Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

A Snack at Sunset

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In the Field

A Snack at Sunset. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), BC, Canada. October 2, 2013.

In the autumn the best place to find a rare Spirit Bear within the Great Bear Rainforest is normally along one of the salmon-filled streams within the forest itself. This bear broke that rule more than just a bit - not only was this bear out in the open and visible for miles, but it was fishing directly in the ocean itself! He (or she) was having an absolute field day rounding up the fish (both carcasses and those which were "barely" alive - like the one it has caught here) and happily munching them down! We found later that this particular bear really doesn't like other bears - basically it's terrified of them (tho' it seemed pretty comfortable with humans!). And that's why this bear was fishing on the barnacle-covered shoreline - there were no other bears in sight and none could easily sneak up and pilfer its food!

As both the warm, warm tones of this shot and very the long shadow of the salmon show, we caught this guy grabbing a bedtime snack just as the sun was setting. We didn't have much time to watch or photograph this bear, but even in the few minutes we spent with him are scratched indelibly in my memory. Just such a fantastic autumn scene - and one only the Great Bear Rainforest can deliver!

I took a bit of risk with this shot. At the time I was in the "just shoot with it" phase of testing Nikon's "new" AF-S 80-400mm VR zoom. I had both this lens and my trusted 400mm f2.8 VR prime with me at the time and didn't want to compromise at all on the shot. We had been working a bit tighter than this with the bear so I had - by necessity - the 80-400 in my hands and had backed off on the zoom some. Then, just as we drifted back a ways, the bear got up, nabbed a salmon and started strutting off. Rather than taking the time to switch cameras and grab my 400mm f2.8 (which was mounted on another D4), I zoomed the 80-400 out to 400mm and prayed the lens would be sharp enough (while stopped down just a tad from wide open) for the task (and to result in an image I could put to nearly any use).

That evening I downloaded the image onto my laptop and checked it out in my favorite raw converter. And, I breathed a sigh of relief! Yep...definitely sharp enough! At the moment I was convinced more than ever that the 80-400 was a "keeper" for me - that day it had more than earned its space in my backpack!

Are you wondering if the 80-400 is right for you? If so, you might find my detailed field test on the useful side! Check it out here:

Field Tests: The Nikkor AF-S 80-400mm f4.5-5.6 VR

Want to see a higher resolution version of this image to confirm image sharpness? Here you go:

A Snack at Sunset: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 2.2 MB)


1: This image - in all resolutions - is protected by copyright. I'm fine with personal uses of it (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 wildlife images on this website, the subject is fully wild and completely unconstrained. Besides the potential impact of my presence, nothing has been done to intentionally alter or affect the ongoing behavior of the subject and, of course, there has been no use of any form of bait or other form of wildlife attractants (including vocalizations).

3: This image was captured during my "Into the Great Bear Rainforest" instructional photo tour in the autumn of 2013. 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.

Behind the Camera

A Snack at Sunset. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), BC, Canada. October 2, 2013.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 2200.

Nikon D4 paired with Nikkor AF-S 80-400mm f4.5-5.6 VR lens @ 400mm. Hand-held from a floating Zodiac inflatable boat. VR on and in "Active" mode.

1/400s @ f6.3; No compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

A Snack at Sunset. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), BC, Canada. October 2, 2013.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including first-pass/capture sharpening using Capture One Pro version 7.Two raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, differing by a total of 0.5 stops in exposure.

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC and Light Craft's LightZone. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the two output files from the raw converter, further slight exposure adjustments, selective colour desaturation, and sharpening for web output. Final tone tweaking performed using tonemapper/re-light tool in LightZone.


A Snack at Sunset. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), BC, Canada. October 2, 2013.

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

Species Status in Canada**: Not currently listed as Threatened or Endangered.

The "Spirit" Bear is a rare genetically-based colour variant of the common Black Bear (Ursus americana). It has been estimated that less than 300 Spirit Bears exist today. Because the Black Bear is not considered under threat as a species, the Spirit Bear suffers from having the same conservation designation (it should be acknowledged that in British Columbia - the jurisdiction of greatest Spirit Bear abundance - hunting of these white-coated bears is not permitted). For reasons that are not fully understood, the Spirit Bear occurs with greater frequency in a relatively small geographic area within The Great Bear Rainforest of the central and northern coast of British Columbia. In this area 10 to 30% of the bears possess white coats. Many of the black-coloured Black Bears in this region carry the gene for white coats, so allowing hunting of ANY Black Bears in this region can reduce the frequency of the gene for white coats. Thus, to protect the Spirit Bear, it is necessary to prohibit the hunting of ALL Black Bears in this region. And, very unfortunately, the globally unique ecosystem that contains the Spirit Bear is under development pressure, especially from the forestry industry. If this unique environment is altered, we may lose the wonderful genetic anomaly known as the Spirit Bear forever.

*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