Gender balance in Nature Photography (forum)

Discussion in 'Nature' started by nick___, Aug 22, 1997.

  1. I was just reading a few of the older threads and realised how male dominated the Nature Photography forum is, very few posting are from females. Even Bob commented Most of the participants are male in the Where Do I Take My 600/f4? thread.
    Is this true about nature photography in general and why?

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    My theories are :
    1: Nature Photography requires lots of equipment, which is the domain of the serious photographers and sexually inadequate gadget-crazed men. (Quote from Phillips review of P&S camera about SLRs appeal.)
    2: Females do not suffer from that redundant hunting instinct (see Why? (nature photography) thread), as badly as males.
    3: Does any sane person want to haul 30lbs+ of gear everywhere.
    OK my logic is full of generalisations, but I am only a mere male.

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    The original Q&A is better balanced, though probably doesnt reflect the true balance of photography as the net is populated by more males than females, (computer are gadgets too) though current surveys says this is changing fast.

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    I also shoot live rock bands and there are more female pro/serious photographers than males in my home town, ratio about 2 to 1. (The only section on the music industry that is that way). A couple of weeks back the ratio would of been blown out the water for the final show of one local band, 10 photogs, half were students and only one other male.

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    Just some thoughts.

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    Nick
     
  2. You are right, most of our fellow nature photographers are male. I am sure that one of the main reasons is the 30+ lbs of weight that often have to be lugged around for wildlife photography. There are some excellent female nature photographers, though. I like the work of Irene Labunski-Roberts and particularly Heather Angel's pictures (remember, she was the 1995 BBC wildlife photographer of the year!).

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    Are we males sexually inadequate? I have four children and a happy marriage. What it takes is a wife who is either herself a nature lover or who puts up with a husband who is sometimes away for hours or days.

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    Happy "hunting"!
     
  3. I guess you're talking about wildlife photography. In my limited experience with landscape work, I've seen about as many women as men taking serious looking tripods out on trails (or along the road side of National Parks) to take photographs. None of them (or myself) carry serious glass (serious meaning, your first reaction is: "goodness, what a big lens!"). Heck, most of the time, we don't even notice what the other person's equipment, so I guess we don't count as being "gadget crazed".
     
  4. One reason for the lack of women in the ranks of serious nature photographers is the fact that serious nature photographers may spend quite a bit of time wandering around in the woods, alone. While it's a shame that it's true, I think this is a lot safer activity for most men than it is for most women. Even if it's not true, the perception that it's true may be enough.
    In the nature photography camera club I sometimes attend, there are quite a few female nature photographers. Not long lens, hike for days in the woods people, but still quite focused on nature work. Couldn't give exact numbers, but at least 25% of the members are female, maybe more.
     
  5. I don't think the participants in these forums necessarily reflect the make up of the photography field at large. I doubt that many women would hang around to debate the merits of a particular ball head, or to discuss the technophile topics that dominate photo.net in general. Maybe there are fewer female "geeks."
     
  6. I'll go along with the theory that women aren't gadget crazed.

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    The women I know who photograph nature for whatever reason (mostly working biologists) do so with sparce equipment. The F2 they bought after college and mostly prime lenses, except for tele zoom that they picked up somewhere along the way, is typical

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    I have a Tamron 300/2.8 that I will loan to friends, and I've never had a women chat with me about Tamron v. Nikon v. Canon. The typical comment is that it's very sharp, but too heavy - said the next time need to use it. Both accurate observations about that lens.

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    These female nature photographers, even the non-bios, are very knowledgable about the subject matter they shoot, far more than I, who mostly looks for compositions. They're more apt to shoot with something in mind. A study of a plant community for example, and will put on calender to return to the site, and will actually follow through.
    Similer to pressing flowers.

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    My favorate "bears fishing" photographs have been taken by woman, and they aren't cliche Anan/Pack/McNeil/Brooks locations, because bears can be found in many more places that those, and so can she.

