NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM DISCUSSING CAMERA TRAPPING

NHM EVENT
On the 28th of November I am part of a three person panel discussion on modern day trends in wildlife photography with specific referance to trip and remote control photography. The event is hosted by the National History Museum London and led by Matt Swainey of the BBC Wildlife Magazine. Partaking in the discussions will be Louise Tomset – Senior Curator, Mammal Group, Natural History Museum that uses camera trapping to support her research. The second member of the panel is Will Burrard Lucas – a dynamic young photographer specialising in utilizing remote control systems in his own photography and selling the correct hardware to photographers and researchers that have a need for remote control photography systems. The third photographer then is myself – a dynamic old photographer, some will say purist, who still prefers to slog it out behind a camera and relishing the oppertunity to be in control of everything photography wether I am using a telephoto or exteme wide angle lens to capture intimate images.

The NHM needs to be commended for taking the proverbial bull by the horn by putting this thorny photographic issue in the public domain and I truthfully hope that the panel is able to reach common ground and that I will be able to share with you some constructive ideas. Without pre empting the outcome of the discussions I am inviting wildlife and nature photographers to share their ideas with me before I fly out to London. To my mind some of the burning issues that will need answering is the following:
a) If a person sets a camera trap system and leaves the scene and a bird or animal breaks the beam and triggers a camera while the person is having a beer with friends in a remote village can that person be righty called a photographer – keeping in mind that this person actully never even saw the specific specie. Should that person not rather be called a photographic technician ?

b) Does the honour of being called the photographer not only belong to the person that sits behind a camera , wether remote controlled or not, makes in situ decicions on F Stops , composition ,exposure etc but more importantly then fires the shutter in a very calculated way ?

c) Are photographs taken with a mobile remote controlled devise not photographically over rated ? Surely it is just an intimate image of the subject in the same vain as that taken with a long telephoto lens or a handheld camera with and exteme wild angle lens. In other words a remote controlled devise is just another tool that allow us to record nature and wildlife behaviour and that images taken that way does not belong to another genre like we are sometimes led to believe.

d) Do photographers that uses remote controlled devises in general get away too easily with sloppy photography under the banner of the new tool that they use ? Is depth of field control , carefull composition and correct exposure suddenly of less importance because a remote control devise is used ? In fact should the reverse not be true. Should we not be less sympathetic to the technical quality problems with extreme wide angle close up images taken remotely? Acquiering the right depth of field and enough shutter speed is so much more complicated if one wants to take a intimate portrait with a long telephoto lens than with a wide angle remote controlled devise ?

e) In the same vein should extreme wide angle hand held images taken under potentially dangerous situations for the photographer not be rated photographically higher than the same type of image taken from the safety of a remote contolled camera?

f) On the ethical side two burning issues accompaning remote controlled photography needs to be addressed. I have witnessed how a large herd of elephants went ballistic when a photographer send a drome in the herds direction and secondly there is deffinate evidence that the mal practise of baiting accompanies the work of a lot photographers using remote controlled devises. When scientists use bait in the process of studying their subjects there can be no debate about the fact that in this instance baiting is used to the end benefit of specie researched. This can hardly be said about most photographers using baiting. It is rarely to the benefit of the specie but mostly to satisfy the self interest of the photographer.

A final thought. Should remote contol photography not just be seen as another way to get up close and personal with a specie in its under ground den and teach us more of its behavior etc and giving us a sense of place as is the case of  the following images taken up close handheld with wide angle lenses:

An old bull elephant leads a procession of bulls to dietry heaven after crossing the Chobe river in flood.

Chobe 1-6 May_2013_03326

Chobe 1-6 May_2013_03326Bull elephants killing time before they enter the water of the Chobe river to cross to Namibia from Botswana in search of food in the dry season.

Chobe 12-20 June _2013_01900

Photographing from a mere two meters away with a 14mm lens handheld a young bull elephant throws a lump of sand on me for daring to suggest that he should consider taking a bath!

CHOBELANDS_0282_AUG2010

Portraits taken with extreme wide angle lenses hardly ever can match the capabilities of a telephoto lens to allow wildlife to tell their stories through their eyes. The most portaits taken handheld with a extreme wide agle lens pushed in the face of wildlife show species ( normally apes) wide eyed but emotion less and either half frozen from the cold or virtually asleep. A telephoto lens allows breathing space for both the photographer and specie!

