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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Wildlife Talk 
Thread started 08 Oct 2012 (Monday) 01:55
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Why photograph wildlife?

 
ChrisSearle
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Oct 08, 2012 01:55 |  #1

I'm both a photographer and naturalist and yet I don't do much wildlife photography. Why? Because 99.9% of the photographs that I could take have already been taken. So many 'nature' photographs these days are simple documentary photographs of the animal, the majority give absolutely no insight into behaviour or often, environment. If I want to see a technically excellent picture of an animal I can go to Google, Flickr etc and find hundreds, why then take more?
As a some-time birder, I'm struck how often I see a group of people all taking the same photograph, what on earth is the point? OK so I guess there maybe an element of self gratification, and why not? But, I would love to see more wildlife photographs where the photographer moves away from the purely 'documentary' style or at least shows me an interesting aspect of the animals behaviour or sets it in an environmental or ecological context.
I have a group of friends who constantly compete to see who can generate the 'best' ( sharp) picture of a bird. With 600/800 mm of fl they make technically stunning and yet to me utterly sterile photographs. And yet this type of photograph seems on the increase, at a birding spot I recently visited there were far more people with long white lenses than there were with binoculars! Whats going on?


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myphotographic
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Oct 08, 2012 07:55 |  #2

I reckon your "Somebody has already done it better" can be applied to just about every genre of photography.

It's about the journey not the destination.

So even if better photos already exist, it's the satisfaction of knowing I took a particular photo, the satisfaction of getting better over time, and the (probably mistaken) hope that one day I'll take a world-class and original photo!

The best photographers do take photos that do document interesting behaviour or an animal within it's environment. Behind most of the truely remarkable pictures, theres somebody who posessed great foresight in to the possible, executed it with careful planning and still needed a massive dose of good luck! To get 45 seconds of a snow leopard hunt (external link) the BBC guys had to spent seven weeks waiting and still only had their luck turn days before their time ran out. For us mere mortals, bird-on-a-stick is more a obtainable end-product!


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Oct 08, 2012 08:13 |  #3

^ Well said! My seven year old son is turning into a hard core birder. Every weekend he drags me to the local wetlands or lake to photograph waterfowl or other birds. I could have easily punted him to the internet or bought him an encyclopedia, but I am rather enjoying accompanying him and taking bad photos of birds. I am learning a lot as well as teaching him a ton and spending a lot of quality time with him.


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gjl711
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Oct 08, 2012 08:22 |  #4

ChrisSearle wrote in post #15093155 (external link)
I....Because 99.9% of the photographs that I could take have already been taken. So many 'nature' photographs these days are simple documentary photographs of the animal, the majority give absolutely no insight into behaviour or often, environment. If I want to see a technically excellent picture of an animal I can go to Google, Flickr etc and find hundreds, why then take more?....

myphotographic wrote in post #15093669 (external link)
I reckon your "Somebody has already done it better" can be applied to just about every genre of photography.

It's about the journey not the destination.....

Well said and it can be applied to just about any photography and most other activities as well. Why take any landscape picture, there are already hundreds of thousands, many probably better than you could have done. Why take a wedding portrait? They are all the same anyway, just photoshop in the appropriate face and be done with it. But why stop at photography? The same principal applies to music. Why learn any instrument? There are already thousands who can make much better music. Or why learn to carve wood, or shoot an arrow, or rebuild a car, or build a model airplane? There are others who do it better.

So sometimes the answer can simply be, because it's fun and I like to do it. I don't care that there are millions of pictures of the grand canyon, I still want to go and take my own.


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cdiver2
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Oct 08, 2012 08:38 |  #5

Why travel to a new destination, thousands have been there before you, why not just Google the destination there will be a ton of photos videos




  
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Nature ­ Nut
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Oct 08, 2012 08:51 |  #6

I only tend to capture anthropomorphic or unique behavior. Its much more gratifying. But rare species or individuals I also capture to provide data to the local or national scientific community.yes they can be googled, but only you can get the pose you want. I started wildlife with species list filling, but find my images lacking life or viewer relation.


Adam - Upstate NY:

  
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cdiver2
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Oct 08, 2012 10:15 |  #7

Nature Nut wrote in post #15093865 (external link)
I only tend to capture anthropomorphic or unique behavior. Its much more gratifying. But rare species or individuals I also capture to provide data to the local or national scientific community.yes they can be googled, but only you can get the pose you want. I started wildlife with species list filling, but find my images lacking life or viewer relation.

