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Peter Connan

Ethics in bird photography

58 posts in this topic

I have recently noticed a number of comments regarding the use of artificial backgrounds in bird photography in order to get better images. As this is something I have done, it set me to wondering about the whole question of ethics in bird photography.

 

My reasons are that I live in a built-up area and have a smallish garden, but I like taking good photos. In order to become good, one must practise and experiment. And since I have neither the time nor the budget to travel frequently, that means of necessity that at least some of my practise and photography is done in my garden. Also, I like building up a record of the birds I see here.

 

But in almost any direction I point my camera, there is some obvious man-made surface. So for a short period, I used a canvas background.

 

I then discovered a better method: I built a "feeding station". A whole nother can of worms, that I will discuss shortly. I also manufactured a canvas hide, which is normally left pitched in a corner of my back yard. The feeding station is situated such that it is about 1/3rd of the length of my back yard away from the hide, such that when photographing from the hide, a concrete wall forms the background, but is far enough away to be rendered out of focus. The result looks like this:

 

 

post-24763-0-08159000-1440833528_thumb.jpg

 

Now I realize that there are many people who feel that the whole setup and practise is unethical, but I struggle to understand why this should be.

 

Firstly, backgrounds: the placing of such a background surely cannot affect the bird's well-being, so on what grounds is this unethical?

Secondly, a feeding station: Here I guess one needs to be careful. It would be quite easy to change the behaviour of birds by deliberately feeding them. But on the other hand, in a built-up environment their lives are already vastly affected. My argument is that the very act of gardening makes possible birdlife that would not be possible without gardens, and even that would be possible without the city or town being there in the first place as the habitat is very different to what occurred naturally (certainly that is the case in my area, where Johannesburg is sometimes said to be the world's largest man-made forest). So the whole city has become in essence an unnatural habitat and a huge "feeding station" due to the availability of fruit and plants (and of course the whole food-chain that accompanies that), both in and out of season. Surely adding a little bit of birdseed and bonemeal at irregular intervals can have little further effect as long as the food provided is not in itself harmful?

Thirdly, what about perches? Again, in nature some birds tend to prefer denser habitat. But those birds will not be lured out into the open by simply providing a few bare branches for them to sit on? Catching the shyer birds in open setting remains mostly a matter of luck and skill at hiding yourself?

 

So that brings us to the question of hides. Nature photographers, and bird photographers especially, use hides extensively. Almost all serious birding reserves have hides permanently set up, in front of either natural or created habitats (feeding stations?). And vehicles are frequently used as "mobile hides" in all forms of nature photography. So on what grounds is it unethical to place a hide in my own back yard?

 

So lets look at this from a different angle:

Where does the concern come from? is it concern over affecting the well-being and livelihood of the birds themselves? Or is it (to put it very bluntly) envy?

 

To put yet another spin on the question:

A South African nature photographer (Greg du Toit) spent a year sitting in a small waterhole in the Mara, getting many fine photos but also both bilharzia and malaria in the process. Other may get just as stunning results by using the safe and superbly comfortable air-conditioned hides at Zimanga.

 

From a purely photographic-results-based point of view, it may seem as if these hides are cheating. But I can assure you that from the photographer's point of view, Greg had by far the richer experience. One so rich, very few of us can afford it...

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@@Peter Connan

 

Like you, I often practice different techniques for photographing birds in my yard and created a native garden to attract as many bird species as possible.

I don't have an issue with any of the methods that you are using to photograph birds in your back yard.

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Neither do I! :) its a regular past time in the uk to feed garden birds. Usually a break over the summer months is advised as there should be plenty of natural food around. garden feeding has of course been linked to disease in birds but that is down to poor hygiene methods. so one does have to be careful in feeding birds.

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Posted (edited)

@@kittykat23uk, definitely one has to be careful.

 

However, I feed very irregularly, perhaps three or four days in a row once every two months or so.

 

I have found that feeding regularly may actually reduce the number of species in my garden, as the more aggressive birds then tend to take over.

Edited by Peter Connan
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Nature photographers always argue that things should be 'natural'. Most other types of photographers (art, food, fashion, advertising) think that is a joke, a photograph should be beautiful, compelling, it's the result that counts.

