On Wildlife Ethics

This photo of a Pileated Woodpecker in a nest cavity was taken with a 600mm focal length. Far away enough that I cropped the photo during post processing, I would rather crop the image before overtaking the birds’ well-being.

Throughout all of my work, there is an underlying tinge of conservation. Allow me to quote some sentences from my website’s bio and artist statement..

“Call it experiential photography: documenting the living things around us and delivering that moment to you, the viewer, is my purpose. Reflected in my work is a deep ecological concern for the fragile and precious environments on our planet. However, I tend to focus on what beauty is already there rather than the harrowing consequences of humanity’s actions that affect tomorrow.

“The intentions of my work are to inspire people to feel more connected with the natural world. To challenge the viewer to see that nature is an important part of our world we must appreciate every day, and not take for granted. To sit in quiet contemplation of a grand vista or landscape in the evening glow of light or in silent observance of an animal carrying out daily life is unlike any other mindful experience. With my weapon of choice, the camera, armed in hand and ready to squeeze the shutter. I approach my craft two-fold: as fine art that can be appreciated being framed and hung from a wall in a pleasant space, and as photojournalism to document the ever-evolving nature around us. The images I create are meticulously printed, matted, and framed to preserve the real look of what I saw and what I want to share. As seasons change and species grow or disappear, I hope to bring awareness to conserve and learn about these bygones of a forgotten era. If my images make prospective viewers want to learn more and “get out there” then I’ve done my job.

Acknowledging the past, recording the present, and preserving the future.”

The only times I have spooked wildlife are when they see me before I see them. This is bound to happen often and I want to discern it from intentional harming or danger.

Therefore, in order to facilitate some discussion. I wanted to share my personal ethos on the matter.

Simply put, do no harm.

But first I will play devil’s advocate for a bit, I understand the sentiment of most budding wildlife photographers. Daily we are flooded with jaw-dropping images of a bird or mammal that take up the entire frame. So naturally our first inclination is to emulate the masters and or inspirations.

Good intentions? Maybe. Harmful? Possibly.

Consider this a lesson learned. As I waded through the water, the geese started cackling as a warning before taking off. Now I know when to not push their boundaries.

The professionals certainly have learned a way to ethically approach wildlife without disturbing or harming their way of life. Depending on the species you’re going for, you will have to do your research quite a bit. Learn how the animal reacts to humans in their presence, learn about their nest placement (if it is mating season.) Knowledge is the best approach to avoiding harm.

If you are a wildlife photographer and feel as though you have to move in close enough to scare away the animal, you are doing it wrong!

Putting a bird through distress just so they fly away and you get your “in flight shot” is the worst way to photograph them.

During mating and nesting season, birds are on high alert to protect their hatchlings and nestlings. The problem is that when they are disturbed, the parents of a lot of species will retreat and never return if their nest is threatened.

Ring Billed Gulls at Sunset

Thoughts or opinions? What do you believe is ethical in terms of wildlife? I wanna hear what you have to say.

Take care and get out there.

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Published by Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor is a 26 year old photographer located in Beavercreek Ohio, United States. Specializing in wildlife and landscapes both big and small, Ryan has sought to capture many different natural locations throughout the Buckeye State and beyond.

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