Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Heads Up...Here Comes a Big One!

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In the Field

Heads Up...Here Comes a Big One! Northern Vancouver Island region, British Columbia, Canada. 21 August 2018.

Have I ever mentioned how much I enjoy shooting "in situ" shots of Steller Sea Lions? ;-)

As a human it's almost impossible to imagine the rawness of the environment that sea lions seem to love and thrive in. Even on their haulout rocks they're subject to being splashed and even submerged by crashing waves, especially as the tide rises. In this shot several of the lions are lifting their heads skyward in an apparent effort to avoid being splashed.

This is the type of shot I think of as an "enviroscape" and it's among my favorites captured on this day (for a detailed explanation of 3 different "subject scales" I recognize and that drive my wildlife photography just go here...). On this day heavy smoke from scores of BC forest fires gave us an enviable combination of very soft and very warm light even though it was a cloudless day. Nice for photography, but not so good for the lungs...

One further comment about this shot - it's one of the best examples I can think of that demonstrates my personal preference for having only ONE focus transition in a photo (which in this case means a sharp, in-focus foreground and subjects trailing off into a much softer background). This desire for a single focus transition in this shot is what drove me to stop down to f8. In my never-humble opinion if I had opened the aperture much more and thrown the foreground out-of-focus this shot would have been completely ruined.

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this shot of soaking sea lions for your perusal:

Heads Up...Here Comes a Big One! Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.56 MB)


1. This image was captured during one of my "Humpback, Orcas, Sea Lions, and MORE!" Marine Mammal photo tours in the summer 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

Heads Up...Here Comes a Big One! Northern Vancouver Island region, British Columbia, Canada. 21 August 2018.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 640.

Nikon D5 paired with Nikkor 180-400mm f4E zoom at 400mm. Hand-held from floating and bobbing Zodiac. VR on and in Sport mode. 9-point Dynamic Area AF mode.

1/1600s @ f8; -0.33 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Heads Up...Here Comes a Big One! Northern Vancouver Island region, British Columbia, Canada. 21 August 2018.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including all global and selective adjustments, using Phase One's Capture One Pro 11.2.1. Global adjustments included a 0.4 stop (circular on crop) vignette correction. Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case adjustments were made on 4 separate layers and included local/selective editing of (or adjustment of) shadow recovery and exposure (balancing).

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.


Heads Up...Here Comes a Big One! Northern Vancouver Island region, British Columbia, Canada. 21 August 2018.

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

Species Status in Canada**: Special Concern (November 2003) - protected in Canada since 1970.

The Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus) is the largest of the sea-lions, and males can weigh up to a ton (females are considerably smaller and rarely weigh over 600 lb). Males compete among themselves for females, and successful males end up breeding with several females within their harem.

From the early 1900's through to the 1970's huge numbers of Steller's Sea-Lions were culled for their fur and to remove a competitor (for humans) for salmon. During that time approximately 55,000 sea lions were killed and the breeding population of BC was lowered to about 4,000 animals. Since the Steller Sea Lion first received protection in 1970 the population in the coastal waters of BC has grown to between 18,000 to 19,700 animals (7,600 or so of these are of breeding age).

*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