Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

The Whiff

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In the Field

The Whiff! Southern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. May 31, 2022.

After two years of COVID returning to running photo tours this spring was like a breath of fresh air. I captured this image of a sub-adult male grizzly grabbing his own whiff of air during my Spring in the Southern Great Bear Exploratory Photo Adventure, only in this case it wasn't "fresh air" the bear was checking out. Seconds after capturing this whiff the young male got noticeably agitated and soon left the area. At the time we speculated about what the bear detected. About a half hour later our best guesses proved to be true when a very large and intimidating male grizzly marched out of some bush and across the very spot the younger and smaller bear had been standing. Clearly the sub-adult male understood that discretion can be the better part of valour! ;-)

I captured this image using my Nikon Z 9 paired up with the excellent (but hyper-expensive) Nikkor Z 400mm f2.8S with its built-in TC engaged (producing a total focal length of 560mm). In rigorous field-testing a few months before I captured this image I found the Z 400mm performed very well with its TC engaged, but found it would sharpen up just a tad if you stopped down just a bit from wide open. When I was examining the images produced during my field testing I was (admittedly) doing some extreme pixel-peeping and at the time I wondered how essential it really would be to stop down a little when shooting this lens in a real-world field setting. Well...the image you're looking at here was shot absolutely wide open at f4. And, if you examine the 4800 pixel version of the image that's linked to below I think you'll agree that you can get more-than-acceptable results when shooting the Z 400mm f2.8S @ 560mm wide open! I know that it will be only DoF concerns driving my aperture choice with this lens in the future (and I won't even be thinking about the aperture choice:image sharpness relationship). Good stuff!

Here's a larger version (4800 pixel) of the whiffing grizzly for your perusal:

The Whiff: Download 4800 pixel image (JPEG: 2.7 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

The Whiff! Southern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. May 31, 2022.

Lossless compressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 250.

Nikon Z 9 paired with Nikkor Z 400mm f2.8 TC VR S @ 560mm (built-in TC engaged). Hand-held from floating Zodiac. VR on in Sport mode. 3D-tracking AF area mode with subject recognition on (in Animal mode).

1/1000s @ f4; -0.7 stop compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

The Whiff! Southern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. May 31, 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 only a single Levels (contrast) tweak. Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case selective adjustments were made on 4 separate layers and included one or more tweaks to brightness, clarity, highlights, and blacks.

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


The Whiff! Southern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. May 31, 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