Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Schmoozin' in the Khutz

Availability: RM Stock (??)

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In the Field

Schmoozin' in the Khutz. Khutzeymateen Inlet, BC, Canada. May 30, 2008.

When working with and watching Grizzly Bears it can be really hard not to "anthropomorphize", i.e., not to attribute human characteristics or motives to what you're seeing. This image is a perfect case-in-point: This is a VERY mature adult male grizzly bear (pushing 30 years old) courting a young and receptive adult female. When I look at this image I find it very hard not to think the male is using the benefit of his experience to find just the right thing to "say" to this female to convince her that she'd enjoy "it" as much as he would! To me it appears that he's using his best joke or best line to "reel her in." By the way, the male was completely successful in his efforts but, given the PG rating of this website, I won't show you the photographic evidence.

On an interesting note, this elderly bear had not been seen in the area for the previous 7 years. The two guides who work the area had assumed he was long dead. About an hour or so after this image was captured the "reigning king" of the Khutzeymateen (affectionately known as Brutus) engaged this older male in an epic battle on the beach which we watched through binoculars from a distance of about 1 kilometer. After the battle was over only Brutus was seen again - presumably the older male decided that hanging around wasn't in his best interest.

There were two major challenges to overcome in capturing this image (besides finding the bears!). The first was hand-holding my Nikon 200-400 VR lens - I was forced to shoot this image while laying against a steep bank and without a tripod. This lens is about as big as I ever attempt to hand-hold...fortunately I was able to keep it just still enough to capture a sharp image. The second challenge pertained to lighting: when I started shooting the sky was overcast and there was no direct sunlight on them. Part way through the sequence the sun popped out and added some direct top-lighting. When you get totally wrapped up in what your subjects are doing it can be easy to miss lighting changes. Fortunately, I noticed this one and immediately compensated for the new lighting regime and avoided blowing out the critical highlights on the heads of the bears.

Behind the Camera

Schmoozin' in the Khutz. Khutzeymateen Inlet, BC, Canada. May 30, 2008.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 12-bit format; ISO 250.

Nikon D300 with 200-400 mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S VR lens @ 400 mm (600 mm EFL) - hand held. VR turned to "On" and in "Normal" mode.

1/160s @ f6.3; -0.67 stop exposure compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Schmoozin' in the Khutz. Khutzeymateen Inlet, BC, Canada. May 30, 2008.

RAW Conversion to 16 bit TIFF, including first-pass/capture sharpening, exposure compensation, and slight shadow/highlight adjustment using Phase One's Capture One 4. Multiple RAW conversions (3 at different exposure settings: 0.0 stops; +0.5 stops; +1.0 stops), in this case to balance highlight detail (head and shoulders of two bears) and shadow detail (mostly on the chest and flank of the male bear).

Further digital corrections on 16-bit TIFF file using Adobe's Photoshop CS3 and Light Crafts LightZone. Photoshop adjustments included compositing and masking of all exposure versions, selective saturation enhancement and selective sharpening for web output. LightZone used to adjust overall tonality of the scene (using the Re-light/Tonemapper tool).


Schmoozin' in the Khutz. Khutzeymateen Inlet, BC, Canada. May 30, 2008.

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