Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Bearing Down

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In the Field

Bearing Down. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia. June 20, 2022.

This is one of my favourite swimming grizzly shots captured in 2022. And...nope...this image was NOT shot with the Nikkor Z 600mm f4S. It was shot with the Z 400mm f2.8S TC VR S - WITH its built-in TC engaged. So at 560mm. And it was shot wide open at f4. I'm including it here - and labelled it with the "Z 600mm f4S Testing" watermark - because it provides insight to a key question I wanted answered when I field-tested the Z 600mm f4S against the Z 400mm f2.8S with its TC-engaged. That question? Does the image quality of the Z 400mm f2.8S compare favourably against that of the Z 600mm f4S when it is shot with its built-in TC engaged (so at 560mm)?

The short answer (as I found when I did head-to-head testing of the Z 600mm f4S against the Z 400mm f2.8S with its TC engaged): Yes, absolutely.

When I publish my review of the Z 600mm f4S I'll get far more into the nuances of how these two 600mm-ish options compare optically, but the bottom line is this: EXCEPT between f4 and f4.5 (where the Z 600mm f4S is very slightly sharper) the two lenses produce virtually identical images - both in sharpness and in the quality of the out-of-focus zones (or bokeh). So you are giving away almost nothing to the Z 600mm f5S if you shoot your Z 400mm f2.8S with its TC engaged.

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that just above I said "EXCEPT between f4 and f4.5 (where the Z 600mm f4S is very slightly sharper)". Does that mean the Z 400mm f2.8S is "soft" at f4 and f4.5? Nope...not at ALL. And that's where this image comes in - I invite you to check out the high resolution version of this shot (4800 pixels) linked to below to see what I mean. This image was shot wide open (@ f4) and I doubt anyone would consider it even remotely "soft". After what I learned in 2022 from systematically testing the Z 400mm f2.8S with its TC (and with the Z TC-2.0X) - and when shooting these lens/TC combinations in the field - I don't hesitate at all to shoot it wide open with TC's attached.

Finally, note that I am in no way trying to take away from how strong the Z 600mm f4S is optically - it's an absolutely great lens. But if you already own a Z 400mm f2.8S and don't regularly need focal lengths longer than 600mm...then you have little reason to add a Z 600mm f4S to your kit. So as one who needs the 400-600mm focal range more often than the 600-800mm focal range, it makes more sense for me to own the Z 400mm f2.8S rather than the Z 600mm f4S. I know the exact opposite would be true of many other wildlife photographers, especially those who work more with small birds than I do.

Here's a larger version (4800 pixel) of this almost amphibious ursid:

Bearing Down: Download 4800 pixel image (JPEG: 6.4 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 "Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen" 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

Bearing Down. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia. June 20, 2022.

Lossless compressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 640.

Nikon Z 9 paired with Z Nikkor 400mm f2.8S @ 560mm (built-in TC engaged). Hand-held. VR on in Sport mode. Wide-area (13x3) AF area mode with subject detection on (in Animal mode).

1/2000s @ f4; -0.7 stop compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Bearing Down. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia. June 20, 2022.

Initial noise reduction and sharpening on the .nef (raw) file using the DeepPRIME XD algorithm of DXO PhotoLab 6 Elite.

Subsequent adjustments to the adjusted linear DNG file (exported from PhotoLab 6) and conversion to 16-bit TIFF file (and JPEG files for web use) - including all global and selective adjustments - made using Phase One's Capture One Pro 23. But in the case of this image there were no global adjustments made. Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case selective adjustments were made on 6 separate layers and most were under the general umbrella of "exposure balancing", with one or more selective tweaks to brightness (mid-tone exposure), blacks, clarity (mid-tone contrast), highlights, whites, and colour saturation.

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


Bearing Down. Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia. June 20, 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