You are likely already aligned with the ethics and considerations I address in this blog. I am posting these words and photos to provoke even greater thinking about the ethics of wildlife photography. I do NOT wish to vilify. I wish for this to be a resource.
It is needed because we live in a time when almost all of us:
Have a camera at the ready; and
Are influenced, and/or are influencing a world fuelled by “likes” and number of followers. The impact of this is so potent, right to the level of our brain wiring and biochemistry.
There is disconnect from Nature for many people that amplifies the taking from, disconnect, and disrespect of the life we share the planet with. Further (deep sigh), often media outlets reward bad photographer behaviour by using close encounters as “click bait” to get more hits on their pages whereby more advertising dollars might be gained.
See background on this photo below. On the left is the 5 m pectoral fin of a Humpback Whale.
In this relatively new human reality, it is so important to consider the “story” behind the photo. What was the cost to wildlife in terms of disturbance, habituation, perpetuating that others too want to get too close for a photo and, thereby, furthering the vortex?
This is what should be considered before the click . . be it clicking a camera button or a like or share on social media.
For consideration is what it being encouraged and perpetuated; the impact; the cumulative effects of others doing the same; the cost of wild animals being habituated to humans. It never ends well. It has led to the death of wildlife. It has led to the death of photographers. Of course it has.
And yes, I do very much try to hold myself to these standards and am absolutely not without impact and mistakes. I flash big lights at life below the surface. My fins sometimes touch the Ocean bottom, disturbing life. There is almost always fossil fuel use and/or Ocean noise invested in my being able to take photographs. Is there a net gain in terms of education / conservation . . . it’s the question we should all be asking.
To think before we click.
Stories behind the photos (I have chosen to blur out faces):
The two photos above are by Kipp White. Backstory from Kipp: “The herd was resting in the woods behind the Visitors Center in Cherokee [North Carolina]. One of the cows got up and moved to the river. She started calling for the rest of them. Slowly the rest of the herd got up and started moving towards the water. I told everyone they should move back. They were between the herd and the water. No one listened. Then the bull started moving closer to the people and everyone was trying to get a good picture of him. Once again I warned the people saying “He has already charged at two people this morning, y’all might want to back up”. Then I said it one more time. Nobody listened. Next as you can see, he charged this lady. I talked to her afterwards and she said she was OK”
Conservation photographer and journalist Jared Lloyd Photography provided the following comment about these photos: “I’ve seen so many near misses. And have even had to intervene and charge a bull elk once to save someone’s life. This is why we learn behavior. This is why we need to understand what animals are trying to say to us. This is why we use long lenses . . .”
Mature male Steller Sea Lion photo by Jan de Bree. Location was Cowichan Bay. This violation of Marine Mammal Regulations has been reported to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Yes, the angle from which the photo was taken could influence how distance is perceived. But, by no stretch of any imagination, is this is 100 m.
The two photos above of boaters taking photos with cell phones near an acrobatic Humpback Whale were taken near Campbell River. The photographer wishes to remain anonymous. These are older images where the previous photos are all from October, 2020. Here too the camera angle could influence how close this looks but again, this is NOT 100 m and it IS boater responsibility to know the Marine Mammal Regulations. It is of great value to report violations to increase education, enforcement and legal action. In British Columbia, the DFO Incident Reporting Line is 1-800-465-4336. Video is of even greater value than photographs as evidence of intent, who was driving, etc.
Associated blog re. considerations in choosing ethical marine wildlife viewing companies, please see “Not Up Close and Personal” at this link
Video of a presentation done by yours truly regarding boaters and marine mammals, addresses Canadian laws. Done in my role with the Marine Education & Research Society. Please request access to “Boaters and Marine Mammals” at this link. We are using a system of having people fill in a form to request access so we have a better idea of how the resource might be of us.