Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

The Fish Focus

Availability: Undetermined - Enquiries?

Previous Gallery Next Gallery

In the Field

The Fish Focus. Northern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 19 September 2018.

This very focused Black Bear had only ONE thing on its mind when I captured this shot - detecting and catching a fish! And, as it turned out, he was pretty darned good at it - the small stream he was fishing in was chock-full of spawning pink salmon and every few minutes he was hauling out another one (or sometimes, two at once!).

We had the opportunity to watch this bear catching and consuming fish for quite some time. Early on it became apparent that he was using his ears as much as his eyes to locate fish (even if he had one fish in his mouth he'd perk up and lift his head if another splashed loudly nearby). At the time I wondered why this bear was so obviously "fishing by ear" (and even in the shot above you can see how he's got his ears "pointed" in the same direction as his eyes). Later, when reviewing my images, I noticed his right eye was clouded over and reflected light differently than his left eye (the right eye mostly reflected blue light). So it's possible he has a vision disability and is relying more on his hearing when fishing than a typical bear would.

On the technical side, this was one of those rare instances where the technical constraints imposed by my gear and ambient conditions perfectly matched my creative intentions with the shot. I captured this shot using a Nikon D850 camera. It's a camera I like very much, but I like to keep my ISO down to NO MORE than ISO 3200 with it (it's not excessively noisy at ISO 3200, but it's dynamic range by this ISO has already fallen quite a bit, putting it at close to one stop below that of the D5 at this ISO). keep my ISO down to ISO 3200 I opened up my 70-200mm f2.8 to f3.5 (yep, the bear was pretty darned close). Of course, this meant I had quite a shallow DoF - which is exactly what I wanted on this shot (keeping the head sharp as a tack and softening the rest of bear and background - all to emphasize the laser-like stare of the bear).

In anticipation of getting asked this...why did I choose such a high shutter speed (1/1250s)? This bear was actively fishing and although motionless when I captured the shot, I was keeping my camera "ready for action" and at the lowest shutter speed where I was confident I could freeze a rush at a fish.

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this shot of one very focused bear:

The Fish Focus: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.31 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 Fish Focus. Northern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 19 September 2018.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 3200.

Nikon D850 paired with Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8E zoom at 130mm. Hand-held. VR on and in Sport Mode.

1/1250 @ f3.5; -1.33 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

The Fish Focus. 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 included an exposure adjustment and highlight retrieval (to reduce the sheen on the bear's wet coat). Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case adjustments were made on 9 separate layers and included local/selective editing of (or adjustment of) shadow recovery, exposure (balancing), colour balance, and more (yep, this "high ISO for a D850" shot took quite a bit of post-processing work!).

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 Fish Focus. 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.

This black bear is a member of the subspecies "Kermodei" (Ursus americana kermodei). This subspecies is unique in that the population is characterized by having an unusually high proportion of a recessive gene that produces white coat colour (found on the "Spirit Bears"). Because the Black Bear is not considered under threat as a species, both the Kermodei subspecies and the very rare Spirit Bear suffer 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