Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Sunset Magic

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In the Field

Sunset Magic. Khutzeymateen Inlet (Great Bear Rainforest), BC, Canada. May 31, 2011.

As a rule, I generally avoid shooting in direct sunlight. But there are times at sunrise and sunset when a subject just wanders into a directly lit (or in this case, back- and top-lit) scene that and you end up in a situation where natural magic just happens. This was one of those times!

I captured this image while we were following an adult male grizzly along the shoreline after it had had an extremely aggressive interaction with a female grizzly with two cubs. Long story short, the male grizzly literally stumbled upon the mother and cubs while they were quietly foraging along a beach. Everyone (including us!) was startled. The male instantly charged the 3 smaller bears and a chase ensued. The female and cubs weren't far from trees and mother griz first priority was to ensure that both cubs were safely "stashed" away. Then she turned herself AND the tables! Suffice to say that the male grizzly is likely going to think twice before playing this game again! The roars, splashes, and ferocity was a spectacle I'll never forget. And then to have the chaos replaced under two hours later with this tranquil scene...well...all I can say is that Nature never fails to blow me away!

A couple of comments about the image. First - NOPE, no hyper-saturation going on here - the colours WERE amazing! I bumped the saturation of the foreground water by 8%, but that's it! Virtually all the colour in this image comes from careful control over exposure.

Second - looking for a cool technique to "save the day" when you slightly screw-up on an image? On my original capture I left slightly too little space between the hind-most paw and the left side of the frame (the inability to really "study" a frame is one of the pitfalls of hand-holding a massive lens). I tried to add about 200 pixels to the left side of the frame using Content Aware Fill (in Photoshop CS5) in one fell swoop but there were obvious repeating patterns and out-of-place objects added to the new canvas. So, instead I broke the process into 3 separate repetitive steps (adding about 60 pixels to the canvas then filling with Content Aware Fill on each successive step). The result?'re looking at it!

Oh, and the bear - yes it IS much lighter on the top and dark below - this is NOT an artifact of processing.


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 2011. 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

Sunset Magic. Khutzeymateen Inlet (Great Bear Rainforest), BC, Canada. May 31, 2011.

Digital Capture; RAW 14-bit format; ISO 320.

Nikon D3s with Nikkor 400mm f2.8 VR lens. Hand-held from floating Zodiac inflatable boat (VR on and in normal mode).

1/400s @ f6.3; -0.67 stop compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Sunset Magic. Khutzeymateen Inlet (Great Bear Rainforest), BC, Canada. May 31, 2011.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF, including first-pass/capture sharpening using Phase One's Capture One Pro 6. Three raw conversions varying in exposure settings over a 1.0 stop range (-1.0 stops from capture setting to 0 stops from capture).

Further digital corrections on 16-bit TIFF file using Adobe's Photoshop CS5. Photoshop adjustments including blending of 3 exposure versions, selective exposure and tone curve adjustment, selective colour saturation, and selective sharpening for web output. Approx. 200 pixels added to entire left side of frame using 3-step incremental Content Aware Fill technique (described in the "In the Field" section).


Sunset Magic. Khutzeymateen Inlet (Great Bear Rainforest), BC, Canada. May 31, 2011.

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