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    I'd say the reasons the gender inequity in this, I think, excellent forum is because women just don't care much to talk about 10-1000/2.8 zooms, they'd more rather discuss experiances in nature photography. Perhaps this forum could go there, but us guys would be totally lost.
     
  7. (With tongue in cheek)

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    I don't think I like the way this discussion is going. First of all, I don't see any comments from women. Second, I don't agree with any of the sentiments being expressed. Let me explain.

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    I'm sorry, but I don't think being a new-age, sensitive guy means you have to flog yourself with such expressions as geeks', sexually inadequate', redundant hunting instinct' and others, more complex but equally derogatory. That sort of thing brings a tear to my eye.

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    Sure, I've been deeply interested in gadgets' and matters technical all my life. It all started with a hobby in electronics. Computers made their way into my psyche in the early 70's. Then their was university degrees in physics and mathematics followed by my career in systems analysis and systems administration. To top it all off is this obsession with nature photography. Yes! Nature photography. The most equipment challenged branch of photography. I even used to build, ride and maintain my own cafe racer bikes (these are fast, form follows function type motorcycles - for those that might not know). Throughout out all of this I never, not even for a moment, thought of myself as a gadget-crazed geek! The very thought. Furthermore, when I was younger, I was quite an imposing example of male machismo. Girl on each arm and all that. Sexually inadequate indeed.

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    I'll hear no more of this I tell you. This sort of thing will never do. Moreover, if I were a woman and I read this thread, I'd be downright pissed. I can imagine what it must be like to categorized as being incapable of carrying a 30 pound pack, unable to look after myself, in a flower pressing' frame of mind, and being referred as these females'. Guys, guys, guys, talk about yer' fodder for the feast!

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    So, lets hear no more of this nonsense. If some one wants to bring to this group discussions on the experience of nature photography, I welcome them. Besides folks, If my lovely wife gets wind of this kind of discussion, how will I ever explain that 600/f4 and 200mm macro I just orderd?
     
  8. If my girlfriend new more about nature photography and the gadgeteria that goes with it, she'd know how much I've spent on my camera equipment. I can't afford that. So, as far as I'm concerned, this gender imbalance is a good thing.
     
  9. Looks like I ruffled a couple of feathers with this question and more likely my weird sense of humour.

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    As a novice nature photographer, I started reading this forum to learn and I need to learn a lot. After reading a .number of posts I was surprised by the lack of female participation in this forum. Mainly because in area of photography I am experienced in rock band photography, my idols (Pennie Smith, Jill Furmanovsky) and a lot of my peers are female. Probably a decent proportion of good nature photographers are female, it is just that they are not represented here. Why, well in my experience men in general tend to be more equipment orientated and so does this forum, not that this is bad thing.

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    BTW, my wife would be very happy if I did get heavily involved in nature photography. It would keep out of bars and away from some pretty girls.

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    PS Bill my four wheels are a 78 Moto Guzzi Lemans II and a 61 Matchless G12CSR and I not selling either to finace a 600/4.
     
  10. Is there a sewing page on the net? If so, I'll bet the ratios are the opposite of this one. Maybe it has to do with acceptance of a certain hobby or early conditioning as to the "expected roles" one fills in life.
    Too many still see the world of ART as effeminite. Too many still pidgeonhole activities as masculine and feminine.
    Maybe some of the lack of women commenting is because they are out photographing rather than wasting time in front of a computer screen? Funny thing is tho, when you look at a photograph you can't tell the gender of the photographer. Look at NATURE PHOTOGRAPHER magazine. Published & edited by women who are excellent shooters. First rate and getting better all the time. Maybe you can contact them and ask the same question?
     
