Wildlife and Nature Photography – It’s More Than Just a Creative Pursuit

Dear Wildlife & Nature Photographers,

The memories that photography helps us create, has turned all of us into photographers. Some more accomplished than others, and some more sensitive than others. But, we’re all photographers.

And, as photographers – the chroniclers of events, places, people, and all other life forms, it becomes our duty to preserve and care for what we so eagerly and actively seek to capture through our lenses. Unfortunately, many of us do not realize the responsibility towards our subjects that comes along with this craft, and in our desire to capture the ‘shot’ we have become insensitive, invasive, and have come to be known as the ‘paparazzi’.

Earlier, this term was associated mostly with the photographers who disregarded the privacy of people, now there’s another breed of paparazzi that’s emerging – the nature and wildlife paparazzi. This type is more dangerous than the people paparazzi. They not only disregard the rights of our co-habitants – the beautiful and the silently suffering wildlife, but also cause damage to the environment for petty gains.

It is disheartening to see that as the very people whose craft gives them the power to bring forth and highlight issues plaguing our friends from the wild, we are using our craft to create imbalance and disturbance in their lives and homes.

We forget that when we aggressively follow (stalk) animals, use bright lights, take a large entourage with us, pollute their homes, or coerce the animals to give certain (at times award winning) shots, we are hurting them – emotionally and mentally. When these animals retaliate due to fear or frustration and hurt us – we accuse them of brutality, labeling them “man-eaters”. Quite unfair, don’t you think?

Let us look at two live examples.

In a bird sanctuary, a night jar, being a nocturnal bird, is sleeping peacefully under a bush early in the morning. A photographer, in order to get a good shot uses a flash to take a photograph thereby waking up the bird. Isn’t this equivalent to someone entering our bedroom and using a flash in our face as we are fast asleep? Would we like it? But it does not prevent us from doing the same to a bird in its bedroom.

In Tadoba Tiger sanctuary, private cars are allowed in. Cars blaring the latest Bollywood music cruise the sanctuary scaring the bears and the tigers. But that’s not all. Recently, when a couple of tiger cubs were spotted at a watering hole, many vehicles converged to see them. The vehicles in front refused to move, the vehicles behind started blaring their horns to get the ones in front to move. This scared the tiger cubs, making them run away.

Of course, one may argue that it’s not the photographers or at least not all the photographers who are responsible for the stress caused to the wildlife and nature, but the click-happy tourists who given their limited knowledge of the animals, their habitats and ethical practices of photography, cause the most damage.

Let’s assume for a while that it is true. The tourists, and not the photographers, cause the stress and damage to the animals and nature. But, then what are we – the more knowledgeable people doing about it? Shouldn’t our community take steps beyond our work to ensure that the less knowledgeable people do not cause harm to the beings that are earning us recognition? Shouldn’t we be taking steps to help preserve the environment and the natural habitats of our friends? Shouldn’t we use our work to educate other people?

And, now for a while let’s assume that even some from our community are guilty of causing this damage. Shouldn’t we (again) as the more conscious, more responsible, and more aware professionals be guiding our less aware or less experienced colleagues towards safe and ethical practices in wildlife and nature photography and otherwise as well?

We believe that the answers to all the above questions should be a YES. Yes, we should try to protect and help conserve this beautiful world and its exotic inhabitants. And, we hope that you think so too.

If you need further motivation, encouragement to take up this cause, do it for selfish reasons. Do it for yourself. Think, if there’s no beauty left, if there are no exotic wildlife species, no running tigers across a field, or lions roaring awake, or birds giving funny poses, or wild flowers in full bloom, trees laden with fruits, who or what will you photograph? What will you do with this craft that you’ve spent time, effort and money on? And, if it’s wildlife and nature that most excites you to pick up your camera and click away, how will you continue your photography journey?

We are quite sure, that none of us – the professionals, amateurs, tourist photographers and even the non-photographers will be able to survive in a plain, dull, and drab world – one without the color, noise, and activity of the wildlife and nature. So, for the sake of our own survival and for that of our craft, let’s pledge to educate people about best and ethical practices in wildlife photography and use our work to help create environmental awareness.

Cover Image Courtesy Google Images.

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