A elephant bull watches me carefully while slowly moving past my photography boat.

Purple Heron ( Ardea purpurea) Chobe River Botswana Date Taken

A sleepy hippo bull slips into his under water world.

Purple Heron ( Ardea purpurea) Chobe River Botswana Date Taken

These hippo bulls shows strong territorial aggression.

Hippo Fight

Hippo bull agression

Chobe 1-4 June_2012_18180

These wide eye buffalo shows exteme anxiety while swimming in the Chobe knowing the danger crocodiles hold for them and their young.

CHOBEPANO_0009_APRIL2010
So let the debate begin ! Photography greetings. Lou Coetzer

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17 Comments

  1. Sitting here in my hotel room in London preparing myself for tomorrow nights event and having read all the posts again and again I am left with two distinct feelings. Firstly I am grateful to all of you that contributed so far for the fact that you all contributed in a very constructive way. Secondly I am concerned that we will end up just having listened to each others argument and that would be that and the war would just rage on. I would be honest and say that I would not have accepted the NHM London’s invitation if I thought I would be part of a panel discussing the subject without the potential to find common ground and move forward. The same is true for the contributions that followed my first post on this subject. My thoughts about life and history and in this case wildlife photography history has been strongly influenced by the triad thesis , antithesis and synthesis as presented in the thoughts of Hegel,Kant and Fichte. In the words of WiKipedia:”The thesis is an intellectual proposition. The antithesis is simply the negation of the thesis, a reaction to the proposition. The synthesis solves the conflict between the thesis and antithesis by reconciling their common truths and forming an new thesis-in a progressive line forward (LC). Then the process starts allover again.” Using this frame work let us go forward and for simplicity sake let us use the framework that Joe Gibson gave us :
    IMPACT ON THE SUBJECT
    Their is common ground amongst all contributors in this blog discussion that the well being of nature and wildlife is a non negotiable.All that remains now is to work out the messy details! So let me try.Any action that makes wildlife to alter behaviour, wether by camera trapping or remote photography or any other means in photography,is unacceptable. An aspect that will require more scrutiny in future is something that Morkel Erasmus for one brought under the spotlight. There are many images taken by buggy remote control devices whereby the wildlife behaviour recorded is focussed on the buggy instead of natural behaviour.That surely is a form of manipulating behaviour and only to the benefit of the photographer.
    STANDARDS OF CONDUCT
    I am 100% supportive of the idea that we need a much stronger drive to pen down what is acceptable behaviour from scientists and photographers when recording wildlife.That said researchers per definition are there for the subjects they research and normally sacrifice a lot on a personal level to do what they do. Photographer do not occupy the same moral high ground per definition.
    When conservation authorities in the USA fines a professional filmmaker nearly USD 13000 because baiting was used to manipulate the behaviour of whales and a organisation like National Geographic comes out against the practise of baiting it is time for the advocates of baiting to seriously rethink their position. Wether the bait used is dead or alive is irrelevant.In this past year the CNP team witnessed the very negative impact of drones on three occasions in three very different environments. It would be fantastic if the manufacturers of drones and buggies and the practitioners of remote control photography in wildlife photography can get together and draw up ethical guidelines for the usage of these kind of devices in wildlife photography.
    WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHIC COMPETITIONS
    Camera trapping images should not be allowed even in an own category. The image was taken by a device ( or a Macaque -Slater vs WiKipedia) and not a person.As Mike put it – “Who gets the award the camera or the photographer” … or the scientist that indicated the areas where territory markings were or the sherpas that carried everything (LC)

    Remote control photography whereby the photographer manoeuvres his device, manages exposure, composition etc AND fires the shutter is allowed what ever the device and what ever the technological advances the future might bring.

    Remote control photography is not a new genre and should not be judged in its own category. Portraiture is a genre and wether the photograph was taken by a extreme wide angle lens mounted on a buggy, a extreme wide angle lens in the
    photographers hand or from a distance with a telephoto lens it stays a portrait.The moment we accept that it is just a portrait taken with a new device two things will happen. Firstly it will be judged as a portrait.In terms of the current status of wildlife photography a portrait on any rating system is inferior to a image depicting behaviour action and interaction and strong story telling and should hardly ever be award as a overall winner.Secondly I would like to argue that the fact that a technically inferior portrait (bad exposure, blown whites , to slow shutter speed and bad depth of field management) and a artistic inferior portrait ( bad cropping, composition etc) are successful in international photographic competitions is primarily due to the fact that either conciously or unconsciously judges see images taken with remote controlled devices as a new genre from the future of photography that deserves recognition despite dishonouring the artistic and technical history of photography.I do not think that a photographer using a remote control device has an advantage above me or any other wildlife photographer. In fact I might find it easier on many occasions and will surely back telephoto photography every day to produce top end action, interaction and behaviour images superior to most static close up images taken by buggy operated cameras.

    So in the spirit of the triad of thesis, antithesis and synthesis can I ask my respected peers like Joe , Neal and Morkel etc to rethink their position regarding images taken with remote devises.Such images do not deserve to be credited as representing a new genre but are in fact just a portrait, landscape etc taken with a new device. Let us take our focus from the device and at the same time start tightening the screws on inferior and sloppy photography flying under the banner of new genres in photography.Be it in competitions or in publishing.

    Let me know what you think and let us work towards a progressive synthesis. Warm Photography Greetings Lou

  2. I read most of the posts here and think we should determine here what and who we are competing with at what level.

    I personally have no problem with buggy photography as long as it does not alter behaviour but as far as a new catagory I do not agree, these are normally portraits that I’m happy to compete against, I have up to date not seen a buggy image taken with a proper long lense giving me a controlled depth off field and without paws and ears chopped off. All normally wide angles because off the limitations with the buggy. As long as the image is technically correct in all aspects and judged in this manner then I’m prepared to see this as nothing more than another portrait image, I’m yet to see an image with a buggy that has any good or interesting interaction between species as the only action they normally get is when the buggy gets picked up and/or destroyed.

    My last issue (slightly off topic) would revolve around images that win catagories in highly acclaimed competitions where every image has a long winded story behing how it was taken and that the person waited 74 days for this image, had to be rushed to the ER 1000km away twice because some bug bit him twice…..bla.bla.bla. The end result, without all this info, is this still an award winning image or not, did the judge read the info first and then judged the image? Lets say I take a realy good image in Kgalagadi, must I now state that it took me in total 214 days to do so seeing that is how many days I have spend there in the past 15 years for instance? No! The image should be of the highest quality and technically flawless, that is the winner. Info regarding the subject and its habitat etc is fantastic but on what the photographer endured and how he suffered means nothing. “A GOOD IMAGE IS LIKE A JOKE, IF YOU HAVE TO EXPLAIN IT, IT WAS NEVER GOOD TO START WITH!”

  3. My thoughts on the ethics.

    So I tried to shed some light on the technicalities in my previous post, but I can’t put a stamp on anything as yet as I feel the question surrounding ethics is an important one that carries just as much weight if not more in this debate.

    To me the question is simple really, can we implement technology such as drones and buggies into wildlife photography while maintaining a “safe distance” as to not interfere with 1.) The wildlife, and 2.) Our fellow tourist and wildlife enthusiast? Also, what about baiting?

    Though the questions are simple, the answers are not so straightforward perhaps.

    I touched yesterday on trigger trapping and how in many circumstances it is accompanied by baiting.

    I am not going to dwell on the research side of things, whole different discussion, so I’ll stick to authentic wildlife photography.

    Baiting:

    Personally, an absolute no go, in any form. Baiting is not only dangerous to the animal, as they might end up relying on other food sources and not on their own hunting abilities, they might also get caught up in a baiting setup. As a simple example, Fish Eagle baiting has been very prominent over the last decade by photographers and tour leaders, so much so, that photographers have cancelled trips with operators because they wouldn’t allow baiting, and therefore cannot “guarantee photographs”. If any animal were to be caught in a line in the water, it could spell disaster for the animal. I have personally photographed many Crocodile draped in fishing lines and nets on the Chobe River in Botswana. Yes there are local fisherman contributing hugely to the fact, but your 1 line dragging a fish is just as dangerous.

    Secondly, depending the circumstance, you might be putting yourself in danger. Putting food out to attract an animal means you have to get out of your vehicle or place of hiding, and place the food, and every second you are out in the wild carrying food, you are the food.

    The article linked in my previous post makes mention of a filmmaker who would leave food for an animal after he finished, as he felt he might have interfered with the animal from finding food during that time, therefore it’s a “reward”, rather than bait. I believe that is just as inappropriate as it is basically a form of domestication of the animal. When the animal becomes accustomed to being fed after the human has left, it means feeding time, and the next guy doesn’t leave food, might just become the meal himself.

    Drones and Buggies:
    Again I feel that these new tech toys must cause a disturbance to all in the wild, animal and human.

    For me, the photographer, it’s a distraction as they are noisy, and at some point they will spoil my shot.

    In the case of a buggy, animals have been known to explore the unknown object, and in some cases try to pick up, bite or trample the buggy. Some animals are curios and might explore, others will try to destroy, and others will avoid completely. Whichever way the animal responds, cannot be considered natural, as the drone/buggy is not natural to their environment.

    The same should be said for drones; they simply startle most animals, and leave them with only the option of flight, and not fight. Nature is all about survival, and in most cases being another animals food source means you already have a full time job staying alive. By putting a drone in the sky or buggy on the ground, that animal now has an extra, unnecessary distraction, which could simply mean worst-case scenario for predator or prey. What if a predator with his last ounce of energy miss a meal because of that distraction, or the prey gets injured trying to avoid it? It’s quite simple really, you are interfering.

    Can you imagine the Raptor who one day decides to fight getting caught up in the blades of your drone?

    What happens when a drone crashes down and becomes irretrievable?
    This will surely become a hazard in more ways than one.

    Can this practice be done safely in terms of wildlife photography?
    I seriously have my doubts.
    The problem for me lies within human nature, unfortunately there are too many people who do not respect the laws of national parks, and that’s without buggies and drones at their disposal.

    Mention was made to sports photography in a post below. Different story, as it is controlled by sportsmen, referees and umpires at sporting events.

    When it is being controlled, and photographers are respecting the rules set out, I see no problem. The key here is that rules are enforced due to disturbance to players, as they can tell us it bothers them, wildlife does not have this luxury, so we have to use basic common sense and draw the parallel.

    No, wildlife will not always be bothered, but the one time that it does, might be worst-case scenario for the animal.

    As I mentioned in the beginning, when it comes to research and the protection of wildlife, especially endangered species, I do feel different, as it truly becomes a conservation effort, to track and find hurt or trapped animals, or the poachers for that matter. Drones, like helicopters can be successfully used to drive wildlife back out of populated areas where they might endanger themselves and humans.

    Final thought:

    Can any photographer really feel a sense of pride or satisfaction when he, or his camera trap rather, captured an image of an animal he might not have even seen at all? I am sure that a hunter who misses his shot and the PH (Professional Hunter) by his side has to stop a charging buffalo must surely feel like an idiot when he poses next to “his” trophy, I know I would. Just because you pay the bill and have the picture does not give you any claim to fame as a hunter.

    Can this use of technology be stopped in wildlife photography? I doubt it, but please reconsider before you consider yourself a photographer.

  4. After reading all the comments posted here, and three days preparing my response/opinion, I thought to rather just keep it
    short as I believe most points have been touched on here, and the post by Joe has grouped the discussion points very neatly.

    I do believe there is one aspect that might cause a bit of confusion, and would like to raise this.

    1.) Remote control photography or trigger trapping ? ( Purely based on the technical aspect, not the ethics )

    a.) Remote control photography refers to a camera that could be static (Tripod setup), or manoeuvred by use of a Radio controlled buggy or drone, whereas the photographer maintains control of exposure, composition, and most importantly the shutter release.
    The photographer still presses the shutter, whether on camera, wireless remote or Wi-Fi setup with “Live view” on an external monitor or laptop.

    b.) Trigger trapping refers to a static camera setup, with pre determined composition, exposure and shutter release (Shutter release pre determined by the exact position of the infrared or laser trigger release, not in terms of time of release, but exact position of subject in frame)

    Now which one should be deemed acceptable in terms of photography?
    Personally I believe that the shutter release determines ownership of any photograph, and therefore the credit.
    If a camera shutter is triggered by an animal, where does the ownership reside?

    I would like to refer to the current case of David Slater (UK Based Wildlife Photographer vs. Wikipedia)
    In short, David travelled to Indonesia to photograph the Crested Black Macaque, when one of the Monkeys picked up a camera, and continued to photograph himself numerous times. After the image surfaced on the Internet, posted by David Slater, the image appeared on a Wikipedia page. David requested removal, and basically now they are refusing to remove the image as the ownership belongs to the monkey according to Wikipedia.
    According to David Slater, it was his camera, his setup, so therefore he owns the image, and he continues to mention the cost of his trip etc. I believe in terms of photography very little was contributed by David Slater towards the final image that made headlines. The monkey composed, focussed and released the trigger, who owns it now?

    I am of the opinion that if an animal triggers the shutter, no ownership or credit can go to the owner of the camera, and the owner
    of the camera cannot be competing in any photographic competition, in any category, new or current.

    What about the remote control photographer, absolutely yes! My problem with using this type of tech is mostly ethical, but when it comes down to photo salons or competitions, I believe the culprits are truly the judges ( Nothing personal), but as long as strange close up angles are promoted to cover pages and category or comp winners, it will drive more and more photographer to do this, here is what I don’t like, these shots have visibly no regard for foregrounds/backgrounds, or depth of field, and they are 9/10 time totally static. So you are left with an animal portrait, no action, inter-action (other then with the buggy or camera), and again no regard for fore/background or DOF, the result is more often than not, a very bad portrait technically, but with an unusual angle, and apparently that makes it great. Judges should not allow this, as this sets a very low standard in terms of “Technically correct” images.

    2.) Quick word on baiting, and again would like to refer to an article this time National Geographic.
    Read Here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/01/140116-wildlife-photography-film-ethics-manipulation-feeding-staging-science/

    Referring back to trigger photography, once traps have been setup, bait will also be used to attract the animal, and force a direction of movement to ensure when the camera triggers the animal is clearly visible. Personally, no baiting, ever in photography!
    In the case of research, this would be different.

    I will post again on my opinion towards the ethics of this matter, as I agree this is important, and we the wildlife photographers should be proactive in setting a standard, which benefits all fairly, and never to the detriment of any animal.

  5. Technology has changed photography dramatically and will continue to do so. The important point to remember is that technology is simply a tool that can be used to tell a story or gather information and we can decide how it is used and evaluated. We have a choice which is both good and bad because when given a choice not everyone makes a good one. With technology in photography I do not think it is a question of either or but a question of how.

    When I review the previous comments, there appear to be 3 general areas of consideration:
    1) Impact on the subject
    2) Standards of conduct
    3) Photo competitions

    Impact on the subject
    Basically, how do our practices as photographers and researchers affect the subjects? Are we causing changes in their behavior or are we simply capturing their behavior? I think the rule should be that you should not affect animal behavior or harm the animal in any way. Many national parks and tour operators already use this standard. Take a drone as an example. It can be used to locate a subject thus allowing you to get into position or it can be used to drive a subject towards you. In the second case you are affecting the behavior not capturing it. I was recently in a national park in Kenya and learned that the guides had their own informal network of communication network using cellphones to keep each other up to date on sightings. They were using a technology that probably wasn’t available to them 10 years ago to enhance their client’s chances of getting a good photo without affecting the behavior of the animal, a good use of technology.

    Standards of Conduct
    To what standards will we hold ourselves? In general as technology advances, rules and laws are slow to catch up so it becomes imperative that we set our own standards as photographers and researchers. For researchers the standards they follow are very important because they can dramatically affect the validity and quality of their results. Practices using drones or buggies to chase or herd animals are outside the standard because you are changing behavior and could cause damage. Using them to locate animals or get to an area faster are okay. Baiting is outside the standards for photographers, it is basically a lazy man’s approach. There may be valid uses in a research setting but I would need more information to make a decision. Remote triggered cameras can be very useful in a research or photography setting as long as the impact on the subject is considered.