One nature and landscape photographer I admire very much also has this approach, coming from a background of advertising. The images should be beautiful. He plans his images very well. I've spoken with guides who hosted him and they said he actually takes very few pictures, and was very particular about car positioning. Half a meter forward, half a meter to the left, 1 photo, another half meter to the left, another photo. If the light is not good he doesn't refrain from using (remotely controlled) flashes to get the light he wants. His images are striking, and if anyone is curious about him, this is his website: Marsel van Oosten

 

For me, the ethics in bird photography (and any nature photography) lies in the disturbance of the animals/plants. As long as the birds are not negatively influenced it's fine. It wouldn't be bad to state if major post-processing changes are made but other than that I would enjoy the beauty of the image.

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@@egilio lovely images! Thanks for sharing that site. I do find myself smiling wryly when I read about his approach to photographing tigers - I don't really think you can compare the experience of seeing wild Bengal tigers in India with what he is suggesting which is basically go to south Africa and photograph captive bred ones on a game reserve.

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@@Peter Connan

 

Like you, I often practice different techniques for photographing birds in my yard and created a native garden to attract as many bird species as possible.

I don't have an issue with any of the methods that you are using to photograph birds in your back yard.

 

~ @@Geoff

 

May I assume that a ‘native garden’ means a garden consisting of locally indigenous plant species without ornamental species from overseas?

I ask as I'm unfamiliar with what a ‘native garden’ might be, lacking recent gardening experience.

It's a surprise to read your comment today as by chance the book I'm reading is about creating hummingbird and butterfly gardens in North America.

The author lays out the nutritional requirements of various species and how best to mix plants so as to provide appropriate nectarous flowers for an extended period.

I'm glad to read that you're able to observe bird species during the period of your convalescence from the recent injury.

I hope that healing is making steady progress.

Tom K.

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I have recently noticed a number of comments regarding the use of artificial backgrounds in bird photography in order to get better images. As this is something I have done, it set me to wondering about the whole question of ethics in bird photography.

 

My reasons are that I live in a built-up area and have a smallish garden, but I like taking good photos. In order to become good, one must practise and experiment. And since I have neither the time nor the budget to travel frequently, that means of necessity that at least some of my practise and photography is done in my garden. Also, I like building up a record of the birds I see here.

 

But in almost any direction I point my camera, there is some obvious man-made surface. So for a short period, I used a canvas background.

 

I then discovered a better method: I built a "feeding station". A whole nother can of worms, that I will discuss shortly. I also manufactured a canvas hide, which is normally left pitched in a corner of my back yard. The feeding station is situated such that it is about 1/3rd of the length of my back yard away from the hide, such that when photographing from the hide, a concrete wall forms the background, but is far enough away to be rendered out of focus. The result looks like this:

 

Now I realize that there are many people who feel that the whole setup and practise is unethical, but I struggle to understand why this should be.

 

Firstly, backgrounds: the placing of such a background surely cannot affect the bird's well-being, so on what grounds is this unethical?

Secondly, a feeding station: Here I guess one needs to be careful. It would be quite easy to change the behaviour of birds by deliberately feeding them. But on the other hand, in a built-up environment their lives are already vastly affected. My argument is that the very act of gardening makes possible birdlife that would not be possible without gardens, and even that would be possible without the city or town being there in the first place as the habitat is very different to what occurred naturally (certainly that is the case in my area, where Johannesburg is sometimes said to be the world's largest man-made forest). So the whole city has become in essence an unnatural habitat and a huge "feeding station" due to the availability of fruit and plants (and of course the whole food-chain that accompanies that), both in and out of season. Surely adding a little bit of birdseed and bonemeal at irregular intervals can have little further effect as long as the food provided is not in itself harmful?

Thirdly, what about perches? Again, in nature some birds tend to prefer denser habitat. But those birds will not be lured out into the open by simply providing a few bare branches for them to sit on? Catching the shyer birds in open setting remains mostly a matter of luck and skill at hiding yourself?

