One of the ethical issues that comes up time and again in wildlife photography is people encroaching so close as to harass or spook wild animals. There are a lot of reasons people cross and blur those ethical lines, but the main one is to get close to a wild animal, to fill the frame. The best photographers I know get these images through patience and through allowing animals to become comfortable with their presence. But I see a lot of bum-rushing animals in the field, which is incredibly frustrating. To many wild animals, we are predators. So even moving toward them can be a threatening gesture.
I don’t like to cross that line, even though I know what I’m losing photographically. So if I can’t move closer without causing too much disturbance, I’ll stand back and take a few of what Hugh and I call proof of life shots. These are photos that won’t win any prizes, but they’re reminders of the inherent joy he and I had in that moment — spending time with the animals and appreciating the privilege of watching them engage their normal lives. I’m not yet at the point where I can put my camera down without a few pangs, the way Hugh can. He’s a master at simple being-ness.
These shots of an American Kestrel resting and stretching were taken from a long distance. The wide photo shows how far the kestrel was when shooting with an effective reach of 600mm. After cropping the longest edge on these images is 900px which isn’t big enough for high quality prints or larger publications. (If I were shooting with a full-frame camera and more pixels, the crop would be a bit larger and more usable that way.)
“Didn’t have a camera by my side this time
Hoping I would see the world with both my eyes”
~ John Mayer, “3×5”