  11. On keeping you out of bars and away from some pretty girls. I have run into more nude sunbathing spots in nature photo trips than I can count. I ran into some really explicit Penthouse 2 women photo shoots in Death Valley at 'the racetrack' a few years back when I was teaching a seminar there. I did get some interesting photos with my 600 without intruding. I have run into a few hard core photo shoots going on in outdoor areas, male female, female/female, male/male, and group action as well. I don't think if you really get into this & spend a lot of time outdoors you are any safer than anywhere else as far as keeping your girlfriends worries down. Solitude, springs , creeks, rivers and swimming holes and quiet areas are all attractive to nature lovers of all types. Better to get your girlfriend involved & double the film you can carry. She might be an even better photographer than you given the chance.
     
  12. I have been wondering about the gender imbalance myself. At the local wetlands park where I shoot quite frequently, I have noticed a large number of female photographers. Often they are pushing baby carriages while they discuss subjects, labs and so on with each other. Sometimes they are alone like I am and concentrating only on photography. On my recent trip to Mt. Saint Helens, I saw only one other photographer who bothered to use a tripod (thus meeting the definition of a serious photographer). She was using it with a small point-n-shoot camera.

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    I think the security issue has a lot to do with why we don't find more females on photo.net. I have revealed my location to several fellow photo.netians, but if I was a 20-40's female, single or married, I doubt if I would do so.
     
  13. I think I can answer a few of your questions about the lack of women in Nature Photography and on this thread. From all the gals I talk to, time seems to be the limiting issue. They all have ankle biters and husbands who are out doing Nature photography. Out of all the women I know very few have hobbies that do not include in some way, form or fashion areas of domestic engineering.

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    Having a husband who is supportive, and who also does not have the slightest clue what all this equipment has cost us has enabled me to pursue Nature Photograhy in a most serious fashion. Lens and equipment weight is an issue for me, but there are some longer lenses out there that are excellent options for women. However, cost is another consideration for any gender when speaking of these super teles.

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    So does this mean for the first time in my life I am the only girl on this block?
     
  14. No, you're not the only girl on the block, Debbie. I just found this site, and I think the technical discussions are fantastic. I'm new to photography and preparing to buy lenses for my recently purchased Nikon EL2, so this is exactly the sort of information I need. As a biologist, I'm comfortable with mechanistic detail, and I know plenty of women with similar expertise. And yes, there are areas of the net where women profoundly outnumber men, although I've never been near the sewing page, if it exists.

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    I do sometimes feel uneasy when I'm shooting by myself in remote areas. My solution, when I can't get my husband out of bed before dawn (a frequent problem), is to take my large dog with me. If I walk him around a bit first, he'll stay happily on the leash while I work. He loves it, and it keeps me from being nervous about someone coming up behind me while I'm concentrating. (Obviously, I don't do much wildlife.)

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    My husband got me interested in photography, although he doesn't understand my fascination with landscapes. He appreciates how much I enjoy it and doesn't complain about the cost. We don't have kids, which I suspect is the central problem with serious nature photography for many women.
     
  15. Sandra, kids are a major problem for ANY nature photographer. I put my photographic ambitions on hold for almost 10 years until the day came when I could leave the kids home alone for a few hours while I shot beavers and birds at the local wetlands park. It's a nice feeling to have some freedom back, but I wouldn't sacrifice my kids for any hobby.
     
  16. Anthony, you could probably start an entirely different thread with that post! If you look at some of the nature greats, either their family/spouses are involved in their profession, or they don't have children at all.
     
  17. Anthony, I didn't intend to imply that parenting ability critically depends on gender. Most of my male friends are actively involved in raising their children, including one who stayed home as his daughter's primary caretaker until she was eighteen months old. Conversely, I know women who work 60-70 hours a week, showing up for a goodnight kiss after the nanny has picked the kids up from daycare and fed them dinner. Sacrificing your kids for another interest (like Satanism, perhaps?) is not only a male problem.

