Tourists have been flocking to national parks, wildlife refuges, and other nature areas in record numbers since the coronavirus pandemic began—which is both a reason to celebrate and potentially a cause for concern. Whether you’re new to these areas, a frequent visitor, or somewhere in between, don’t pack up the car until you read this.
1. We’re thrilled to see you enjoying nature.
The increase in park visitors is obvious to us as nature photographers, in part because we’re sometimes in the field from before sunrise to after sunset and see the crowds, and in part because park efforts to manage those crowds—like timed-entry reservations—have changed the way we do our jobs. But we’re excited to see you here and certainly are willing to share our love for these amazing spaces.
The Nature Photographer episode #8 on Wild & Exposed podcast
What happens an hour, a month, a year, or a decade after we get our image and go home? How is that animal, wildflower, or habitat changed as a result of our actions in the field? What do the photographers around us that day perceive? And what conclusions do viewers make when they see the final published image? These are the questions that guide Jennifer Leigh Warner’s work as Chair of NANPA’s Ethics Committee—not a black and white list of rights and wrongs—and this is what Jennifer hopes we’ll keep in mind when deciding what’s the right photo for us—and the right way to get it and share it.
I photographed Grizzly 399 crossing the highway with a horde of photographers watching in the background as part of a project involving ecotourism and the pressure that it puts on wildlife. I had envisioned this image for some time now and, while I was in Wyoming for the NANPA Nature Celebration, I got the opportunity I was looking for. Grizzly 399 is famous for spending much of her time close to the road. I knew she would make for the perfect subject for this project. I created the image by making sure I was on the opposite side of the road as the rest of the crowd and then when the moment she crossed I lined myself up in the middle of the road to focus on the crowd.
It was 4:30 a.m. on a Saturday in May—the
wind was biting cold and the sky a deep royal blue. All bundled up, I hoist my
heavy camera case into the truck and my husband and I head straight west out of
the small town of Meeker, Colorado. The sun wouldn’t rise until 5:50 a.m., so
we had plenty of time to get into position. But first, we had to find them.
New England Cable News report on a moose that drowned because it was frightened by excited tourists. (Screenshot)
Earlier in September, a moose drowned in Lake Champlain, Vermont, because of tourists. Not directly: people didn’t go up and kill it. Rather, it died as a result of what people did, or didn’t do. After swimming from the New York shore to Grand Isle, in the middle of the lake, the moose came ashore. Unfortunately, it came onto the island near a road and tourists, excited at the sight of a moose so close, got out of their cars and started snapping photos with their phones. Sadly, the commotion frightened the moose back in to the lake. Tired from its swim over from New York, the moose didn’t have enough energy left to cope with wind and waves and drowned shortly thereafter.
I was reading a thread on a well-known photography website about a landowner shutting down photography on his lands. Why? The story presents two sides but no one really knows why the property is off limits except the owner but are we sometimes guilty of bad or less than courteous behavior? I have seen photographers ignore railway no trespassing signs at Bosque to photograph early morning cranes on a wonderfully located pond, and the pond was drained as the result of these trespasses. Many have seen the chaos that occurs at the Oxbow Bend Overlook during the fall with photographers failing to act in a courteous manner. I could go on and on about these types of stories, and we have all experienced such actions by others and maybe we have been less than courteous ourselves. Continue reading →
As the use of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) has become more commonplace in aerial photography and videography, the inevitable questions arise about their ethical use: What are the responsibilities of operators to ensure that they comply not only with the legal restrictions concerning commercial use (FAA Certificate of Authority and legal use in the National Airspace), but also the responsibility to adhere to the ethical standards we impose upon ourselves when doing land-based photography/videography.
We as photographers/videographers have a responsibility to tread lightly when photographing nature. If we disturb wildlife in the act of recording images or footage by altering the behavior of the animal or disrupting its environment, we have crossed an ethical boundary that is hard to justify. Most of us have a reasonable sense of when that boundary is crossed. For example, if a safari vehicle intersects a cheetah in the act of stalking prey, forcing it to abandon the hunt, that is unacceptable from an ethical standpoint. But if that same vehicle causes zebras or wildebeest to maneuver out of the way, most of us would consider that acceptable. The line between what is and is not considered ethical can be difficult to determine, but the question that needs to be asked is: Does my act of recording images/footage interfere with the normal behavior of the animal? Continue reading →