Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Happiness Is...

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In the Field

Happiness Is... Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 18, 2022.

To a hungry grizzly in the spring, there's almost nothing that compares to being in an estuary filled with scrumptious grasses and sedges. Snarfing down a mouthful of sedges is simply pure happiness!

While many people think of grizzlies as fearsome carnivores, the reality is that the vast majority (north of 90%!) of their diet consists of plants. And rather than being ferocious, the vast majority of them are very gentle creatures, many of which actually like the company of humans. Photos of grizzlies looking ferocious may fit the macho stereotype well (and possibly sell well), but photos like this one depict the more prevalent reality - and the nature of real grizzlies much better.

This image demonstrates something that is very important to me in a lens. While of course I care about lens sharpness, what's even more important to me is the balance of sharpness and good bokeh (with bokeh here being defined as the "aesthetic quality of the out-of-focus" zones). The "signature look" of any top-notch lens is most often dictated by that lens's balance of sharpness and bokeh.

I captured this shot with the new Nikkor Z 400mm f2.8 TC VR S super-telephoto lens not too long after I acquired it. It's a pricey lens (to say the least), and I was hopeful when purchasing it that it would exhibit excellent sharpness AND bokeh at 400mm, 560mm (i.e., with its internal TC engaged), and at 800mm (when paired with the Z TC-2.0X). This particular image was shot with the built-in TC engaged - so at 560mm - and with the lens almost wide open at f4.5. I think the blend of sharpness and bokeh speak for themselves in this shot - and the blend certainly pleases me. If anyone thinking about buying this lens and who might be worried about its optical performance at 560mm can put that concern aside!

And I'm happy to report that at both 400mm and 800mm the Z 400mm f2.8S performs pretty much as well as it did here - very sharp and with just excellent bokeh. While the excellent performance of the lens doesn't help relieve the beating my wallet took when I bought the lens, at least I got EXACTLY what I hoped for - 3 excellent super-telephoto lenses in one!

Here's a larger version (4800 pixel) of this very happy and content grizzly for your perusal:

Happiness Is... Download 4800 pixel image (JPEG: 5.0 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

Happiness Is... Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 18, 2022.

Lossless compressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 320.

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).

1/320s @ f4.5; No compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Happiness Is... Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 18, 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. There were no global adjustments made to this image. 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 (mid-tone exposure), color saturation, highlights, and clarity (mid-tone contrast).

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


Happiness Is... Khutzeymateen Inlet, Northern Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada. June 18, 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