Perhaps we could see some of your anthropomorphic or unique behavior. I would be very intrested in that.




  
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tomj
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Oct 08, 2012 12:35 |  #8

For me, as someone said, it's the journey - first trying to just get technically good shots, then maybe shots as good as some of the better ones I've seen published, then down the road, hopefully, stuff that's unique and maybe new. But whatever, it's only for my own satisfaction and sense of accomplishment. And a big part of it, also, is just being out in the environment doing it. Sometimes I think it's like fishing (which really isn't just about catching fish).

I was reading a thread on a large-format forum a couple of years ago, where some of the posters wrote of going out in the field for landscape shots, spending hours exploring a location, setting up the equipment, waiting for the right light, and in the end never making a single exposure - but enjoying the journey.


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Oct 08, 2012 14:58 |  #9

tomj wrote in post #15094684 (external link)
... is just being out in the environment doing it. ....

That's it for me. I just like being out and if I see something out there that catches my eye, I take the picture. Many times I return with nothing to show but that's ok, I was out there.


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Oct 08, 2012 15:42 |  #10

For me it would be the thrill of the hunt. I never set out to be a bird photographer, but I have a pair of Golden Eagles that I have become fascinated with. I have yet to take any spectacular pictures and I doubt I would ever frame any of them. I simply enjoy the excitement of tracking them.


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Colorado ­ CJ
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Oct 08, 2012 15:56 as a reply to  @ EastBayGirl's post |  #11

To me, photography of wildlife is just a side benefit. Spending hours stalking up to a herd of mule deer or elk is a challenging and always rewarding sport.

If you are patient enough/good enough at it, it is VERY rewarding. Sometimes you even get accepted into the herd on rare occasions, where the animals, once they become used to your presence, will walk right up to you and allow you to walk about the herd. I've even petted a few mulies over the years.

To me it isn't all about the photo, but being in the company of majestic creatures.

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Oct 08, 2012 16:02 |  #12

A lot of it is just the "getting out and doing it" portion. Being out, in the woods, away from the car/tv/city/etc is as much a part of birding and wildlife photography as anything, for me.

On top of that, you start learning how different types of animals (and, indeed, individual animals) behave, which then allows you to get exactly the sort of shots you're talking about.

For example, I ran into a local photographer that's been trying to get the mating "dance" of the Western Grebe on film for a number of years. This I managed to capture on a photo walk I was on, watching other birds:

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Western Grebes-3599 (external link) by Guideon72 (external link), on Flickr

Now, it isn't technically as pin sharp and fantastic color as might be desireable (it was cloudy and cold, and a HEAVY crop), but I love having the shot anyway because of the behavioral aspect. A lot of other shots can be taken while you're waiting for these types of behavior, though; and taking the time to learn your subject will increase your ability to capture those shots.

Think about this; fishing. There are LOTS of folks out there that go fishing and never catch much, if anything. But they still enjoy it and continue to do it because it gets them out and about and/or with friends. Should they not go throw a line in the water just because you can go down to the grocery store and buy a hunk of fish from the seafood department?

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Oct 08, 2012 16:23 |  #13

Yea, it's about seeing nature and for me its also about all the unique behavior once thought in the past to be exclusive to human expression. Here are a few I have handy that I enjoyed the experience and captured some shots in the process.

White Ibis courting his lady by bringing a stick good enough for her approval, he left forlorn after being refused. Hopefully he didn't give up :)

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WHIB 2 Courting (external link) by Nature Nut 84 (external link), on Flickr

Passionate prairie dogs
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Prairie Dog 1 (external link) by Nature Nut 84 (external link), on Flickr

I've always been a fan of Farside comics. This picture could say so much with his expression and his mates to the right. Realistically it's a mating tending behavior but its funny in a different context.

"Janice was always embarrassed when Henry felt the need to show the passing tourists what he really thought about them"
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Bison 3 (external link) by Nature Nut 84 (external link), on Flickr

Adam - Upstate NY:

  
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Oct 08, 2012 17:09 |  #14

ChrisSearle wrote in post #15093155 (external link)
I'm both a photographer and naturalist and yet I don't do much wildlife photography. Why? Because 99.9% of the photographs that I could take have already been taken. So many 'nature' photographs these days are simple documentary photographs of the animal, the majority give absolutely no insight into behaviour or often, environment. If I want to see a technically excellent picture of an animal I can go to Google, Flickr etc and find hundreds, why then take more?
As a some-time birder, I'm struck how often I see a group of people all taking the same photograph, what on earth is the point? OK so I guess there maybe an element of self gratification, and why not? But, I would love to see more wildlife photographs where the photographer moves away from the purely 'documentary' style or at least shows me an interesting aspect of the animals behaviour or sets it in an environmental or ecological context.
I have a group of friends who constantly compete to see who can generate the 'best' ( sharp) picture of a bird. With 600/800 mm of fl they make technically stunning and yet to me utterly sterile photographs. And yet this type of photograph seems on the increase, at a birding spot I recently visited there were far more people with long white lenses than there were with binoculars! Whats going on?

