Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Jaws, Paws, and Claws

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In the Field

Jaws, Paws, & Claws! Khutzeymateen Inlet, BC, Canada. May 29, 2008.

Put adolescent and/or sub-adult males of ANY species together and you'll invariably end up with the same thing - squabbles and battles. These agonistic interactions are, in most cases, ritualized patterns which go a long ways in determining the social status of the individuals involved. Normally the participants aren't seriously injured but the battles can be deadly.

During a recent trip up the northern coast of BC we sat watching three sub-adult male grizzlies (all which were similar in appearance and size - possibly siblings) calmly clambing on a beach while in reasonably close proximity to one another. Suddenly all hell broke loose. At times all three bears were battling and, although we knew the battles weren't too serious, some of the blows that were struck were thunderous! It was an exceptionally memorable experience!

This is the third shot in a sequence of images of two young grizzly bears engaged in a sparring bout and was captured only a fraction of a second after the previous image. This is my favourite shot of the sequence and I definitely got extremely lucky with this shot. When presenting seminars on wildlife photography (which I do quite frequently) I commonly discuss the importance of effectively capturing the eye of your subject. And, if possible, the paws & claws. And, if you're really lucky...the teeth. you can imagine, these guys absolutely made my day when they gave me this! And the water streaming from the paws was a more-than-welcome bonus! Thanks fellas...I appreciate the cooperation! And...thank you Photeus*!

*Photeus is the ancient pagan Greek god of digital photography. She was a contemporary of Zeus.

Behind the Camera

Jaws, Paws, & Claws! Khutzeymateen Inlet, BC, Canada. May 29, 2008.

Digital Capture; Uncompressed RAW (NEF) format; ISO 800. Auto ISO function used to maintain shutter speed at 1/500s or faster.

Nikon D3 with Nikon 200 mm f/2G ED-IF AF-S VR lens paired with a 1.4x TC-14EII teleconverter (280 mm equivalent) - handheld (balanced on pontoon of inflatable Zodiac). VR turned to "On" and in "Normal" mode.

1/500s @ f3.5; no compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Jaws, Paws, & Claws! Khutzeymateen Inlet, BC, Canada. May 29, 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: -1.0 stops; 0 stops; +.33 stops) in this case to retrieve highlight detail in the water at the bear's feet and to extract shadow details from the chest and throat on the bear on the right side of the image.

Further digital corrections on 16-bit TIFF file using Adobe's Photoshop CS3 and Light Crafts LightZone. LightZone used to adjust overall tonality of the scene (using the Re-light/Tonemapper tool) and final tweaking of the white balance (using the brown-yellow filter at 50% opacity). Photoshop adjustments included compositing and masking of all exposure versions, selective saturation enhancement and selective sharpening for web output.


Jaws, Paws, & Claws! Khutzeymateen Inlet, BC, Canada. May 29, 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