Pictures of animals, wild or tame?

Discussion in 'Nature' started by eppe, Nov 7, 2006.

  1. Hi!
    My question is quite simple: How about a checkbox with "animal captured in the
    wilderness"? I think it is important to know the effort behind a photography
    when it comes to give critique to a picture. Some pictures reveals themselves
    quite easely as Zoological ones and it does not impress me to take an
    aesteticly correct picture of an captured animal. This might seem unreasonable
    to certain photographers, but I think it has alot to do with skills and the
    crave for a good photography. Don`t slaughter me for this, it`s just my opinion.

    Wish all a great day and replys are welcome!

    Best regards, Espen
  2. If people fill in the location tag completely as they post the photos, that ought to be a big clue. Snow Leopards aren't native to San Diego, and so forth :)
  3. Well, if you do have studied fauna all over the world and memorized it then. My point is that a wildlife photographer should be aknowledged for his work and recive credit for wandering hour by hour in various climate instead of paying a ticket and be praised for a simple "snapshot". I put it to an edge ther, but only to simplefy it all.

  4. Although I applaud photographers who share how they create an image (so that others may improve their skills), I don't believe the effort made or skills used should have any bearing on how we judge a picture. That the subject of an animal photo was in a zoo or in the wild seems irrelevant, unless the photographer chooses to make that obvious. For the purposes of judging or critiquing a potential work of art, the photo should stand on its own...
  5. The standards are simple, everything is considered wild, unless otherwise stated. "Captive" is the word of choice that should accompany any captive shot, no matter how "wild" it may look in the photo.

    If your shot does not say "captive" and it's a captive animal, and you publish it, you will soon have a reputation.

    I've never shot captive wildlife. I dont mined people that do, and in some cases it's really the only way to get the shot. It's all good, so long as a captive animal is labeled "captive."
  6. Why do you all insist on having some unwritten set of rules that YOU determine to be valid that must be applied to other's photography? To the OP - so you're not impressed with zoo pictures - such is life, but don't think your imposing your aesthetics on others will make photography better.

    Please spend a few minutes to read the archives; it's not like this issue hasn't ever come up before. It's been beaten to death and no one is ever going to agree on it. How does the location, if it's not identifiable in the shot, determine whether a picture is good or not? I get the impression that some people feel this way because others have better shots and there's this sense of "cheating" and "fairness" involved. A healthy does of jealousy too maybe?
  7. Is it a great picture of the animal or not? What else matters?
  8. Should street photographers get less "credit" if they're urbanites that can scope out good
    photographs on the way to the grocery store than someone that has to venture out of the
    suburbs to get the same shot? What about nature photographers that happen to live near the
    subjects they photograph?

    Besides, sometimes it's just as hard to get a photograph of an animal in a zoo without
    making it look like you're photographing an animal in a zoo.
  9. stemked

    stemked Moderator

    Yes, this issue has been discussed at some length.

    I am one of those people who whole-heartedly believes a captive image should be noted as such. Why? I am a naturalist and scientist first and a photographer second. When I see an image made of wildlife there is inate information in that image. A behavior, a habitat, the niche that organism occupies is important natural documentation of that organism.

    That is not to say that there is anything generally wrong with captive animal images. In fact one of my favorite self-taken photographs is of a Golden Eagle taken in the St. Paul bird re-habilitation center. If I didn't note that the image was taken at the center it could easily be passed off as being taken a rockface somewhere, there really is nothing in the image, save that I'm only a few feet away. As a beautiful and impressive image I have always been very pleased with the photo. But I personally would never try and pass it off as a true nature photograph, because it isn't. In fact, the bird is blind in one eye, a feature that is hidden in the profile of the bird.
  10. "pass it off as a true nature photograph"
    Who cares? The photo police? This is, not a Zoology (or any other type of) web site. IT'S ALL ABOUT THE ART AND TECHNIQUE OF PHOTOGRAPHY. Nothing else.
    Why does this bother people so much? Do you feel like you are losing out because you don't have all the details on a given photo? What difference does it make? IS this causing you distress in some way? I've heard the what, I'd like to hear the reasoning for the WHY. Preferrably valid reasons with some thought behind it, not just "because I want it that way."
    Might as well throw in the arguments about manipulating photos with PS at this point too. Same basic issue.
  11. Behind every picture there is a story. With captive animal photos unfortunately this is a sad story. Yes, I would like to know if the picture was of a captive animal so that I could quickly go onto the next photo.
  12. Wow, Harry. Every captive animal is a sad story? Or just makes a bad picture?