As the equipment gets more affordable, the hobbyist takes more photos with better equipment. It becomes an attempt to get technically better photos. This doesn't mean that they will be photographically good photos. So I know where you're coming from. Wildlife photos bore me to death though.


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Tom ­ Reichner
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Oct 08, 2012 20:09 |  #15

Numenorean wrote in post #15095804 (external link)
. . . Wildlife photos bore me to death though.

That's interesting. The same way that the OP feels about wildlife photos, that's how I feel about photographing people. When there are already so, so, so many photographs of people, why does anyone feel the need to take more? So I can understand why the OP and Numenorean feel the way they do about animal photos.

Personally, I find that wild animals are just about the most beautiful things on this planet. When I see a bird or a mammal, I often just stare and stare and stare at it, because I am utterly enthralled by it's beauty. Even a common sparrow is just so incredibly gorgeous I have to stare! That's why I want to photograph birds and wildlife - simply because they are so intrinsically beautiful that I want to "capture" that beauty so that I can look at it forever, on my computer screen.

Conversely, I hardly ever want to look at pictures of people. They are simply not that pleasing to my eye, at least not nearly to the degree that wild animals are.

ChrisSearle wrote in post #15093155 (external link)
If I want to see a technically excellent picture of an animal I can go to Google, Flickr etc and find hundreds, why then take more?

In the statement quoted above, if you replace the word "animal" with "person", this describes exactly how I feel.

ChrisSearle wrote in post #15093155 (external link)
. . . 99.9% of the photographs that I could take have already been taken.

But it's that final 0.1% that is so compelling!

There are actually millions of scenarios in the natural world that happen every day, but have yet to be captured on "film" in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Have you ever seen a photo of a mountain lion in mid-air, directly over the back of a huge, trophy-class Whitetail Buck deer, set in a snowy winter landscape? I mean an image taken in the wild; not some ridiculous captive situation at a zoo, preserve, or game farm.
As far as I know, this is an event that happens hundreds of times every winter, throughout North America . . . yet there are no "technically perfect" photos of it at all. Not even "technically flawed" photos, to the best of my knowledge.

How about a Canvasback Duck egg with the duckling's bill just starting to peck thru the shell - and the mother hen standing by watching, all in sharp, clear focus with excellent fine feather detail? Ever seen an image of that? (again, completely wild - not in captivity) It happens hundreds of thousands of times every single spring.

How 'bout a sunset silhouette of a Bobcat stalking out on the long limb of an Oak tree to get to some wild turkeys that are roosting on the other end of it?

I could think of thousands of similar events that happen every day in the natural world - often just a few miles from my home. Yet I have never seen decent photographs of any of this behavior.

There is still so very much that has not been done, so far as wildlife photography is concerned. Lots and lots of images that no one has ever yet made.

ChrisSearle wrote in post #15093155 (external link)
So many 'nature' photographs these days are simple documentary photographs of the animal, the majority give absolutely no insight into behaviour or often, environment.

I would love to see more wildlife photographs where the photographer moves away from the purely 'documentary' style or at least shows me an interesting aspect of the animals behaviour or sets it in an environmental or ecological context.

I agree with you here. I have devoted countless hours to try to photograph interesting behavior, or to capture images of a subject that showcase the habitat / environment that the animal lives in. These images, when captured successfully, are very special - especially when they can be captured in a nearly technically perfect way. These are the types of images I am hoping for, and trying for, whenever I head out with my camera.

ChrisSearle wrote in post #15093155 (external link)
As a some-time birder, I'm struck how often I see a group of people all taking the same photograph, what on earth is the point?

I also agree with this. if I am in Yellowstone, and there is a Grizzly Bear near the road, and a dozen cars are already stopped, and a crowd of 10 or 20 photographers are all standing out by the bear with their tripods set up - I will usually just drive on by without even stopping. I say to myself, "Does the world really need more pictures of that bear, in that place, at this time, with this light? I think not!"
And so I'll head off to find "my own" Grizzly Bear!


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