I’ll bet you weren’t expecting to see this fine looking dude pop up in your newsfeed today…
This is an elephant seal that I photographed about three years ago in Southern California. You can read about the details here, and see more photos from that day It was one of those opportunities that I just kind of stumbled upon, but a very cool experience to say the least.
Yesterday was World Wildlife Day, and it got me thinking about my own desire to pursue more wildlife photography along with some of the ethical issues that have emerged in the field. You may have seen some of the headlines this past year, such as the baby dolphin which died after tourists pulled it from the water and a huge crowd passed it around for selfies. Similar problems came out of the Tahoe area as rangers begged for people to stop posing for pictures with bears. While these examples come from the non-professional world, they underline a root problem that bridges photography as a whole. People become so obsessed with getting a shot that they completely fail to appreciate and respect the animal. Apparently their egos or stupidity override not only the essence of what is “wild,” but also the value of what is “life.”
I’ve heard other stories from the professional world, even here locally, that make me cringe. A few years ago I heard that people were launching fish from popular bald eagle viewing areas along the Mississippi River, trying to entice the birds for prime shots. This is obviously disruptive to the birds natural feeding behavior, and could ultimately lead them to rely on such handouts. I think any photographer who engaged in this- regardless if they were the ones chucking chum or just reaping the benefits, should be ashamed of themselves. (This is one of the reasons I’ve avoided photographing eagles at some local locks and dams.)
With that in mind, I do plan to add more wildlife work to my portfolio in the future but can promise you that just like in my landscape photography I’ll maintain the highest ethical standards. Much of the reason I do this is to capture something authentic that inspires people to care more about protecting the environment for us and all creatures; and I’ll never place a photo op ahead of an animals well being.