Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill


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In the Field

Demure...Defined. Great Bear Rainforest, Northern BC Coast, Canada. September 24, 2017.

I rarely find a wildlife species that doesn't fascinate me. But for some reason seals rank far higher on my "most fascinating species" list than many other animals. Part of it is probably due to the incredibly "foreign" below water/above water "hybrid" lifestyle they lead. But I think the bulk of what I like so much about them is their almost bizarre "fusiform" body shape and, more importantly, their amazing facial region! Between those massive forward-looking eyes, the huge whiskers, and even the upright hairs on their eyebrows, these guys have incredibly entrancing faces. And with those great faces seals seem to have the ability to emanate a huge range of expressions and emotions. When I was shooting this image I just couldn't help thinking "...just so...demure"!

I'm posting this image in mid-November of 2017 and many know I am testing the D850 quite extensively. Part of this testing is examining which lenses perform well with the demanding 46 MP sensor of the D850 (which has the resolving power to reveal lens flaws that may not show up on lower resolution image sensors). One question I have fielded several times has been this: "So Brad...any idea of how the Nikkor 400mm f2.8E VR plus TC-14EIII combination performs on the D850?". Yep, those who have discovered how darned well the 400mm f2.8E works on lower resolution DSLR's when paired with the Nikon TC-14EIII can rest assured that this great performance continues with the D850. At this point I have NOT examined ALL aspects of the performance of this lens/TC combo with the D850 (e.g., I haven't examined edge-to-edge sharpness under controlled conditions), but whenever I have shot with it in a field setting I have been completely pleased with the results. The testing continues!

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this sleek seal for your pixel-peeping perusal:

Demure...Defined: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 0.7 MB)


1. This image was captured during my autumn"Into the Great Bear Rainforest" Instructional photo tour in the summer of 2017. Each year I offer trips into two different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well as one to photograph marine 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 Dall Sheep, Bald Eagles, and more. Details about these trips can be found on the Photo Tours page of this website.

2. 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!

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

Demure...Defined. Great Bear Rainforest, Northern BC Coast, Canada. September 24, 2017.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 640.

Nikon D850 paired with Nikkor 400mm f2.8E plus TC-14EIII (1.4x) teleconverter (for a total EFL of 550mm). Hand-held from floating Zodiac. VR on and in Sport mode.

1/800s @ f4.5; -1.0 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Demure...Defined. Great Bear Rainforest, Northern BC Coast, Canada. September 24, 2017.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 10. Three raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing in exposure settings (0.2 stops total), noise reduction, and shadow retrieval settings.

Further digital correction on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2018. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the three output files from the raw converter, minor contrast tweaks (via a selective curves adjustment), and final selective sharpening for web output. Final selective tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


Demure...Defined. Great Bear Rainforest, Northern BC Coast, Canada. September 24, 2017.

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

Species Status in Canada*: Most Harbour Seal populations in Canada are not listed as Threatened or Endangered. The Lac des Loups Marins landlocked population of Quebec (Ungave Peninsula) currently listed as Endangered (most recent assessment update - November 2007).

The Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina) is found on both the eastern and western coasts of North America. They tend not to make long migrations and in many areas they are present year-round. When foraging Harbour Seals normally dive to between 30 and 100 metres in depth and stay below the surface for 5 to 6 minutes. On occasion they have been known to dive to depths of over 450 metres and have stay submerged for almost 30 minutes. Harbour Seals have a diverse diet, including cephalopod, crustacceans and a variety of fish such as herring, eulachon, pollock, and salmon.

Historically bounty programs were used in both Canada and the USA to reduce populations of Harbour Seals. In more recent times seals have become protected over much of North America and some populations have rebounded strongly (it is estimated that over 150,000 seals now occupy the coast of British Columbia). There is a land-locked and freshwater sub-species of the Harbour Seal found on the Ungava Peninsula of northern Quebec. This population is now down to an estimated 100 individuals and is listed as Endangered by COSEWIC.

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.