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Ethics in bird photography


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#21 Tom Kellie

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Posted 30 August 2015 - 10:43 AM

@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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#22 Peter Connan

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Posted 30 August 2015 - 01:32 PM

@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, 30 August 2015 - 01:33 PM.

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#23 Tom Kellie

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Posted 30 August 2015 - 01:50 PM

@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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#24 elefromoz

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Posted 30 August 2015 - 02:43 PM

@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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#25 TonyQ

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Posted 31 August 2015 - 07:46 AM

@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, 31 August 2015 - 07:47 AM.

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#26 KaingU Lodge

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Posted 31 August 2015 - 10:12 AM

@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

 

Similar thinking to how I see the whole thing.  Good post Tony.  


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#27 offshorebirder

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Posted 31 August 2015 - 01:37 PM

@Peter Connan - I don't think you have anything to worry about.  As long as you are not misrepresenting how the photo was obtained / where it came from, you are not doing anything deceitful.

 

As others have said, the primary ethical consideration is the welfare of the birds and wildlife in question.  I do not think attracting birds through feeding is unethical in terms of photography.  And I agree with @Geoff and others that improving the habitat in suburban yards is win-win; it helps your local native wildlife and gets you improved photo opportunities.  And as @Geoff says, providing water is the number one way to attract wildlife.   I think we all have a moral obligation to restore and maintain our property for the benefit of native wildlife.  Sice so much natural habitat is being lost to development, we can mitigate that by improving our suburban yards (compared to the sterile monoculture lawns that society finds so attractive).

 

* But when we offer bird feeders and water features, it is critical to clean them properly.   Sadly, here in the USA, the majority of people who feed birds do not clean their bird feeders thoroughly enough or often enough.  This applies to seed feeders, nectar feeders, suet feeders, etc.  And as someone observed - putting up bird feeders often attracts "bully birds" like Jays, Crows, and so forth and it may actually negatively affect some of the smaller native species (especially during nesting season).

 

In terms of your setup, you might consider trying to eventually replace the canvas background with a living background screen of vines, trees, etc.  Perhaps that is easier said than done...


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#28 Peter Connan

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Posted 31 August 2015 - 03:08 PM

@TonyQ, wow, that list makes my little list pale into insignificance!

@offshorebirder, the canvas has been replaced for quite some time.
Unfortunately only with a concrete wall.

Thanks for your well thought out replies gentlemen.
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#29 pault

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Posted 31 August 2015 - 03:56 PM

Are you sure it is a question of ethics @Peter Connan? It's obvious that There are ethical issues with feeding birds, but you seem to have taken that into account already by strictly limiting feeding. Is there are particular issue around that in South Africa? Possibly you are "stealing" birds from your neighbours 2-3 times a month.

It's just weird to suggest that hanging up a sheet in your garden is unethical. How are you going to do your washing? This must be either a religious issue or actually an aesthetic issue.... aesthetic and ethical can sound very similar after a few beers. We're you or these people having a few beers?

Sitting in a tiny tent in your back garden at your age is troubling, certainly. Possibly disturbing if you did it in a scout's uniform or military gear, If you have a teenage daughter, then she could see that as something pretty close to unethical if you did it while she had friends around, but I am not sure how it is otherwise an ethical issue.

Hanging some twigs could result in birds sitting on thise twigs instead of natural perches like posts, light fittings, railings and that rusty old nail you were too lazy to pull out years ago. Or on the non-native trees and shrubs you or someone planted sometime.

Taking photographs ... well this could be the problem. Did you ever tell someone that you like hiding in a little tent - just you and your "Canon" - and snapping some shots of cute little birds bathing? Hmmm....

Seriously, Peter, I can't see how there is any ethical issue here - at least worth having a row about. And, although open-minded and a bit agnostic, I am on probably in general on the same side of the fence (a hypothetical fence I should say, in case anyone worries a bird will land on it) as those who like to shoot "natural".... nobody ever asks me to take their portrait for some reason. But surely it's a matter of taste and business (people buy the pretty shot) and people arguing that it doesn't matter and it is nobody's business that they didn't tell anyone the shot was set up.

So unless it relates to someone else being perceived as "conning" the viewer in some way or to people posting stuff to twitching websites without bothering to mention that things were set up, or people bothering nesting birds to get a photo, or all of that stuff that it doesn't seem to be about....I can offer no insight but had some free time in a Bangkok traffic jam. And I'll wait with you for insight as sometimes there are things we didn't think of - although I think I have headed well outside the box in my search this evening.

Edited by pault, 31 August 2015 - 03:59 PM.

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#30 kittykat23uk

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Posted 31 August 2015 - 04:00 PM

This post made me smile! Thank you @pault
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#31 offshorebirder

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Posted 31 August 2015 - 05:51 PM

@offshorebirder, the canvas has been replaced for quite some time.
Unfortunately only with a concrete wall.
 

 

@Peter Connan - do you mean someone next door erected a concrete wall?   If so, there are still ways to screen it with natural vegetation.

 

Case in point:

 

My parents and I are on a 50-year plan for converting their suburban yard into optimum native habitat.  Over the years since 1978 we have installed a LOT of native plants, built water features, and re-introduced multiple native species of lizards, amphibians, insects, and plants.  And we have let many of the native plants that birds have "planted" become established. 