 

So that brings us to the question of hides. Nature photographers, and bird photographers especially, use hides extensively. Almost all serious birding reserves have hides permanently set up, in front of either natural or created habitats (feeding stations?). And vehicles are frequently used as "mobile hides" in all forms of nature photography. So on what grounds is it unethical to place a hide in my own back yard?

 

So lets look at this from a different angle:

Where does the concern come from? is it concern over affecting the well-being and livelihood of the birds themselves? Or is it (to put it very bluntly) envy?

 

To put yet another spin on the question:

A South African nature photographer (Greg du Toit) spent a year sitting in a small waterhole in the Mara, getting many fine photos but also both bilharzia and malaria in the process. Other may get just as stunning results by using the safe and superbly comfortable air-conditioned hides at Zimanga.

 

From a purely photographic-results-based point of view, it may seem as if these hides are cheating. But I can assure you that from the photographer's point of view, Greg had by far the richer experience. One so rich, very few of us can afford it...

 

~ @@Peter Connan

 

After reading your thorough consideration of ethical questions in bird photography, I feel more ‘out of it’ than ever.

I'd never once heard of any of these issues, nor had they sprung to mind in my own jaundiced musings.

That's one of the aspects of Safaritalk which I appreciate — learning about ethical issues which had heretofore entirely escaped my notice.

Safaritalk members as a whole seem scrupulous about possible disruptions of the natural order, which is admirable.

I never realized that anyone was concerned about backgrounds in bird photos, nor was I aware that ‘artificial backgrounds’ were set up.

That hides might be unethical in this or that sense never, ever occurred to me.

After reading your post and the various responses, I wonder what's wrong with me? I've had a life and career where these sorts of issues never came up. I must truly be more obtuse and thick-skulled than I realize — a human counterpart to an aged ‘dagga boy’!

Thus your post is especially valuable, for raising my consciousness about yet another wildlife issue.

Thank you for taking time and using great care to lay out the issue.

Tom K.

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@@Peter Connan

 

Like you, I often practice different techniques for photographing birds in my yard and created a native garden to attract as many bird species as possible.

I don't have an issue with any of the methods that you are using to photograph birds in your back yard.

 

~ @@Geoff

 

May I assume that a ‘native garden’ means a garden consisting of locally indigenous plant species without ornamental species from overseas?

I ask as I'm unfamiliar with what a ‘native garden’ might be, lacking recent gardening experience.

 

@@Tom Kellie

 

Hi Tom,

 

Yes, my garden consists of 90% local indigenous species, the other 10% are Australian plants but they are either cultivars or species that do not occur locally and were planted as feature plants for their spectacular beauty. I created the back yard garden in 2006, it is approx' 18 metres x 15 metres and the list of birds visiting is now over 80 species.

 

As @@kittykat23uk mentions, I know that many people feed wild birds but I do not do that. I carefully selected the plants so that;

1. the garden always has a species (or two) in flower.

2. the plants would provide all the food that the birds require, either via the nectar that the flowers produce, manna or from the insects that are also attracted to the plants.

3. plant species were included to allow the smaller birds refuge from larger, aggressive bird species.

4. provide nesting material during the breeding season

 

I do provide water though. There are 3 birdbaths of different sizes strategically placed around the back garden. I think water is the single most important element in attracting wildlife.

 

I'm typing this on my laptop but I'll get some images of birds in my garden from my other computer and post in this thread.

 

...and yes!!, I often watch the passing parade as I convalesce.

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Two examples of the more unusual bird species that visit my garden...

 

A few years ago I started finding the remains (mainly legs & head) of House Sparrows on my back deck. Then one morning I was lucky to witness a kill at one of the bird baths. This Collared Sparrow hawk is the culprit. She has perfected the art of ambushing the sparrows that come to drink & bathe at the birdbath and as far as I'm aware this was her 9th kill there. I only see her during late Summer into Autumn when water in the surrounding bushland would be hard to find. She often perches on this log to consume her meal. The back fence is the background.

post-5120-0-37881700-1440905438_thumb.jpg

Another species that you would not expect to find in a backyard garden is a Buff Banded Rail. This individual spent a week in my yard and has visited since. I can only think that it was originally displaced from the wetland at the local golf course when it was temporarily drained.

post-5120-0-56204600-1440905498_thumb.jpg

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Beautiful shots @@Geoff!