    An example, right from Houston SPCA on TV last week. Cruelty investigation. 2 Bengal tigers and 11 bears (grizzly and black). All in 4x8 cages for upwards of nine years. In south Texas. In the summer. Outside. No water except when the owner decides to hose them down. Rescued by a great group of people with the owner put in jail. I can easily come up with hundreds of stories like this. The world ain't great but what choice do we have but live in it.

    So, reading between the lines, your choice would be to kill animals like this rather than have them sent to a zoo (since that's a sad story). Bengals are really photogenic and so what if someone takes a snap of them with their consumer DSLR and cheap telephoto. So what if they tell their neighbors they took it while on safari. How does this hurt the viewer? You won't view the picture? Even if it's a great shot? Like that makes a difference in the bigger scheme of things?

    So, to the next point. Based on all this, what about a pic from a wildlife ranch? It's not a zoo. You're out in the wild. Is that acceptable?
  13. The more general question is whether a photograph that takes more work to accomplish is somehow more worthwhile than if the same photo were accomplished easier. If I take an 8x10 view camera to the top of Mt. Everest and photograph a snowflake, and someone else does the same thing in his backyard, is my shot somehow better for the effort? I think not; otherwise I'll just have to start relating how much effort went into my photos just to impress people. The difference between a wild and captive animal photo is quite often obvious- it's the lack of a backgound, the lack of an enviroment. If you want a shot to be valued for being in the wild, then take it in such a way that it obvious that it IS in the wild. To fly to another continent and spend days and hours and then snap some closeup that could just as easily have been taken in a zoo seems rather silly, and certainly not worthy of some reward.
  14. "With captive animal photos unfortunately this is a sad story."

    Photographed much fauna, just out of curiosity? IME, blanket statements have always
    been reserved for those who have little or no firsthand experience in the matter they're
    commenting upon. It's convenient to paint things black and white. The only problem is
    that most issues are some shade of grey.

    The kingsnake in this photograph was hatched in captivity from parents that were,
    themselves bred in captivity. It will never know hardship, hunger, disease, or predation. It
    has no fear of humans, readily tolerates being handled, and in fact, comes forward
    because it has grown to associate the opening of the cage with being fed. It is a pet, by all
    standards of the word, though snakes are generally not regarded as domesticated animals.

    If you have a philosophical argument with keeping animals in captivity, then that is what it
    is and I can accept it. However, if your statement that keeping animals in captivity
    automatically equates to some form of cruelty, that's a very slippery dock you are walking
  15. Photo I missed...
  16. Does the quality (good or bad) of this image change depending on whether it was captive or not?
  17. stemked

    stemked Moderator


    I couldn't disagree more.

    I am a biologist and maybe am too rigid in my own definitions of what constitutes a natural image and what is not. However when I lived in St. Paul I belonged to a very active and truely exceptional Nature photography club. The quality of the work I saw there was outstanding. There was one fundamental rule to all images submitted for condideration in the juding salons, and that was no "hand of man" in the images. That meant no obvious human impact in the image, like a road or a fence and it also did not allow images taken of captive animals. My understanding was that these were judging rules setup as standards by a national competition board of some type or another (yes, I could be wrong though I was a member for two years almost a decade ago). My understanding is that European (English?)judging standards are less concerned about this issue than North American ones are.

    On this issue of honest representation of images in the National Geographic a few years back were some absolutely stunning images of a Kingfisher snatching Mayflies from a pond. When I first saw it I was stunned at the quality of the photography. But it turned out to be faked, likely with models. No one would possibly deny the images were beautiful. But they did not represent a natural situation.

    Art is art. Clearly in a zoo or a wildlife park it is possible to get fantastic images of animals without haveing to stress wild animals, so it could be argued that there is true meriot to an approach that photographs captive animals. But I still personally feel an image that is to be judged honestly as a natural one should be an actual representation of one found in the natural world.

    And personally I don't 'police' this website, its an open forum. That's the beauty of a site like this. If in your judgement a zoo represents a natural image then more power to you. But I don't think it is a view shared by the majority of persons who would call themselves 'Nature Photographers' IMHO.
  18. That seems like sort of an awkward premise to work with- the "no hand of man". Several years back, I was hiking up Greys Peak in Colorado, and came across some mountain goats. Now, as it turns out, they are not native there, but were imported from several hundred miles north, in Wyoming. So is that "nature" or is it not? These animals were hiking up a hiking trail, leaving footprints in fresh snow- and that trail is surely unnatural. Is any condor or panda shot 100% natural anymore?

    The bigger problem I see with that is the natural response is to limit what is shown in a picture. So a zoo shot shows "no hand of man" if you show nothing but the animal with no background to speak of visible. Whereas a great many wild-animal shots that really do show wild animals taken in their natural habitat will show signs of men- jet trails in the sky, fences, telephone wires, etc.
  19. Douglas Stemke: I understand the spirit of the "no hand of man" in a nature photo but that seems a bit extreme to me. I'm fortunate to live in an area where there are abundant hawks and people come from all over to view them. Two winters ago, I took a course on hawks and had the opportunity to spend a day watching hawks with one of the world's leading experts on hawks, William Clark (he literally wrote the book). We saw a gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) that was spending the winter here. She flew all the way from the arctic just to spend her days on a telephone pole. She was neither captive nor tame. She was in what constituted the wild for her for that winter. I have a very nice photo of her sitting on the crossarm of the telephone pole, large insulator in view, etc, ie. "the hand of man" is visible. By your club's standards, even though the gyrfalcon was definitely in the wild, I guess my photo isn't worthy.
  20. First of all: I`m new here and accept my apology for my ignorance and for bringing this matter back from the dead. Did not know it was a subject before, but I figured it would stir the glass a bit. There is a few examples written here that is completly taken out of context. Compareing streetphotographers with wildlife ones for an example etc... I will not refer to certain pictuers that caught my attantion `cause of respect for other photographers. If I may quote Mr.Keith Van Hulle: "I get the impression that some people feel this way because others have better shots and there's this sense of "cheating" and "fairness" involved. A healthy does of jealousy too maybe?" Well, right back at ya! And then I ask: What?? Jealous of what? For not being a fan of takeing the tram to the local Zoo, takeing pictures of tame or captures animals? Well, NO! When you take a picture in a Zoological keep you finish off someone elses job. You might as well go to the library and take pictures from a book. You get almost, mark my words; almost everything served on a plate. I feel closer to a picture I have strugled for, than a picture anyone with the same equipment could have taken. When I grow old I want to start the stories I tell my grandchildren with: " One day out I was wandreing the mountains..." instead of: " One day I went to the Zoo..."

    The attitude of not seeking originality, not fighting for the cause of takeing pictures of animals in the wild, not wanting to capure animals in its natural surroundings, not bothering of being unique...It`s simply damaging to the whole idea of takeing wildlife photos. And what about the thrill of it all? At least I know that I would prefer walking a couple of days in the woods or any terrain for that matter to find what I seek or whatever jumps out in front of me. The wildlife in Norway does not include that many species, and I can only take such amount of moose:) but if I wanted to capture a lion, I`d go to Africa.

    Love the response!

    Best regards, Espen
  21. I agree with Douglas. Artistic value is not really the issue, as all images can be appreciated
    for their respective merits. However, when the case is that we can manipulate a captive
    animal to look as though it was photographed in situ (and there is nothing wrong with
    doing that, IMO), it needs to be stated as "controlled conditions", or something to that
  22. While it is not necessarily an 'issue' for me, it does bear a lot of difference in how I view an image. The nature photography I'm most interested in is of a documentary sort (wild nature), and captive animal photography is an entirely different category... for me. In most cases I find it fairly easy to tell the difference between the two. If someone doesn't mark their zoo photos as zoo photos, I can probably tell anyway.
  23. stemked

    stemked Moderator

    Hi Folks.

    I went to the Minnesota Nature Photography Club Web page and found that the criteria is more or less as I stated. They base their Standards on the Photographic Society of America. What follows was clipped from the PSA site on this subject:

    All images used in recognized PSA Nature Division competitions must meet the PSA Nature Definition of Nature Photography as follows:

    "Nature photography is restricted to the use of the photographic process to depict observations from all branches of natural history, except anthropology and archeology, in such a fashion that a well informed person will be able to identify the subject material and to certify as to its honest presentation. The story telling value of a photograph must be weighed more than the pictorial quality. Human elements shall not be present, except on the rare occasion where those human elements enhance the nature story. The presence of scientific bands on wild animals is acceptable. Photographs of artificially produced hybrid plants or animals, mounted specimens, or obviously set arrangements, are ineligible, as is any form of manipulation, manual or digital, that alters the truth of the photographic statement."

    All images used in recognized PSA Nature Division competitions for Wildlife images must meet the additional PSA Definition for Nature Wildlife Photography as follows:

    "Authentic Wildlife is defined as one or more organisms living free and unrestrained in a natural or adopted habitat." Therefore, photographs of zoo animals or photographs of game farm animals regardless of the game farm?s use of wildlife terminology are not considered wildlife images

    All digital images used in PSA Nature Division approved competitions or for competitions or for competitions governed by PSA Nature Division rules must be considered "Digital Realism".

    "Makers may perform any enhancements and modifications that improve the presentation of the image that could have been done at the time the image was taken but that does not change the truth of the original nature story. Cropping and horizontal flipping (equivalent to reversing a slide) are acceptable modifications. Addition of elements, removal of elements other than by cropping, combining elements from separate images, rearranging elements or cloning elements are not acceptable.?
  24. Stephen H, your "Wild Squirrel" cracked me up. Espen, I agree that a good shot captured in the wild is more impressive than a shot of a zoo animal. One reason is that, in the wild, you often have to get it right the first time because the animal may not stick around long. Also, a lot of people can take a decent photo of a captive eagle, but only a select few can scale the cliff that holds the nest to get a shot. There was a movie made last year called "March of the Penquins" that became somewhat of a hit. I watched it on video, and though I actually thought it a bit boring, when I saw the special segment on how some of the shots were captured and saw the elements that had to be endured, I thought more highly of it. Had it been revealed that the shots were captured mostly in a zoo, I would have thought even less of it.
  25. What do the rules of a photo club have to do with the OP's original point? It dealt with aesthetics. Not about some arbitrary rules that so many sheeple seem to want everyone else to follow. And the OP has been the only one to really asnwer the question of WHY. It's a personal thing.

    But the overal impression of this thread is to impose specific individuals desire for a certain type of order on the rest of us. I have yet to see any empirical reasoning to back up the claims that this should be this way. If I read between the lines, I almost get this impression of some type of elitism at work - "MY picture was taken in <location>, it's obviously better". Or that, unless you can travel to some exotic location, don't bother shooting certain items - it won't be good photography.

    I haven't seen a lot of people weigh in on this but can't see the decision being that, for this type of photography, location is the determining factor of what a good photograph is. I'm not say the viewpoint is wrong either. Re-read what I've said. I'm saying that there seems to be some need to impose the will of a few on the majority to pre-judge a photograph.
  26. I think Espen's request is a valid one. It goes to the question of "Wow, how did they do that?" part of which is answered by the equipment. I mean we are here to help each other..right guys? In my opinion about ethics, you should always reveal that a photo is taken in captivity, if asked. It's a cultural stigma, and really too bad, that such photos are usually given less value. Photos in the wild generally have more scientific use because they show more wild behavior, and natural habitat, but of course as can be argued with any research, our presence changes things, and maybe some behaviors that are seen in captive animals are just as valid, because they are accustomed to our presence and more at ease. I think if the general public had any idea how many pop photos of wildlife are taken in captivity, it would make an easier world for all of us...and dipell some illusions about how close-up we need to be with animals in the wild.
  27. BTW, I am wondering, to be political correct, should I have to label a landscape photo with something like "... a shot after a long 20-mile hiking to the valley," or "... a shot after hitchiking a helicopter to the valley," if "the valley" can be accessed both by foot or helicopter, to preserve the "naturality" of the photo?

    To me, whether the author tells me the picture has been taken from a zoo, or not, and he/she lies, it would be ok with me. I only judge the techical merit of the photo, not himself/herself nor his/her aesthetic/taste. (BTW, do you like a Toyota, a Honda, or a Ford? :)Whatever the answer could be, I can tell you right now, your answer is wrong!) Whether an institution, such as the PSA, National Geographic, or Outdoor Photographers, is willing to buy the story and pubish it as such is another story. I don't think it is a story that you have to worry about.
  28. I think it's a good thing that most people don't have to go to Africa to see a cheetah or lion- the poor animals in the wild there would be overrun by spectators. It'd be like golf games, one person playing and a thousand standing around watching. See the small photo on page 54 of the October Outdoor Photographer for a good example, and the cheetah shot on the facing page. Yep, they're "wild", no "hand of man" there- just a hundred people standing behind cameras.
  29. Hmm... I see things differently. I live with mountains and forrest at one side of my house and the sea (yes, in one of them Norwegian fjords! ;) ) on the other. I go outside alone to seek the thrill of capture an animal whitout it knowing my presence. I have this "built in" thing that makes me apriciate the whole experience of takeing a picture. The story, idea and execution of a photography is worth equal to me as the final resault. Stephen H. here talks about safari. I don`t see the differance between a Zoo and Safari resovairs. The animals are used to see people and even Toyota`s there.

    No, to me it is about one man seeking one animal, one photography. An escape where the rest of the world can drift its own way for a while. So it is a personal opinion, but if it is not a factory of how you evaluate a picture and it is to me, what harm could it do then? A simple checkbox for those who care about it and those who don`t can choose to ignore it!

    Great response by the way! Clearly this is a subject that has a certain "actuallity"!

    Keep `em comeing!

    Best wishes, Espen
  30. Brevard County is east of Orlando, the county between Orlando and the Atlantic. Go to this
    link and then to the first two links. They are the Merritt Island Nation Wildlife Refuge and
    the Canaveral National Seashore.


    The above is my post of a few days ago to the Nature Forum. This gives you links to the
    two Merritt Island sites. As an added bonus for your vacation, both of these areas are just
    a stones-throw north of the Kennedy Space Center.

  31. Espen,

    I'm sorry that I mistakenly posted to your question.


  32. Hi Espen, Do you have any of your wildlife photography online? I'm always interested to see other people's work. Thanks, -Greg-
  33. Hi there Greg! I knew there would be question about my work, since I pulled the question and don`t have any wildlife pictures on this site. The reason why is that im not that good yet. I find the animals, but in lack of a functioning tripod (bought a new yesterday)all pictures are taken handheld. I have alot of pictures but only a select few to the public view.

    Yes, I am aware of the quality:) Familyalbum-like I`ve been told. All pictures are taken within a days walk from where I live. I`m not a fan of useing a forum to post links, but it simplfies things.

    Best regards, Espen
  34. I used to think that nature photography had to be "pure" and "FoundView" and all that - my bioscientific background, I guess.

    Over the years I've changed my mind. These are two different issues. One picture is a record shot showing a creature in its natural habitat. Another is an artistic creation. These attributes may exist in the same photograph, but they often don't. A good biological record shot is not necessarily a good photograph, and a well composed and executed animal portait may convey no worthwhile scientific information. So what? They serve different functions. If you want to draw a distinction, the place to do so is in the caption. A picture is a picture. When you title or caption a picture, though, you add the information that makes a good photograph into a good (or otherwise!) biological document. In the caption is the place for honesty. The picture for art (photography); the caption for science.

    If I photograph a bug or a flower in a National Park is that better than photographing the same bug or flower in a garden? If I am allowed to carefully bend a blade of grass out of the way (putting it back later, of course), then why can't I photoshop it out?

    The Minnesota Nature Photographers say "Makers may perform any enhancements and modifications that improve the presentation of the image that could have been done at the time the image was taken but that does not change the truth of the original nature story. Cropping and horizontal flipping (equivalent to reversing a slide) are acceptable modifications."

    Wow! It's hard to imagine anything that is more disruptive to the natural truth of a scene than horizontally flipping it. And it's absolutely impossible to replicate that naturally "at the time". The only reason for horizontal flipping of an image is to alter nature for the sake of art - something that they otherwise eschew.

    Ultimately, it's too hard to create and follow these rules with this degree of rigidity. It's easier to just loosen up.

  35. What's wrong with just saying it's captive, in the caption? Or, are you trying to be missleading?

    A good photograph is a good photograph, period. However, there's more to a photograph than the image, the where and how it was captured is the rest of the story. . .
  36. If an animal is captive, then it is no longer "wildlife". So I am not sure why there should be an issue about labeling it as such. Here is a captive bird I photographed two days ago in a wildlife rehab depot. Mary
  37. Mary, based on at least one school of thought, this is NOT a good picture. You didn't stalk it for eight hours in the outback with a 1200mm f/5.6 (36 lbs.) tele. And if you did, you couldn't prove so.<sigh>

    P.S. - It's a fine capture. I like it.
  38. Keith, glad you like the picture.
    The bird "model" was tethered to a handler's glove for a group of photographers from my camera club. Compared to shooting in the wild, this was a piece of cake. So I feel it is appropriate to label it as "captive".
    It will be much harder to produce an image looking like this in the wild, as the conditions will be harsher and unpredictable -- not to mention having to travel to Australia for a Kookaburra!
    I think captive animals should be correctly labeled as such. I don't know why there should be an argument about it. I have known wildlife photographers who work very hard to produce wonderful images from the wild and I believe their work should be set apart and deserve to be appreciated accordingly.
  39. "I think captive animals should be correctly labeled as such"
    I agree. On one level, considering only the photograph itself it shouldn't matter however photographs of animals are often used to educate and a captive animal may show behaviors or appearances that are not typical of wild populations. For example:
    Peregrine Falcon, captive
    I would consider this only a portrait of this individual, not representative of what a wild peregrine falcon looks like, because it's a mix of the anatum and pealei subspecies, a mix not often found in the wild.
  40. Remember that there is an industry of captive animals beyond zoos due to the "acceptance" (mostly in the US) of "caged" annimals posing as the real thing. Virtually 100% of people watching an image of a "wild" animal assume it is shot in the wild; just like they assume that an image of a sunset is the real thing not something created in a studio. This "illusion" is what conveys the power of an image. Yes, "real" images are more worthwhile than "fake" ones. There is an unwritten contract between photographer and the viewer that the images is what it appears to be. Most people would be appalled (for good reasons) if they knew that many of the wildlife images they see are of "pets" or caged animals. The whole thing boils down to the motives of doing nature photography and whether one as photographer would want to contribute to diminishing the value of wildlife photography as a true and meaningful statement.

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