Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

 

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In the Field

Sitka Buck...Showing a Rare Case of Attentiveness! Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. 10 July 2019.

If you visit Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve it's almost impossible to NOT see a Sitka deer. About 40 of these small deer (which are a subspecies of the mule deer) were introduced to Haida Gwaii between 1878 and 1925. Today there are upwards of 500,000 of them on this island archipelago. While there are Black Bears on Haida Gwaii (which appear appear to prey on a small number of deer each year) there are no other natural predators of these diminutive deer - no canids (wolves or coyotes) or felids (cougars, bobcats, etc.) made it across the land bridge that existed between Haida Gwaii and the mainland about 13,000 years ago. Consequently the deer have just exploded in number.

One other consequence of living mostly predator free for around 150 years is that the Sitka deer on Haida Gwaii have lost much of their vigilance behavior. If you watch a deer in almost any other setting it spends a good portion of its time looking around (as well as using its ears to continually listen for potential danger). In contrast, this in-velvet buck almost NEVER looked up in the twenty or so minutes that we watched it - it simply kept its head down and ate, and ate, and ate! All the while I was thinking "...man...these guys need a cougar or two to smarten them up!"

A final comment on this image that underscores the appeal of the Nikkor 500mm f5.6E PF. This image was captured after our group had hiked up a log-strewn creek on an island. It was the type of hike where you are walking on slippery rocks, climbing up and over (and under) big logs, et cetera. You know, the kind of walk where it's a pain to carry a "traditional" super-telephoto lens - whether it's in your hands on in a pack on your back. But, because the 500mm f5.6E is so small and light I literally chucked the lens into one of my smaller camera packs (a MindShift BackLight 18L) on a whim. And...that meant I had it handy when we ran into this buck. Nice!

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this handsome buck:

Sitka Buck: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.57 MB)

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

1. This image was captured during our "Gwaii Haanas Explorer" photo tour in July 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

Sitka Buck...Showing a Rare Case of Attentiveness! Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. 10 July 2019.

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

Nikon D500 paired with Nikkor 500mm f5.6E PF prime lens. Hand-held. VR on and in Sport mode. Single Point Area AF mode.

1/320s @ f5.6; No compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Sitka Buck...Showing a Rare Case of Attentiveness! Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. 10 July 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 12. Global adjustments to this shot included minor modifications to exposure and noise reduction. 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) clarity, colour balance, colour saturation, brightness, and noise reduction.

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

Conservation

Sitka Buck...Showing a Rare Case of Attentiveness! Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. 10 July 2019.

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

The Sitka Black-tailed Deer is a coastal subspecies of mule deer that are small in size relative to their interior relatives. This subspecies (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis) was introduced to Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) several times between 1878 and 1925. The rationale for the introduction was to introduce a food and game source for the inhabitants of the island. Only around 40 deer were introduced but because there were favourable conditions, ample food, and no significant predators, the population exploded. Today they number between 500,000 and 750,000 and are found on almost all islands in the archipelago.

The Sitka Deer have had a massive ecological impact on the archipelago that most would describe as negative. Their browsing has reduced the abundance and/or vigour of virtually all species of shrubs and herbs and in extreme cases the understory structure of the forest is absent. In doing so they have removed cover used by birds and small mammals. They have also negatively impacted on nutrient cycling, the abundance and diversity of terrestrial arthropods, and soil structure. But they are darned cute.

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