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Posted (edited)

@@Geoff, I greatly admire your approach. In my opinion, this is the best possible way of doing things. I must be honest though, my approach is a lot less structured and more slap-dash.

 

@@Tom Kellie, I wonder whether the "fault" lies with you or with us? As with all human endeavours, there are lots of opinions and points of view, all off which presumably have some merit. Only very slightly off topic, many macro photographers freeze their insects, and I must say that to me, this is going too far. But on the other hand, I do swat house flies regularly, and mosquitos as often as I can, so would I really be worsening the crime if I captured it and froze it instead?

 

@@egilio, people like Marsel (and Greg) are very inspirational and photographically the results of their methods certainly is impressive, but your post also serves as an introduction to another can of worms, that of captive animals.

 

Again, there are many degrees, a continuous spectrum of grey, but one could argue that neither pure black nor pure white exists in the spectrum.

 

Until less than a century ago, there were still many places in Africa where wildlife existed as wildlife, unaffected by man. Now I think those days are gone, and all wildlife that remains, remains at our pleasure. Because of population pressure and technology, even the most inhospitable regions would now be somebody's home if they were not protected. And thus almost all game is now to some extent protected and thus to some extent captive. And as all forms of game lose their fear of humans gradually as they are exposed (and left unharmed) more and more, it is natural for us to seek areas where they are most habituated, as that leads to more sightings and better photos (due to us being able to get closer). It's only a short step from there to specially trained animals at various rehabilitation centres.

 

And again, I have erred on the dark side. I have photographed trained birds of prey at the Dullstroom Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Centre, and hope to do so again in the near future, but here I will say that I feel that photos taken in such places should not be paraded as being naturally gained, that instead the circumstances should be disclosed.

 

My justification probably rests on shaky ground: under these circumstances it is possible to take beautiful pictures more easily (or perhaps rather more quickly or reliably), and such photos shared on social media may increase exposure for nature conservation and thus the finance spent on nature conservation in whatever form, and value is the only thing that will ensure that conservation continues into the future.

 

And while I like these photos, I do not consider it a substitute for spending time in the bush and gaining them "the hard way". But one may spend many weeks in the wild and never get within spitting distance of even one of these regal birds, where at a bird show you are virtually guaranteed of getting within touching distance of several species.

Edited by Peter Connan
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@@Tom Kellie

 

Hi Tom,

 

Yes, my garden consists of 90% local indigenous species, the other 10% are Australian plants but they are either cultivars or species that do not occur locally and were planted as feature plants for their spectacular beauty. I created the back yard garden in 2006, it is approx' 18 metres x 15 metres and the list of birds visiting is now over 80 species.

 

As @@kittykat23uk mentions, I know that many people feed wild birds but I do not do that. I carefully selected the plants so that;

1. the garden always has a species (or two) in flower.

2. the plants would provide all the food that the birds require, either via the nectar that the flowers produce, manna or from the insects that are also attracted to the plants.

3. plant species were included to allow the smaller birds refuge from larger, aggressive bird species.

4. provide nesting material during the breeding season

 

I do provide water though. There are 3 birdbaths of different sizes strategically placed around the back garden. I think water is the single most important element in attracting wildlife.

 

I'm typing this on my laptop but I'll get some images of birds in my garden from my other computer and post in this thread.

 

...and yes!!, I often watch the passing parade as I convalesce.

 

~ @@Geoff

 

This is what I have wanted to better understand...not only about your garden layout but in a broader sense.

As I previously mentioned, I'm currently reading a guidebook concerning the planning of hummingbird and butterfly gardens.

My motivation in doing so is to better grasp the intricate ecological community considerations which underlie such gardens designed to attract wildlife.

Your description exceeds my hopes, explaining the salient factors behind the planning.

What has been turning in my thoughts has been that depending on locality, both native species gardens and introduced ornamental gardens may work well, but not necessarily when mixed within the same planting.

I appreciate your noting the necessity for clean water. Your three birdbaths provide ample choice.

