 28, 2017.

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

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.

Sadly, because these bears reside in BC, there's a very real chance that their lives will be ended by a bullet. And, their heads and paws will be cut off (leaving the carcasses to simply rot) so that they can be mounted and adorn the wall of some fearless trophy hunter (who will, no doubt, be cheered on by all the grasses, sedges and clams that will be saved from being so mercilessly eaten by this fearsome beast).

The debate about the trophy hunting of carnivores can be broken into 3 arguments: the ethical, the economic, and the ecological. The ethical argument for the trophy hunting of grizzlies in BC? On that one - just go back and look at this image and read the paragraph immediately above. The economic argument? Well, it's on even shakier grounds - not only does bear-watching in BC generate 11-15 times as much revenue as bear hunting (and employ 10-15 times as many people), but the revenue generated by bear hunting doesn't even cover the cost to the BC Gov't of managing the hunt itself - it's a net loss to the taxpayers of BC (all studies related to these economic claims can be supplied on request). The ecological argument? Yep, you guessed right - there isn't one. As a matter of fact, an increasing body of sound, peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown how the guild of carnivores at the TOP of the food chain are exceptionally important to the overall health of ecosystems - everything from ensuring continued biodiversity through to maximizing that amount of carbon dioxide the ecosystem can absorb (climate change consequences, anyone?).

So why does the trophy hunting of carnivores (and bears in particular) continue to exist in BC? Good question. Well, it sure isn't because of public support - just under 90% of British Columbians are against it. And many First Nations have banned it in their territories. Sadly, it appears that little more than the fact that a handful of elected officials (MLA's) in a few rural ridings fear the backlash from voters if they stand against trophy hunting is keeping trophy hunting alive.

Those wishing to get active in helping to stop the trophy hunting of carnivores in BC are encouraged to visit this page on Raincoast's website. And please help spread the word!

*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