My photographic work evolved from my experience as a wildlife hospital volunteer. It took time to shape my current set of standards and practices. And, I’m grateful to the people along my trajectory who helped me become a more thoughtful photographer with respect to all of these considerations, especially my mentors at the wildlife hospital where it all began.
Certified Community Active Wildlife Steward (Oct 2022)
Member NANPA Ethics Committee (2016 – 2020)
Related Content: Blog posts on the subject of ETHICS
I photograph with the intent to illuminate and amplify:
• To illuminate the beauty, the essence, and the natural history of our fellow earthlings
• To amplify the urgency with which we must protect, preserve, and care for the planet around us.
I’ve donated my photos for use in conservation and scientific projects, and I volunteer my time and work to wildlife organizations.
I have a particular interest in urban-wildlife intersections, and have featured this subject prominently in my blog and photo essays. I seek out the ways wild animals manage to exist or thrive alongside us and the infrastructure of our processed world. In that context, one of my favorite themes is that of reclamation and resilience — how nature can revive, relocate, and restore itself when given the opportunity, space, and help to do so.
• As a former member of the NANPA Ethics Committee, I use the NANPA Ethics Guidelines and the Audubon Guide to Ethical Photography as models.
• I photograph with long lenses and a teleconverter. My primary wildlife lenses are the m.zuiko 100-400mm (which has an effective 800mm reach) and the m.zuiko 300mm f/4 (effective 600mm w/2x crop factor),
• I don’t bait or lure wild animals like owls or foxes (Note: these practices are not legal in many areas)
• I don’t use calls or decoys, electronic or other
• I’m extra cautious about nesting/denning areas (see below)
• In macro photography of insects, I do not stage or move animals for images, nor use any artificial elements (spray bottles, etc)
• I align with the principles of compassionate conservation, as they challenge some of the longstanding and damaging norms about our interactions with other species.
NESTS + DENS
Human presence and attention to nests or dens presents various dangers. It can interrupt feeding, nurturing, and protective behaviors. In worst-case scenarios, it can lead to the endangerment and death of nestlings or baby animals. Humans can also create scent trails for predators, or alert predators to the location of babies.
There are settings like urban heron or seabird rookeries or particular situations where photography can be done safely.
I shoot in natural light, no flash or artificial illumination. It’s less intrusive to wild animals, and I enjoy the challenge of working with the nuances of available light.
Because I appreciate photographs as emotive and story-telling devices, I see difficult light — darkness, fog, and high-contrast situations — as a call to adapt and find something new in the frame. If I do use artificial light in any situation, I’ll note it in the description.
Given how human-wildlife interactions can result in harm to the animals, I am protective of the wildlife I photograph. I frequently post just a general location, unless it’s safe to be more specific. I don’t reveal locations of uncommon animals or charismatic birds like owls which tend to be relentlessly pursued once their location is known. I also refrain from posting locations of animals considered targets, trophy or otherwise, by hunters during hunting season. (The blog post below explains more of my stance on this.)
• Related: Wildlife Locations – When Sharing Endangers the Animals
The term “anthropomorphism” is often used to deny animals their rightful entitlement to complex emotional and social behaviors. I don’t believe in stripping an animal of his or her individuality because she belongs to a different species. I prefer to grant nonhumans the benefit of the doubt. It’s caused so much harm to other species historically, to deny them these qualities — the ones we deem exclusively human but which, over time, we discover are not unique to us.
• Related: The Benefits of Anthropomorphism