“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.” ~ John Muir
The well-being of the animals I photograph takes precedence over any photo. I use the North American Nature Photography guidelines and ABA Code of Ethics as models. And, I’m in permanent, continuing education on animal behavior and natural history, to better understand the wildlife I photograph, and to minimize my disturbance in their natural settings.
No Baiting Policy
I don’t bait or otherwise lure animals for photos with devices like audio recordings. If I shoot near existing bird feeders in parks or gardens, I’ll make a note of this in my caption. In macro photography of insects, all photos are taken as I found them, in their natural setting, no staging.
Related Ethics Posts: Wildlife Photography Ethics in Practice | First…Signs of Snowies | Wildlife Photography Ethics Matter | Marine Mammal Viewing From a Distance | Ahimsa at the Tidepools | Of Towhees, Tripods and Trust
My Field Craft
I photograph with a telephoto lens (600mm equivalent, four-thirds Olympus system) and do my best not to disrupt natural behavior. My preferred method is to set up at a distance from the animals and remain as unobtrusive as possible. There are obviously times when all of us accidentally flush birds from trails, gauge a situation incorrectly, or cause a bird to fly unintentionally. But I do my best to give all animals their space.
Young and Nesting Animals
I am especially cautious about photographing young animals and nesting areas. I don’t photograph nests often because I’m concerned about interrupting feeding behavior or alerting predators to the nest area. There are certain situations,however — like Cliff Swallow colonies, rookeries, or Osprey nests — where with adequate distance, the birds are generally not disturbed by human presence. Again, I use my best judgment and try to get the pulse of other photographers and birders who know the area.
Unless otherwise indicated, my photos are taken of wild animals in their natural habitats.
I shoot most of my images RAW and do post processing in Adobe’s Lightroom (exposure, sharpness, NR, etc). I do enjoy the freedom of fine-art applications. If I’ve made significant changes to a photograph for creative purposes, I add a comment. If I’ve composited multiple images (as with some of my moon shots), I will definitely note it.
The Feel-Free-to-Comment Policy
Feel free to comment, disagree, to challenge – I’m a believer in the First Amendment. I come at my subjects from the perspective of an observer and voyeur, so there’s subjectivity inherent.
I think anthropomorphism, as it’s been applied throughout history, is a flawed construct. For one, we share some — sometimes many — traits with nonhuman animals, so there’s significant overlap. The term anthropomomorphism is often used to deny animals their rightful entitlement to complex emotional and social behaviors. I do not believe in stripping an animal of her individuality and personality because she belongs to a different species. I love biologist Marc Bekoff’s term deep ethology: “Respecting all animals, appreciating all animals, showing compassion for all animals, & feeling for all animals from one’s heart.” I believe that can only be done from a position of granting nonhumans the benefit of the doubt.
Why I Don’t Disclose Wildlife Locations
You may have noticed that with many of my posts, I describe the location of my photos in most general terms. There’s a reason for this, and it has nothing to do with hoarding a choice photography spot. In fact, most places where I’ve photographed wildlife are quite open to the public and well-known by birders and photographers throughout the year. In those cases, I will mention the park, but not the precise spot. My blog is public and I’m cognizant of that when I post information about animals.
I encounter frustrating human-wildlife interactions often enough to feel protective of the wildlife and birds I photograph. With many of these birds, I have what could be construed as a loose relationship, owing to my repeated forays into the field to capture the same individuals on ‘film.’ So I feel an obligation to contribute to their well-being, and not detract from it.