Over the past month I have began diving into the world of podcasts. I find this outlet a very good source of education. There are a few great casts that I have thoroughly enjoyed and many that I have trouble relating to. The most common thing I hear from the nature photography community is the "code of ethics" standpoint when photographing wildlife and landscapes. There are many good and respectable ideas out there, and I personally believe this is an issue everyone needs to consider.
I find it difficult to converse in debates as I most often am very much stuck in my own ways, which is why I started a podcast here on the site and soon realized that it wasn't for me. I began recording different topics that I value as important but soon understood that I have very one-sided ideas that would make it difficult for my following community to listen to, as I tend to ramble frequently. I thought it would be best to replace the podcasting page with the videocast page and simply take my viewers out on my explorations. This way I have time to look at the words I write before I deliver it to the public in an attempt to not create hypocritical content. As I began recording episodes for the podcast I realized how hard it is to touch on topics such as deforestation and environmental pollution issues when I am a carpenter and live in a society that really forces all of us to pollute in some way or another. Saying this, I have a few things I would like to talk about here and share my thoughts on what I find to be controversial in the world of the nature/wildlife photography "code of ethics".
The photo above is my first lion sighting on my previous trip to Kruger National Park, South Africa. I came across these two lioness as I was traveling from one campsite to the other. These extraordinary cats have never left my mind since the moment I seen them and the images I have taken will continue to recall the hour long conversion we had. I simply pulled to the side of the road and took the moment in as the two creatures lied on the road and exhibited perfect family-hood right in front of me. Time was spent taking photos while much more time was spent existing with these apex predators.
What I would like to consider here is the image I was trying to capture in opposed to the African photography tourism way of exploiting these lovely animals. As I traveled through Africa I quickly realized first-hand how the majority of the tourism fleet behaves. This is a business strictly geared towards bombarding and suffocating wildlife's natural path of existence in order to appease their paying clients appetite for aggressive imagery . The first few days traveling through Kruger I came upon many scenes where safari guide vehicles packed predator hunting activity sites to the extreme, and to the point that I felt completely overwhelmed with disgust and continued on my way. The remainder of my time in the park and travel through Africa was spent as far away from tourist activity as possible. This brings me to my point in wildlife photography ethics.......Always respect wildlife's domain and understand the simple fact that, encroaching on an animals means to survival "is what it is"......photography, poaching, trophy/sport hunting, or whatever the human hobby may be that directly cripples an animals way of survival, is in the end, all the same. So my point is, the photo I'm sharing here is a photo of allowing animals to exist as they are and move at their own will. Wildlife podcasts seem to be built on methods that are geared towards setting people in spaces that conflict with animal natural movement for the sole purpose for getting an image. The majority of photos with leopard, lion, hyena, or any other predator attacking and gorging on a meal are most often taken from a vehicle that has played a very negative role in manipulating the entire approach to what was naturally happening. The simple idea is that, predators go with far too many missed meals due to egotistic travel guides and travelers who are more concerned with getting photos then respecting wildlife in it's natural state, which most often should mean, leaving it all alone.
By the time these powerful predators make it to this region they have already endured a very daunting and exhausting migration and before they head back to the far north, the most important thing we can do as photographers, is to either have the right gear or just put the camera down. Migratory animals need their space.
Ethics plays a huge part in any animal you decide to photograph but many times is not really considered. It seems that photography has become more about human ego then it has to do with anything else. Getting published and having a pristine gallery is great, but when animals go without meals and miss out on rest then your photography has become an "animal cripple". Experience in the field and researching wildlife behavior are two things we all need to consider when pursuing wildlife photography. Ethics and common sense go hand and hand for the most part, but when photographers have bad or selfish motives, the hobby and animals suffer. Wildlife photography for me is purely for the enjoyment of my encounters and to document them in order to give wildlife a voice that we as humans may be able to interpret. The truth is, understanding a camera and all of the components of photography is really quite simple, so there is no need to get too egotistically involved. Always explore, learn and conserve wildlife, because it is much more important then the images we produce.
Robbie P. Gallant
As a naturalist, I spend a great amount of time in personal study. Discussion and research is key to exploring new and intelligent ideas and furthering our understanding of our natural surroundings.