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Is Photography Destroying Nature? Some Nature Lovers Seem To Think So

Nature lovers are blaming photographers for damaging habitat and disturbing wildlife in the pursuit of a good photo.

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Nature lovers in Asia are becoming increasingly concerned about the unwelcomed behaviour that sometimes accompanies wildlife photography, and want to address the situation before it's too late. 

An article from Singapore, constructed by TODAY and also reported on by Channel News Asia, says a surge in interest in Singapore's wildlife and being the first to capture images of species is leading to an increase in 'ugly behaviour' and nature lovers are taking steps to stamp it out. 

The rarticle suggests some photographers are moving nests to create better compositions while others have trimmed tree branches to create a clearer view. Another problem wildlife enthusiasts are reporting is the sheer number of photographers visiting a particular location due to a sighting of a rare species which is causing overcrowding and possibly damage to surroundings. The report says it's not uncommon to see more than 50 photographers huddling under a tree for hours only to get the perfect shot.

Commenting in the article, nature hobbyist Shirley Ng: “Once someone posts (a photo) online of a rare (nature species) … everyone wants to have a shot of the 'flavour of the month'.”

To help address the problem, the Nature Photographic Society Singapore (NPSS) and National Parks Board (NParks) are set to hold workshops on acceptable practices, plus the NPSS also stops members posting images of birds during active nesting seasons, while the Butterfly Circle has a code of conduct for people to follow. The Nature Society (Singapore) limits the number of people who can take part in activities and also limits nocturnal events. Signs are also used by NParks in nature areas to discourage 'ugly behaviour' and regular patrols also take place. 

The article says the groups TODAY spoke to did say that those behaving in ways which are considered wrong and inappropriate are still a minority and there are many photographers who do encourage and teach others to respect wildlife and their surroundings. However, as suggested by nature photographer Lily Low, some photographers are reluctant to speak up about the inappropriate behaviour of others due to the 'risk of alienation'. 

The views of those interviewed by TODAY have similarities with those who founded the Facebook group 'Truths Behind Fake Nature Photography' which was set up with an aim to stop fake nature photos trending around the World. 

In the group's 'about' section it says: "Nature photography is an art of observation and documentation of nature around us. However, fake nature photos are trending and we stand firmly against it... Nature is already intriguing and beautiful on its own, that staging such unnatural scenes is an insult to mother nature herself."


Share Your Views

What do you think? Is this something that is a growing concern? Comments welcomed below. 

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IshanPathak 8 202 12 India
27 Apr 2015 2:43PM
I agree... Its certainly not acceptable if a photographer moves a nest or adjust the natural surroundings of nature just to have a better composition.

Quote:Nature is already intriguing and beautiful on its own, that staging such unnatural scenes is an insult to mother nature herself."

Nailed it.
themak 9 1.1k Scotland
27 Apr 2015 3:00PM

Quote:Is Photography Destroying Nature?

It's a general question and the general answer is no. Most of the popular sites for viewing wildlife are managed to minimise disturbance, and the majority there are probably not photographers anyway. I've no doubt there are exceptions, like the popular kingfisher viewing points.
lemmy 15 2.9k United Kingdom
27 Apr 2015 3:27PM
I can't see why a photographer taking pictures of an animal is any more (or less) harmful than someone watching it.
themak 9 1.1k Scotland
27 Apr 2015 4:39PM
I think the problem in Singapore is probably linked to relative ease of access to previously inaccessible places due to deforestation. What the distinction is between 'photographers' and 'nature lovers' is, I don't know.
StrayCat 18 19.1k 3 Canada
27 Apr 2015 7:02PM
I don't think it's a worldwide problem. It sounds like it might be in zoos or special wildlife parks. Over crowding can cause this, and I can relate to the posting of some images on the internet and giving out locations can result in huge crowds and disturbance of wildlife. A fellow I met at the zoo was showing me shots he had of several pygmy owls in one of our parks. He said they were there every day for a week, then one of the television stations took some footage of them and put it on the air. They haven't been seen since because of the throngs of people that went there after seeing the birds on TV. Not much can be done about that, the TV people are going to do their shows regardless.
Rev2 12 302 2 England
27 Apr 2015 8:08PM
Yes it definitely is. Not just in Singapore but in the UK and other places. I've made my thoughts known (and become unpopular for doing so) of photographers posting shots of Schedule 1 species on this site. I'd ban photos of certain species taken during breeding season being uploaded just as Bird Guides has.

Someone watching, say, a Dipper is unlikely to spend an hour close to the nest preventing the young from being fed. One photographer moves off and another takes his/her place ad infinitum.

Breaking the law is breaking the law in any language. What's more important, getting the shot or the welfare of the subject?

cuffit Plus
16 360 8 England
27 Apr 2015 10:19PM
It would probably take a document of the magnitude of a dissertation to encompass and make sense of all the issues that surround the problems in Singapore and elsewhere in the world - where even bigger threats to wildlife exist way beyond both bird watchers and photographers. Although not a bird watcher, the telescopes they use do appear to enable them to stand-off at a greater distance than most photographers - even when armed with long lenses.

I would offer one reason why photographers try to get close to wildlife - the requirement of a good shot to have a clear background free from any distraction and with the creature 'doing something', feeding for example. If you then have a shed-load of those photos to choose from, then the creature that is not seen often is going to attract more attention. In many ways, the issue could be applied to any photographic subject.

I would like to think that in this country, most photographers have a responsible attitude to their subject, but the sheer scale o camera ownership now (in all its digital forms) means that the numbers of irresponsible people increase as well. When taking photos with an SLR in the 1970s, having one was worthy of a conversation in its own right when you met some kindred soul!

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