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    Having said that, I'm still amazed that so many discussions of why women behave differently from men, this one included, blow right past the indisputable biological differences and head for much more questionable psychological territory like a male preference for gadgets. On average, women spend more time and energy on their children than men do. This is partly determined by biology, as men don't get pregnant or breastfeed, and partly by cultural responses to that biology, as more women than men are the primary caretakers of children. Sociological studies within the last ten years have found that (full time) working women with preschool children spend an average of 20 hours per week more than their husbands on housework and child care. Those women aren't considering taking up nature photography. They're trying to figure out how to get some sleep.

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    Simple lack of time wouldn't account for the entire difference in the number of men and women practicing serious nature photography, but I'd guess it's a major contributor. As for women posting here, if time for a hobby is scarce, I suspect most people would choose to be out doing it rather than sitting around talking about it.
     
  18. Just to let you all know that during my last trip to Yellowstone, most of the serious amateur photographers I saw were all females!!!
    I also frequently spot some couples with 3 cameras, 2 bags and one tripod. IMO the fact that males are dominating the Nature Photography forum is because:
    1/ it is proved that most of the internet audience is masculine,
    2/ woman pays more attention to enjoy beeing in nature and taking pictures than talking about gears and other gizmos (OK, this is not proved, just my wife's feedback, and yes she is also a pretty good photographer, and yes she loves photo.net and especially this part - the nature forum - but just cannot access the web on her own now). Vincent.
     
  19. Given the number of women I see out bird watching I am surprised that we dont' see more female bird photographers.
     
  20. One more female nature photographer's opinion....I believe we are out there shooting. But the difficulty is in getting out work purchased. For those of us who have had husbands, kids, fulltime jobs etc. it difficult if not impossible to do it all. For myself, I had to pretty much put the nature work (with the exception of an annual week long photo workshop and shooting trip) on hold until mid 40's. So I concentrated on perfecting my craft and working at photojournalism in the meantime.

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    Now, kids grown, husband # 2, is an amateur photographer himself, we often shoot together. But I frequently shoot alone. I am not afraid to go into the woods alone. I am prudent but do not fear. In fact, my experience (some 30 years as I started photographing at age 17) is that I am safer in the wilderness than in some cities. My experience has been the crazies do not frequent the wilderness.

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    Anyway, I find its an issue of experience and opportunity. It is being addressed finally. I have freelanced for newspapers for 15-18 years. I have had difficulty being taken seriously, but then I had difficulty being taken seriously as a woman owned business owner and a Rotarian as well.

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    There is a group of female nature photographers who ban together each year for a workshop to educate and share. That is what we need more of!!

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    I have been known to practically attach myself to any female photographer I come into contact with. I am always looking for anyone male or female who wants to go out to shoot.

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    Another good way is to take photo classes at local art center as I have done for 15-18 years. I meet others interested in photograph there.

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    If anyone is traveling through Michigan and needs a shooting partner give me a e-mail message. I know Michigan inside and out!!

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    Donna
     
  21. Come on now !!! This male-female thing is a bit far out. I really do not consider myself a bona fide "nature photograper", just a "Want-to-be". I am female and in my seventies and thoroly enjoy everything about getting out and trying. Sure, the equipment is heavy and I can't carry what I once could, my stamina leaves a lot to be desired too, but I get out and do the best I can. I see quite a few others in my position going out and doing the same thing, having a wonderful time doing it and not just sitting around debating the subject. I believe we understand our priorities. So what if we can no longer, or never could do the long hikes, etc. There is plenty of wonderful nature that is relatively easy to access. Let's all just get on with it and enjoy the fun of trying to record the wonders around us. --- Happy shooting!
     
  22. Just thought I'd make a comment just to keep the discussion going into the new year. I've done nature photography for a couple of decades now, though my serious photography and professional equipment has grown only in the last four years. When I first started spending large blocks of time outdoors in remote areas, women were scarce. That is less so now, but I think travelling alone, especially in the backcountry, is a greater risk for a female alone-and not just from bears. As women, it would be very nice to connect for photo-shoots. This computer stuff can help alot for connecting.
     

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