80 species, no less! That's about as remarkable as I could imagine.

I'm glad to know that the birds lessen the tedium of convalescence. Both you and @@JohnR have been on my mind, as you're both on the mend. He has regular avian visitors around his home near Cambridge, in the U.K.

Many thanks for providing this full description!

Tom K.

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@@Tom Kellie, I wonder whether the "fault" lies with you or with us? As with all human endeavours, there are lots of opinions and points of view, all off which presumably have some merit. Only very slightly off topic, many macro photographers freeze their insects, and I must say that to me, this is going too far. But on the other hand, I do swat house flies regularly, and mosquitos as often as I can, so would I really be worsening the crime if I captured it and froze it instead?

 

And while I like these photos, I do not consider it a substitute for spending time in the bush and gaining them "the hard way". But one may spend many weeks in the wild and never get within spitting distance of even one of these regal birds, where at a bird show you are virtually guaranteed of getting within touching distance of several species.

 

~ @@Peter Connan

 

I'm struggling with the number of fairly serious wildlife ethical issues which exist.

When I began going on safaris, my thoughts were 100% concentrated on the interactions of plant and animal species in their local habitat.

It was the nuances of their various reactions to events and conditions which enthralled me. The human background wasn't even a blip in my consciousness.

After joining Safaritalk less than six months ago, I was dismayed to read of numerous environmental travesties being played out throughout Africa and farther afield.

For example, the regular posts of @@jeremie and @@COSMIC RHINO highlight the chicanery in high places which adversely effects wildlife habitats.

I'd been so caught up with the intricacies of understanding plant, animal, geological interaction that it was and remains disturbing to read of the nefarious goings-on which harm the natural world.

The more that I read Safaritalk posts, the more I feel overwhelmed by the various ethical concerns about subjects I'd overlooked.

That bird — or insect — photographers do this or that to obtain images, and are in turn criticized for their actions, spins my head, as all of it's unfamiliar.

I appreciate your respect for spending time in the bush. I'm not a birder and not a bird photographer, but rather am a safari tourist who photographs what's observed.

It's a record of what was encountered which I seek, rather than any particular species, or an exceptional image.

Nonetheless, it seems far, far beyond my capacity and not even my place to presume to critique the methods of others.

Your post is most enlightening and hence highly appreciated!

Tom K.

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~ @@Geoff

My motivation in doing so is to better grasp the intricate ecological community considerations which underlie such gardens designed to attract wildlife.

What has been turning in my thoughts has been that depending on locality, both native species gardens and introduced ornamental gardens may work well, but not necessarily when mixed within the same planting.

I appreciate your noting the necessity for clean water. Your three birdbaths provide ample choice.

I'm glad to know that the birds lessen the tedium of convalescence. Both you and @@JohnR have been on my mind, as you're both on the mend. He has regular avian visitors around his home near Cambridge, in the U.K.

Many thanks for providing this full description!

Tom K.

 

 

@@Tom Kellie

 

Tom, Yes, both native species and introduced ornamental plants would work well even when mixed in the same plantings but my reasons for having a solely native garden is that I live in an area that contains considerable natural bushland. If I were to plant exotic species the birds would spread them into the natural environment.

 

Also within the garden are a number of plants that are host species for butterflies & moths.

 

Yes, I was impressed with @@JohnR backyard camera setup.

 

Here's another frequent visitor during the winter months. The beautiful Eastern Spinebill.

post-5120-0-87619400-1440922360_thumb.jpg post-5120-0-90138800-1440922381_thumb.jpg

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What a beauty @@Geoff!

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Geoff,

 

The pictures of the spinebill are gorgeous!!!!

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@@Geoff, gorgeous Eastern Spinebill with the Grevillia, I enjoy the Western Spinebill here. Cant imagine a Buff Banded Rail in the garden, spot one, albeit rarely, on the foreshore but he quickly bolts for cover when someone shows. I planted up my new "Australian" garden several years ago not knowing the difference, wiser now and slowly trying to replace the plants with more local West Aussie SW species.

