Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Keep That Snorkel Up!

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In the Field

Keep That Snorkel Up! Khutzeymateen Inlet (Great Bear Rainforest), BC. June 2, 2009.

It's no secret that I have a few (thousand) grizzly images in my collection. So, when I traveled to the Khutzeymateen Inlet in May/June of 2009 to lead my annual "Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen" Instructional Photo Tour I was looking to get some "different" shots (different behaviours, different angles, etc.). On my image "wish list" was a shot of an adult grizzly swimming directly towards me. As you can see above, at least one item on my wish list now has a check mark beside it!

This bear was in the estuary of the inlet when we first encountered it. It was feeding on grass on a small "island" and the tide was coming in. wasn't rocket science to figure out that before long the bear would be forced to swim. expectation was that the bear would wait quite a while before taking to the water AND that it would swim away from us. I was quite shocked when only moments later it took to the water and plotted a course directly at us. The swimming started so quickly there was no time to change lenses - what was currently on your camera was what you were forced to shoot with. I got lucky - my Nikon D3 was in my hands with a 600 mm lens on it (and set with the aperture wide open). I wanted the image to have a narrow depth of field that included both the eyes and nose in sharp focus, but little else (i.e., I wanted the eyes and nose to stand out through selective focus). So...while I'd like to claim that this image is the result of meticulous, detailed planning, the truth is that as much luck as good management was involved. Of course, if I had been sitting at home in front of a TV I would never have captured the shot - what's that old saying? Oh yeah..."f8 and BE THERE!" Well, fortunately I was there, but it was actually f4!


1. 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!

2. This image was captured during one of my two spring "Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen" photo tours in May/June of 2009. Each year I offer trips into two different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well as one to photograph aquatic mammals and oceanscapes near the northern tip of Vancouver Island. And, in selected years, I also offer photo tours to locations to capture other highly sought-after subjects, such as various boreal owl species and wildlife of Canada's Arctic. Details about these trips can be found on the Photo Tours page of this website.

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

Keep That Snorkel Up! Khutzeymateen Inlet (Great Bear Rainforest), BC. June 2, 2009.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 1100.

Nikon D3 with AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4G IF-ED II VR lens - handheld. VR turned to "On" and in "Normal" mode.

1/250s @ f4; no compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting of camera.

At the Computer

Keep That Snorkel Up! Khutzeymateen Inlet (Great Bear Rainforest), BC. June 2, 2009.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including first-pass/capture sharpening using Phase One's Capture One Pro 4.8. Three RAW conversions at different exposure settings - ranging from -0.5 stops (for background and to reduce highlight brightness) through to +0.5 stops (to assist in recovery of shadow detail from eye region).

Further digital corrections on 16-bit TIFF file using Adobe's Photoshop CS4. Adjustments included compositing and masking of 3 exposure versions, selective colour saturation and desaturation and selective sharpening for web output.


Keep That Snorkel Up! Khutzeymateen Inlet (Great Bear Rainforest), BC. June 2, 2009.

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

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.

In a great first step towards ending the hunting of carnivores throughout BC the Raincoast Conservation Foundation has developed a program designed to protect ALL carnivores within the Great Bear Rainforest. Details about this program can be found on this page on Raincoast's website. Check it out and, better yet, make a donation to help Raincoast purchase the remaining commercial hunting tenures in the Great Bear!

*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