Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

The Suave Seal

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In the Field

The Suave Seal. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), BC, Canada. October 7, 2015.

I captured this shot of an incredibly suave and slick-looking Harbour Seal during my first of two autumn 2015 "Into the Great Bear Rainforest" photo tours. Those on the tour (and the subsequent one) came to understand that I just LOVE seals...and I find them to be both fascinating animals and absolutely great subjects. As a biologist I find their aquatic lifestyle and behavior just fascinating. As a photographer I find their coats to be stunningly beautiful - and their eyes, whiskers and flippers are just SO eye-catching. Add in their personality and demeanor (like bears they DO seem to have individual personalities) and they become absolutely compelling photographic subjects. And, speaking of personality...I just loved the way this seal looked on this "perch" in an inlet in the Great Bear Rainforest - distinguished, casually cool, and simultaneously debonaire and suave! For some reason, whenever I look at this shot I can almost hear the seal saying "Bond...James Bond".

I have been traveling into the Great Bear Rainforest now for almost a decade - and leading photo tours into it for pretty much as long. At this point I'm not even CLOSE to being bored with heading into there each year (which, of course, excludes me from going elsewhere at that time). I don't want to pretend the Great Bear is always an easy place to shoot photos - you almost always have to deal with low light conditions and you commonly have to deal with the complications of shooting in the rain (tho' on my first trip in there this year we had to deal with having TOO much direct and harsh light - I've never seen such blue skies for SO many consecutive days in the Great Bear). But the diversity of subjects and scenes (and ever-changing and interesting light) is nothing short of mind-boggling! Each and every excursion into the Great Bear Rainforest is different from the one before it - and will be different from future trips.

Here's a higher-resolution (2400-pixel) version for your perusal and pleasure:

The Suave Seal: Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 0.9 MB)


NOTE 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!

NOTE 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.

NOTE 3: This image was captured during one of my "Into the Great Bear Rainforest" photo tours in the autumn of 2015. 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

The Suave Seal. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), BC, Canada. October 7, 2015.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 720.

Nikon D750 paired with Nikkor 400mm f2.8E VR. Hand-held from floating Zodiac, VR on and in "Sport" mode.

1/400s @ f3.5; -1.0 stop compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

The Suave Seal. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), BC, Canada. October 7, 2015.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit TIFF using Phase One's Capture One Pro 8. Four raw variants (different versions of a single raw capture) processed, with the variants differing in exposure (1.3 stop total difference between the variants) and in shadow and highlight retrieval settings. Other adjustments made during raw conversion included a selective colour adjustment (hue rotations to the magentas using the Colour Editor).

Further digital corrections on resulting 16-bit TIFF files using Adobe's Photoshop CC 2015 and Light Crafts Lightzone. Photoshop adjustments included compositing (blending) of the four output files from the raw converter, minor selective colour saturation and desaturation and selective sharpening for web output. Final tone-tweaking performed using LightZone's "tonemapper" tool.


The Suave Seal. Great Bear Rainforest (central BC coast), BC, Canada. October 7, 2015.

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 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.

For more information on the status of Brown (Grizzly) Bears in Canada, go to: and search under "Grizzly Bears"

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