Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Layin' Low

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In the Field

Surveilling the Shoreline. Southern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 1 September 2019.

I'm a lover of wider and more expansive wildlife shots - the type often referred to as "animalscape" shots. One of the hardest part of capturing animalscapes is something that seems almost "odd" - it's SEEING them in the first place! Huh? What? Well, my experience is that many (and possibly most) wildlife photographers have a knee-jerk reaction when they see an animal at a distance - it's the "Let's get closer" affliction! What's easy to forget is that medium-to-long telephoto lenses aren't just for full-frame shots or portraits of animals. When a animal (like this coastal Gray Wolf) are at a relatively long distance a telephoto or super-telephoto lens (prime OR zoom) can allow you to effectively "sub-sample" a scene and create a pleasing animalscape composition - and the subject does NOT have to fill a lot of the frame to make the image work. In my view (and experience) there's too few photographers who see an animal in the distance and have the ability to instantly "see" a pleasing composition if that scene was being viewed through a super-telephoto lens (in this example a 560mm lens!).

This is one of those shots that has been "growing" on me over time. The version you're looking at is a tiny crop only (it's about 95% of full frame). The lone wolf was "working" the shoreline at low tide and I loved the stratified "low tide look" of the scene, with a little water in the foreground, followed by the rusty brown (and regularly submerged) band of barnacles and fucus, and then the thin strip of bare rock where the wolf could easily travel.

This shot was a reminder to me of just how good our camera equipment is these days. This was a dark, dark, early morning scene (it was shot at ISO 6400) captured with my D5 paired up with the Nikkor 180-400mm at maximum focal length and with the TC engaged (so 560mm). And it was shot wide open at f5.6 - yet the detail in the full resolution file is stunning. Just a few short years ago - and even with the "best of the best" gear available - this shot wouldn't have even been worth shooting. Amazing...

Here's a considerably larger (2400 pixel) version of this solitary wolf:

Surveilling the Shoreline: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 3.1 MB)


1. This image was captured during our first ever "Summer in the Southern Great Bear" photo tour in late August of 2019. Each year we offer photo tours into several different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well trips to photograph marine mammals and oceanscapes in locations on 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

Surveilling the Shoreline. Southern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 1 September 2019.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 6400.

Nikon D5 paired with Nikkor 180-400mm f4E zoom lens at 560mm (TC engaged). Hand-held from sailboat. VR on and in Sport mode. 9-point Dynamic Area AF mode.

1/400s @ f5.6; -0.3 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Surveilling the Shoreline. Southern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 1 September 2019.

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 20. Global adjustments to this shot were limited to highlight retrieval, noise reduction, and contrast (via Levels) adjustments. Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case adjustments were made on 3 separate layers and included one or more tweaks and/or local/selective edits to (or adjustment of) exposure and clarity.

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


Surveilling the Shoreline. Southern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. 1 September 2019.

Species Status in Canada*: Only Eastern Wolf listed as species of "Special Concern" in May, 2001. Other populations not listed as Endangered or Threatened.

Species Status in the United States: Western Great Lakes population removed from list of Endangered and Threatened species on January 29, 2007. Proposed delisting of Northern Rockies population on January 29, 2007. Both actions are a direct result of a successful recovery plan. Congratulations! Wolves in other areas of the lower 48 states (including the Southwest wolf population), remain on Endangered Species list.

Probably no species alive today has suffered as much direct persecution from humans as has the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus). Once extremely widespread in North America, the Gray Wolf was virtually extirpated from the contiguous 48 states of America and now is regularly found within only a fraction of its historical range in Canada. While the Gray Wolf is currently listed as endangered in most of the 48 lower states of the United States and enjoys the privileges associated with such status (if lack of persecution and abuse can be thought of as a privilege), it is still official policy in much of Canada to rid the countryside of this magnificent keystone predator. As an example, in British Columbia, there is NO closed season on the wolf in most hunting jurisdictions and opportunistic slaughter is encouraged by policy (it is the ONLY fur-bearing species for which NO hunting license is required in British Columbia!). Conservation of wolves presents a puzzling paradox. Reduced to the most basic principles, wolf conservation is simplistic: we need only to stop persecuting this species in order for it to survive. Yet accomplishing this invariably proves incredibly difficult - it's as though wolf persecution has been institutionalized directly into government (and societal) bureaucracy.

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