Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Orca Power

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In the Field

Orca Power! Northern Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. August 22, 2010.

There's almost nothing that compares to the feeling that's "in the air" when Orcas (or Killer Whales) swim closely by a boat of any size - it's a mix of raw power, awe, amazement, and even a little fear. I suppose it's partly because of their colour, partly because of their size, and - to a larger degree - partly due to the way they just keep relentlessly moving through the water with an ease that belies their bulk and size. This image is one in a series of shots of this pod but is among my favourites. I had to wait until the whales passed a heavily shaded background to get the dark, moody look. I did have to underexpose the image significantly to "get it right" and retain the highlights in the water - this image was under-exposed by -1.67 stops compared to what the built-in light meter suggested.

Here's a higher resolution (2400 pixel) version of this shot that conveys their raw power even better (I hope!):

Orca Power: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.6 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 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.

3. This image was captured during my "Humpback, Orcas, Sea Lions & More" photo tour in August of 2010. 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 owl species of the boreal forest and wildlife of Canada's Arctic. Details about these trips can be found on the Photo Tours page of this website.

Behind the Camera

Orca Power! Northern Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. August 22, 2010.

Digital Capture; RAW 14-bit format; ISO 1000.

Nikon D3s with Nikkor 600mm f4 VR II lens supported on tripod with Wimberley head. VR on and set to "Normal" mode.

1/1000s @ f5; -1.67 stop compensation from matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Orca Power! Northern Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. August 22, 2010.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit PSD file, including first-pass/capture sharpening and noise reduction using Adobe Lightroom (Release Candidate vers. 3.3). Three raw conversions at different exposure settings: -1.3 stops to darken the water and background; -1 stops for the majority of the; +0.35 stops for portions of the dorsal fin.

Further digital corrections on 16-bit PSD file using Adobe Photoshop CS5. Photoshop adjustments included compositing of three exposure versions, selective contrast adjustments, selective saturation and desaturation of colours, and selective sharpening for web output.


Orca Power! Northern Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. August 22, 2010.

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

Species Status in Canada*: Endangered - Northeast Pacific southern resident population; Threatened - Northeast Pacific transient population and the Northeast Pacific northern resident population; Special Concern - Northeast Pacific offshore population.

Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) have an extremely high profile in modern pop culture and have become the "poster child" of a number of conservation groups. In most areas where Killer Whales are found they show a remarkable ability to adapt to a variety of habitats - they are found in all oceans, in water ranging in temperature from below 0 Celsius to almost hot tropical waters, and will occasionally even spend significant amounts of time in brackish water or even rivers.

Because the population sizes of Killer Whales are very low and because they have a very low reproductive rate, they face immediate risk from human-related environmental disturbances, including the immunotoxic effects of toxic chemicals we pour into the oceans and to reduction in prey availability (such as salmon).

These two Killer Whales were photographed along the coast in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest. The Raincoast Conservation Society is fighting to protect the Great Bear Rainforest along the central and northern coast of British Columbia. This unique ecosystem harbours a strong population of many high-profile species such as Brown Bears and Gray wolves, plus many species that serve as prey for the Killer Whale. If you are looking for a meaningful way to contribute to the conservation of the Great Bear Rainforest and all its associated species, Raincoast will provide maximal "bang" for your conservation dollars.

For more information on the status of Killer Whales in Canada, go to: and search under "Killer Whale".

*as determined by COSEWIC: The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada