Thursday, November 29, 2012

Nature Photography Ethics

For class today we read a few articles about the ethics behind nature photography.  I think it's easy for us to write-off the impact of taking pictures because it's, well, taking pictures.  There's no trapping involved, there shouldn't be any baiting, no intentional chasing of the animals, what should be wrong with us simply getting a few pictures?  I think this is easily said when many of us come from city backgrounds and are able to sort of set ourselves apart from nature.  It's within this that we begin to remove ourselves from the food chain and assume that nothing hurts us and everything assumes that we are not a threat, almost like we're silent, invisible observers of nature that has no place for us in its complex mix of predator and prey.  Perhaps this is why so many tourists treat Yellowstone like an enlarged zoo and approach potentially dangerous wildlife, only to learn that the natural world will gladly accept us back into the world of interspecific competition.  Anyways, here are a few thoughts I took away after reading these articles:

(1) One article was actually a full scientific paper on the effects of photography on West Indian anoles.  The results?  These little lizards reacted the same way to cameras as they did to calls of predatory birds. Though why shouldn't they?  A large, curious being usually means trouble in the natural world, take polar bears for instance.  Even if no harm is intended, anoles don't know this any more than we don't know if bears are simply curious or they want to protect their young from a potential threat.  This is definitely something to think about next time we go up for a close shot of herpetofauna or anything that is considerably smaller than us.

(2) While no scientist wants to be considered a tourist, that's what you get yourself into when you pay to go on tours to see exotic wildlife.  While this is a major money maker for some developing countries, it can still negatively impact habitat and wildlife by developing hotels and disturbing wildlife with constant tours.  The wikipedia article brings up both negatives and positives related to ecotourism.  While I can't see one outweighing the other, at least ecotourism helps to further ingrain the need for sustainable practices in first world countries and inspire further respect for the natural world.

(3) I like the post given from "the free quark" website.  One point I especially like is when he suggests to not disclose locations of wildlife, especially nests.  For one this protects the animals from further disturbance and location of predators.  Though doesn't providing animal locations remove a bit of the wonder?  I don't care to read much about trails I plan on going to and specific points of interest within those trials.  I would rather spend a day wandering than spend a day going from point A to point B to get the "most" out of a day.  A day spent in nature with little or no wildlife is still a day spent in nature.  I think we can all learn from this guy's practices and how he tries to minimize his impact while taking pictures.

(4) The last article talks of how nature photography can inspire the public to take action and preserve the natural world.  Ultimately that's what I think photography is, an inspiration.  Why else would companies pay so much for good advertising photos?  They want photos that inspire people to buy or take part in their product.  Displaying photos of bears, lynx, and bald eagles can really inspire a person to go to Yellowstone. Displaying a photo of  someone wearing a Patagonia down jacket with pristine Alps in the background can inspire someone to buy their jacket.  So what if we used this power to inspire people to take action?  When you display photos that show the majesty and integrity of nature it may inspire people to go outside, though it may also inspire the thought that nature is just fine.  We should be displaying pictures of seemingly intact environments, along with scenes of horror, like baby albatross carcasses with plastics inside their stomachs.  To inspire action, we need to show what actions need to be taken.

Sorry if I went a little overboard this time.  Environmental ethics is something that, well, inspires me.  That's all for now.

-Zach

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