 

A few years ago one of their neighbors installed a horrible outdoor floodlight for "security lighting" - unfortunately it also illuminated my parents' yard and partly shone on their house.  So I built a 10-foot tall trellis and planted a Climbing Aster (Aster caroliniana) vine I bought from a native plant nursery.  It did well, and grew thick up to the top of the trellis and a bit beyond.  Now there is a wall of natural green foliage (and beautiful flowers from September-November) blocking the light pollution fixture next door. 

 

If you would like ideas on how to easily and inexpensively build your own trellis, send me a PM and I will share a few potential methods.

 

Now the moths, toads, and other nocturnal creatures are not bothered by the terrible floodlight. 

 

And these residents of their yard are especially grateful:

 

 

* Nothing unethical in my video recording them!    :-)


Edited by offshorebirder, 31 August 2015 - 05:52 PM.

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#32 Big Andy

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Posted 31 August 2015 - 06:11 PM

@offshorebirder A beautiful little video but I think your cover is blown, they're definitely onto you. 


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#33 inyathi

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Posted 31 August 2015 - 11:07 PM

Interesting topic, @pault since you mentioned Bangkok, in Thailand bird photography has become really quite popular and visiting national parks there like Khao Yai you will see quite a few Thais wandering around with tripods and huge lenses and a tub of worms or grubs of some kind. As a result many of the birds certainly around the main carpark area had become very tame and confiding after regular feeding. Some of the photographers would also go into the forest and put a screen to sit behind and then put food down.

 

Up in the mountains in the far north of Thailand is a place called Doi Lang which is right up on the border with Burma it’s fantastic area for birds the forest is full of them and in the winter lots of migrants show up especially if the weather is bad in China. Being on the border there are quite few military checkpoints and next to one of these some Thai photographers had set up a feeding area for birds I went there on a birding trip a few years ago and our guide bought some papaya and put out some slices which attracted a good variety of birds. Walking further along this same road in what is a very remote area seemingly in the middle of nowhere it was noticeable that some of the birds were much tamer than you would expect, clearly photographers with their tubs of tasty worms have been feeding the birds along this road for some time. I suppose some people might consider that feeding birds like this in the wild is unethical because it’s altering the behaviour of the birds. However I think it’s great that some Thais are really interested in their birds and other wildlife and are willing to travel around the country to find them and on balance for me this outweighs any of the negatives.

 

A good example of the positive effect that the popularity of bird photography in Thailand has had can be seen further south. At the top end of the Peninsular also on the Burmese border is a fantastic national park called Kaeng Krachan some local conservationists discovered that poachers were creating little artificial waterholes in the forest on the edge of the park. In the dry season the poachers would create a blind or hide and dig a shallow hole in front of it which they would keep topped up with water and they would also put out bits of fruit as well and then wait for whatever birds or mammals might show up. These they would then kill for food or in the case of songbirds catch them alive to sell at the local market. The conservationists went and found some of the poachers and persuaded them that there were Thai photographers who would be willing to pay to make use of their hides and that they would make far more money from this than from killing the animals. These initially very sceptical former poachers are now earning a nice income from allowing Thai and foreign photographers to use their hides to photograph species that would be difficult to see otherwise. Although I did visit Kaeng Krachan I didn’t unfortunately visit any of these hides, looking at some of the photos in the following article I’m tempted to go back there as I clearly missed out.

 

Bird Hides and Water Holes: A Model Conservation Project near Kaeng Krachan National Park -Thailand


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#34 Tom Kellie

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Posted 01 September 2015 - 01:18 AM

~ @inyathi

 

Fascinating!

 

Thank you for sharing this background in such complete detail.

 

The level of detail you've kindly provided enables one to visualize what it's like in remote Thai forest areas.

 

That Thai bird photography is flourishing is a pleasant surprise.

 

I've seen a more modest counterpart in the Hong Kong Wetland Park, albeit sans the worm tubs.

 

Much appreciated.

 

Tom K.


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#35 Peter Connan

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Posted 01 September 2015 - 04:43 AM

Thank you gentlemen.

@offshorebirder, the concrete wall has been there for years, certainly longer than I have owned the property. And I am not really complaining about it, as I have found that, rendered suitably out of focus by relative distances and apertures, it actually makes an ideal background, being of even, unobtrusive colour.

Unfortunately I can't see your video though?
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#36 pault

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Posted 01 September 2015 - 05:40 AM

@inyahti.... Some very good points, and a truly interesting perspective.That kind of birding iand photography wouldn't be something i would particularly want to participate in, but in context you're right that there are as many or more positives than negatives to it. 


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Waiting again... for the next time again


#37 TonyQ

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Posted 01 September 2015 - 08:22 AM

@inyathi

Very interesting post (your link appears to take me back to this thread rather than to the article)



#38 inyathi

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Posted 01 September 2015 - 11:54 AM

Sorry about the link in my last post

 

Note to self when including links always preview the post and check that the links work properly before posting.

 

Here it is and this time it does work

 

Bird Hides and Water Holes: A Model Conservation Project near Kaeng Krachan National Park -Thailand


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#39 Peter Connan

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Posted 01 September 2015 - 03:31 PM

@offshorebirder, your video works now. I agree, they are on to you, not that it matters. Very nice!
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#40 ZaminOz

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Posted 11 September 2015 - 01:45 AM

My backyard bird photography is totally natural.

Naturally... I recline on my outdoor patio couch, camera to one side, mug of coffee to t'other, and ipad tuned into safaritalk on my lap... should a bird natually futter in and land nearby I will endeavour to take a snap of it before my dog (see avatar) leaps up in indignant surprise and with a "guruph" quite naturally sends the avian invader fluttering back out of his territory...


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