 

@@Peter Connan, I am neither a "birder" or photographer so maybe not in a position to comment, but I can see no ethical dilemma in what you're doing. I don't feed my birds because as you stated it would simply attract all the "bully" birds, which for me are crows, magpies and kookaburras, all which will predate the smaller birds and chase off our big local cockatoos, which are fighting for survival as is. I have 3 birdbaths in my garden too, our local wetlands have been decimated over the years so I don't have a problem with that. I am learning that photography, even amateur, is an ethical minefield of things previously not considered.

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@@elefromoz

 

I must admit that I think the Western Spinebill is even more beautiful than it's eastern cousin. No one was more surprised than me when I saw the rail walking around on the back deck.

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@@Peter Connan, I am neither a "birder" or photographer so maybe not in a position to comment, but I can see no ethical dilemma in what you're doing. I don't feed my birds because as you stated it would simply attract all the "bully" birds, which for me are crows, magpies and kookaburras, all which will predate the smaller birds and chase off our big local cockatoos, which are fighting for survival as is. I have 3 birdbaths in my garden too, our local wetlands have been decimated over the years so I don't have a problem with that. I am learning that photography, even amateur, is an ethical minefield of things previously not considered.

 

~ @@elefromoz

 

You and I both!

What you've expressed above is also my impression.

There's a strain in me which recoils from tightly knotted issues.

Having lived for decades without much consideration of life's “what ifs?”, the flurry of ethical issues abashes.

In a recent conversation I joked that my photography may end up being boulders, sandbars and dusk, so as to sidestep others' sensitivities.

Apparently my plodding temperament has been encased in a thick carapace of unintentional indifference.

Then again, I've never been much of one to hold up the work of others to an ethical yardstick.

Perhaps I should have done so, hence reading Safaritalk serves as a caution to my inherent complacency.

Thank you for expressing yours thoughts, above.

Tom K.

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@@Tom Kellie

 

Tom, Yes, both native species and introduced ornamental plants would work well even when mixed in the same plantings but my reasons for having a solely native garden is that I live in an area that contains considerable natural bushland. If I were to plant exotic species the birds would spread them into the natural environment.

 

Also within the garden are a number of plants that are host species for butterflies & moths.

 

Yes, I was impressed with @@JohnR backyard camera setup.

 

~ @@Geoff

 

That's the first I've ever heard of Spinebills, whether Eastern or Western.

Splendid birds! Top class images!

Ah, butterflies and moths. Having never seen images of Australian Lepidoptera, I hadn't considered that.

Your posts, as well as those of @@elefromoz, have raised my consciousness of Australia's wildlife.

Through the years, I never gave Australia much thought, one way or another.

A series of Safaritalk images have persuaded me that I've overlooked a gem.

Thank you for your post and the Spinebill images.

Tom K.

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Posted (edited)

@@Tom Kellie and @Elefremoz, I apologise then for this thread. It was never my intention to cause anybody to abstain from enjoying his or her travels or photography of any species or order.

 

From what I have seen, neither of you are likely to fall foul of criticism in any event.

 

But I know there are forum members (I am not going to name names here) who are vehemently against some of the practises mentioned above, and would like them to explain why. Quite possibly their concern rises from factors I have not considered.

Edited by Peter Connan
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@@Tom Kellie and @Elefremoz, I apologise then for this thread. It was never my intention to cause anybody to abstain from enjoying his or her travels or photography of any species or order.

 

From what I have seen, neither of you are likely to fall foul of criticism in any event.

 

But I know there are forum members (I am not going to name names here) who are vehemently against some of the practises mentioned above, and would like them to explain why. Quite possibly their concern rises from factors I have not considered.

 

~ @@Peter Connan

 

While I wouldn't presume to speak for @@elefromoz, I'm grateful that you've raised these issues.

There may be a gap between those who were already aware of what you've eloquently laid out and those like myself who've been blissfully unaware.

As befuddled as I feel at times, by the various refined concerns raised, it's useful to read about them, in order to bring myself up-to-speed.

I've been enjoying casual wildlife photography and tourist-grade safaris in Kenya as sources of pleasure, without any deeper concerns.