    Photo competitions
    Until recently almost all photo competitions had the same assumption; a person took the photograph.Today technology gives us additional options like drones and remote cameras so that old assumption is no longer valid.Technology will continue to advance and continue to change the assumptions so it is up to us to decide how we apply and evaluate the technology. For photo competitions the question becomes how to include photos taken with this technology. There are a couple of options; (1) include them in categories with photos taken by a person, or (2) establish separate categories. I think that separate categories should be set up because as a viewer of the photo I have a different emotional reaction when I know a person has taken the photo. When I see a photo taken by a drone or remote triggered camera I can be amazed by the technology and enjoy the photo but when a person has taken the photo I have a deeper emotional connection. I can appreciate the skill of the photographer, the time and effort they took to develop the skill, the effort they expended to be in the right place at the right time with the right knowledge and equipment and I can put myself in their place to see what they saw and hear what they heard.

  6. I have spent quite some time debating with myself around this subject. I believe as most of the photographers that responded that remote and drone photography should be put in separate categories as these to me are specific genres within the greater photographic category. As Morkel stated, each of these genres need their own specific skills and considerations prior to the shoot and as such those individuals practicing these genres of photography need to compete in their own category.

    There are very different scenarios for each genre in capturing an image. I personally have no desire to get into either of these new ways of recording nature. Remote “photography” for me is a way of recording a specific planned event/animal and can surely not be classified as photography as you are not there to press the shutter release button. Your equipment makes sure you get the shot so there is no human skill involved in panning or tracking the subject. It has its place in science and research and I support that fully as we would not have many of the incredible images of endangered species like the Snow Leopards without this technology.

    Drones have an impact not only on the animals they are following and recording, but also on everybody else that is in the vicinity. The noise and negative impact on the animal behaviour I have personally witnessed in the Maasai Mara recently. Every single person at this sighting was absolutely fuming at this drone in the air and if there were fire arms around it would have been brought down. I personally do not want to see or hear a noisy drone when I am in a national park enjoying the animals and nature.

    My view is that if you are a nature photographer then you are behind the camera and lens and you press the shutter release button.

  7. I am glad that this debate is being tabled, and look forward to what comes out of it.
    My views (ramblings):
    1. Drone and Buggy photography offer great, fresh new perspectives – but at what cost? I’ve yet to see a drone video/photo showing a relaxed animal not phased by the drone. I’ve seen many buggy photos where the engagement of the subject is WITH the buggy instead of going about its natural order of business, thus allowing the buggy to be an invisible close-up observer for natural behaviour. Most cases the buggy is being charged or inspected or chewed. In this sense, a hidden, well placed remote camera or even camera trap is worth more to me in terms of capturing an intimate view of natural history as it plays out.
    2. No doubt camera trapping is invaluable for research and for showing scarce and elusive species to the wider public. It’s got its place in wildlife photography and zoological research for sure.
    3. There is skill involved both in remote photography and physical “behind-the-camera” photography. In my opinion it takes more fieldcraft and skill to get into a good position with your wide angle lens in many cases, but the converse is true as per Erlo that the really diligent remote photographer will scout out his location, make the call on preferred image background, light direction, expected DOF etc upfront. As with all forms of wildlife photography, luck plays a big part. The “behind-the-camera” photographer needs to be in the right place at the right time, and the remote photographer needs to understand animal patterns and movements to be able to place the camera in the right spot.
    4. I do personally think there should, for now, be a SEPARATE category in wildlife photographic competitions for remote trigger, buggy and drone photography. This does not mean these photographs shouldn’t compete with any other category winner for the main prize (if you think in terms of the BBC WPY competition). It just means that the skillset required and criteria of judging should be somewhat different and since it’s an emerging genre, having a dedicated category for it will highlight it to potential new artists, foster interest and keep the purists happy until such a time as the genre has become more mainstream accepted by the “purists”.
    5. I think more needs to be done to develop a code of ethics for wildlife photography – both “behind-the-camera” shooting and remote shooting. We need to place the welfare of our subjects first. More awareness/education is needed to inform others what kind of planning goes into a successful remote photography project that involves wildlife – many people assume it’s just dumb luck and look down on it when comparing it to the more general and mainstream way of photographing wildlife. I also think photographers need to learn how to read animal behaviour and understand when an animal is stressed – many people don’t and many so called “photographers” these days don’t even care, it’s all about their shot.
    6. National Parks and wildlife authorities need to enforce strict permit guidelines for drone and remote photography – as every Tom Dick and Harry now has a Phantom DJI that they want to buzz all over national parks with. Many people seek out these places not for photography alone, but for solitude, connecting with nature, and unplugging from the hustle and bustle of modern technological living. It is unfair towards them to keep taking more and more electronic toys into the bush and disturbing their experience and sightings. It would irk me to no end to be working a great lion sighting in the Kalahari, only to have 4 – 10 drones buzz up overhead and remote buggies drive into my shots that I am taking the traditional way from my vehicle or from a hide/blind. I actually appreciate that South African National Parks bans the use of drones without applying for a proper permit and paying for it.

    that’s it for now…will think of some more over the weekend…

  8. I support Tobie’s view. There are so few unspoiled wildlife places left in the world that still offer photographers the opportunity, to explore, setup, wait and capture the images and tell the story. Photography driven by technology only succeed in presenting us with images of living organisms and often ill composed, and without any story or beauty. So there is a place for it in research in its wider context.

    Another “evil” starting to show its head is amongst people who have some knowledge of equipment but very little knowledge about photography, there is no art left for good composition, exposure, angle of view etc. we see more and more people who use flashlights during bright daylight, shooting into the animals face/eyes 20-40 images in a row, depending how fast the flash can charge. The result of people not knowing how to deal with different light conditions. I know flash has a role to play but in specific situations with discretion.

    This to me starts with the way wildlife competitions are judges. we see more and more technically good images as winners and less artistic, based on good photography. As photographers we need to progress but we can also destroy the art form through uncontrolled use of invasive technology and applications that render the true art of nature photography null and void.

    So developing photography require that we have properly defined categories and guidelines. Dromes and moving cam’s, remote controlled traps and devices should be classified as a cluster with strong ethical applications, images captured by using bait as indicated by Veronica should be classified as such as it is influencing behaviour The same could happen with dromes and remote units as we have already seen. we have a responsibility to educate, conserve and protect our subjects and our art.

  9. This is a very sensitive subject. I am not ashamed to say that I use remote triggers for a large part of my wildlife photography. I have come to a place where that has become my art. Like with any other photography, there are many technical aspects to remote photography that has to be mastered before creativity can start. There should be no distinction when judging remote photography or normal photography, the same aspects should be applied by the photographer. When I set-up my camera, I think about light, focus, exposure and background, just like any other photographer, the only difference is that I am anticipating longer in advance. When it is done with respect to nature and in accordance to artistic guidelines, I don’t see how it is not every bit as part of photography as any other style of work.

  10. And what about baiting?
    From fish eagles to bears and all the rest in between? Can that be authentic wildlife photograpy?
    Or are the photographers casting fish to the fish eagles or the person putting out dog food for the bears, not manipulating the bird or animal, and the cause of nature? And is it not harmful to the animals and birds we love to photograph. What happend to ‘dont feed the animals’ thè golden rule we grew up with as part of conservation and not creating problem animals or animals getting dependent on human interference. I cringe when i see a photo and the photographer explaines how he baited the animal to lure it into the picture. Should it be such a wide spread practise under photographers, even the junior photographers? Or should it only be allowed by scientist who have to do it in order to study the animals?

  11. Olympic photographers shoot with remote cameras because they can not get to the specific spot where they want the POV. High speed photoghraphers shoot with the aid of triggers etc. I think am still in two ( many ) minds about whether the back story of an image should influence the judging of a picture in a photographic sense in salons etc. From a documentary pov the scarce species, the difficult terrain, the dangers etc would make the storey of the pic a lot more interesting and then people get away with a lot of lower quality photography. So it would depend very much on if one is judging it from a pure graphical. artistic pov or from a documentary view. In some cases the planning, the setup the whole process and capture via remote, or timelapse or high speed triggers is the only way to capture a specific scene or image and takes just as much skill and planning to set up and execute. But should a poor camera trap picture or a mediocre picture of a rare species get a higher rating than that of a perfectly well , creative and impacting picture of a garden bird….not when one judges the images purely on the merit of the final image rather than the luck, skill and bravery of the photographer.

  12. In a competition, if the final image is authentic and is judged to be an outstanding composition, technically perfect and salon level wildlife interaction, does it matter whether it was taken by a camera trap or a photographer getting their timing perfect with the camera mounted on a specialised support?
    I am a passionate amateur so I do not have the answer.
    Is a photograph judged by the way the image was taken or the final image? In reality, I would think there would be a one in a million chance that a camera trap would achieve a technically better image with a superior composition than a seasoned live photographer. There are just some situations where you would never put a live photographer to get the image.

  13. Thank you for putting your views up for discussion. Mike is the main reason for the strong polarised opinions not due to the fact that we mention camera trapping in the same breath as remote control photography ? Surely it is not the same thing , to put up a camera trap and walk away from the scene and leave some technologically advanced hardware behind to record the image , as sitting behind a monitor controlling composition, depth of field, exposure and composition ? Tobie is sitting behind a remote control device really a unfair technological advantage and the work less honest ? The photographer is confronted with the same laws of physics than you and me sitting behind our cameras. Is the problem not that because it is a new way of doing the same thing photographers practicing remote control photography think that they are working in a new dimension forgetting that they are just a small part of whole history of photographic advancement and should adhere to the same rules as very body else i.e. we can expect remote control photographers to respect nature and the subjects that they are working with and that we can expect them not to be sloppy with depth of field control, shutter speed management, exposure and composition etc as much as we expect that from ourselves. Would it not solve virtually all the problems if we say that setting up a camera and walking away from a scene makes the person involved at best a technician and not a photographer? As for the person sitting behind a remote controlled camera should we not say ” Welcome to the photographic family. You can call yourself a photographer but here are the ethical rules of the trade of wildlife photography and the fact that you have chosen a new tool does not exempt you from the technical and artistic requirements of what good wildlife photography should be in 2014″ ? In the process acknowledging the photographic giants both artistically and technologically that went before us ? LOU

  14. I am pleased to see this subject being debated for all to follow… my first reaction is to oppose the practice,.. supported by points Mike Haworth outlines above… … also the philosophical question, as Tobie Oosthuizen suggests here. Where will drone cameras fall in this discussion… ‘target practice’ ?

  15. Lou with reference to the camera trap debate:
    Camera trap photography has a place in the mix. It is very useful tool for research, pushing wildlife photography boundaries and hunting. It is also very useful for getting images of rare or extremely elusive wildlife. In most African national parks photographers must be out of the park (or in a camp) during the hours of darkness but there is a whole community of wildlife which operates mainly at night and most photographers miss this. Does it have a place in the wildlife photography mix- yes. Should it have a separate category in wildlife photographic competitions – yes. Camera trap photographic does not require active choice on composition which makes the artistic element a hit or miss exercise. Technology is blurring the boundaries. These days you can set up a remote camera on video or live view mode and actively control it by wifi from an “out of sight” location. Is macro photographic not a form of remote control photography? This is a multi-dimensional issue and progress pushes existing technology and usage boundaries inevitably polarising debate but it should not stop the journey.
    I have a few side issues which I want to throw into the mix:
    1 – do we understand its effect on wildlife behaviour ( positive or negative), there is a serious ethical aspect to this.
    2 – what about photography debris when animals get a hold of the setup and destroy and scatter its bits.
    3 – what is the effect of frequent flash bursts on nocturnal wildlife vision in the long term?
    I put this out to spur debate. I am much more concerned about its effects on the wildlife than the photographers.
    Thanks – I look forward to seeing other comments.

  16. Lou, thank you for sharing this with us.

    My personal view is photography is a art and only practised the hard and honest way with your eye glued to the eye piece of your camera. The remotely controlled photography is, in my opinion, an unfair technical advancement that makes the end product too artifiacial. What is next, computor generated images?

    My line is drawn in the sand and I will not step across!

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