Joining Safaritalk was an extension of that, as a means of learning more about safaris. What I hadn't bargained for — entirely my own fault for having failed to do adequate due diligence — was the keen awareness of wildlife conservation issues and ethical treatment of animal issues felt by most Safaritalk members.

Heretofore I'd accepted at face value any bird photos posted in Safaritalk, never asking myself if they'd been photographed in wholly natural circumstances or not. In your post above the mention of artificial backdrops was a surprise to me. Yet I was also surprised to learn that there are those who disdain the use of artificial backdrops for this or that reason.

It may well be that my critical faculties have been slumbering for years, hence I'm chary of judging the motivations or consequences of the photographic or observational strategies which others may employ.

By all means do raise these issues — your explication was a master class in refined wildlife field photography issues. At no tuition, what a bargain!

With Gratitude,

Tom K.

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@@Tom Kellie and @Elefremoz, I apologise then for this thread. It was never my intention to cause anybody to abstain from enjoying his or her travels or photography of any species or order. No apology needed, I will continue to have fun and snap away with my "bridge camera" and enjoy, from the sidelines, any debates from the "serious" photographers.

 

From what I have seen, neither of you are likely to fall foul of criticism in any event. Except in regard to my crummy photos. :)

But I know there are forum members (I am not going to name names here) who are vehemently against some of the practises mentioned above, and would like them to explain why. Quite possibly their concern rises from factors I have not considered.

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Posted (edited)

@@Peter Connan

The issue of ethics is always thorny - and of course there is no right answer.

 

From my perspective there are possibly 2 major issues of ethics involved

1. Was uneccessary harm caused to animals

As taking photographs is an uneccessary activity (unlike getting food or protecting oneself), I think it is unjustified to cause harm to creatures to get a photograph. It appears to me that you are not causing harm. Your feeding of the birds seems like a reasonable response to the harm we cause by building cities on their natural habitat. Certainly in the UK it is promoted in our cities.

2. Do I lie to people about how the photos were taken?

"Photo of XXX bird taken in my garden" or "I struggled through the bush for three weeks, sat in a ditch for six months being eaten by insects to finally get this image"

 

Other issues surrounding what is or is not acceptable in taking photographs appear to be an arbitrary set of standards agreed between some photographers. (Although you could of course argue that ethics themselves are arbitrarily agreed standards). Are these standards important - it depends on whether you care about what those people think! If you enter a competition where the rules state what is and is not allowed then it is important.

Is it ethical to use a background? Is it ethical to move grass?

Is it ethical to use a long lens? (it could deceive people into thinking you were closer than you really were). Is it ethical to use a fast burst on your camera? (you present one picture that looks like you carefuly chose it when shooting). Is it ethical to use autofocus? High ISO? What about post processing? (I am not suggesting these are un-ethical - they are a group of arbitrary conventioins about what is or is not acceptable.)

 

If we want to think of real ethical issues (these are not talking about you - you just got me thinking!)

Is it ethical to spend $5000 on camera equipment when children around the world do not have enough to eat?

Is it ethical to buy a camera from Amazon who avoid taxes all over the world (but I do pay VAT in the UK)

Is it ethical to buy grey imports avoiding tax altogether?

Is it ethical to process my photos on an Apple computer when Apple avoid tax?

Is it ethical to pay tax when money can be used for illegal activities? But it is also used for many positive activities.

Is it ethical to use a mobile phone or computer when I know some of the rare metals used fund warfare and oppression in parts of Africa? (Which I only know about because I have used my computer!)

Is it ethical to fly to my safari holiday when I know that the flight damages the environment? Is it ethical not to go when I know this will impact on employment and the value of wildlife?

Is it ethical to use cotton, that can cause environmental damage because of the large amount of water and chemicals used, and the probable use of child labour. Or is it ethical not to use cotton, and put these children out of work and possible into homelessness, child prostitution or starvation.

Is it ethical to eat beef fed on soya, grown in Brazil, on illegally logged land, destroying wildlife and leading to the murder of large numbers of environmental activists (see other thread)

The list is endless really.......

 

 

From my perspective what you do is not unethical - and I always enjoy looking at your bird photographs - so please keep posting them

Edited by TonyQ
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