Thursday, October 03, 2013

Face Value

Sorry for the lack of recent blog updates, I have just changed to a new computer which always takes longer than you think to setup. In this age of computers information moves at such a fast pace and we have grown accustomed to everything happening quickly. Instant news, conversation and responses have become part of our busy time-stretched lives. We have also come to accept being bombarded with a constant stream of wonderful images, that are continually uploaded to the internet through websites and social media, thanks to the advances in digital cameras. However, have we become too blase about photographs and only consider the aesthetics and content and forgotten about the efforts and skill that goes into making the image.

As a wildlife photographer I am strong believer that you do it because you firstly love being close to wild animals and  photography offers a means of recording those encounters to share the wonders of the natural world with others. As with many aspects of life the more effort you dedicate to a pursuit, the greater the rewards and personal satisfaction.

In recent years, with the increase in the number of people with good camera equipment, there has naturally been a corresponding growing trend in the rise of the commercial hide. From these it is now relatively easy to get some amazing images of a wide variety of species, although the photos will look very similar to the numerous photographers that have visited previously. You turn up, pay your money and with a moderate amount of photography skill and some reasonable kit can walk away with memory cards full of excellent images.  Please do not get me wrong I have nothing against this and for some difficult species such as birds of prey, like golden eagle, goshawk or osprey, it is the only way you are likely to ever get any photographs. I also have no complaint against people who use the hides but must wonder if the majority of their photography consists of travelling around the various network of these hides it cannot be very rewarding in the long run.  However, what I do find annoying is the increasing number of photographers who are using these hides to become  'trophy hunters' and to whom the capture of an amazing image with which to impress their social media followers seems to have become more important than the wildlife.

Of course all the hard work has been done for the photographer by the owner of the hide to make sure the best images can be achieved in terms of light and settings. The 'trophy hunters' seem to be using the hides as a short-cut to self promotion in wildlife photography circles. Unfortunately all too rarely do I see the owner of the hide credited for their hard work, as it is only due to all their efforts that the creation of great images is possible and relatively easy. I find it more disturbing that some of the photographers go a step further and do not even mention the use of the commercial hide to get viewers of the photographs to believe it was obtained through their amazing field craft skills. Unfortunately some go a step beyond this and make up some unlikely yarn that they crawled through hectares of brambles or sat out in horrendous conditions for weeks on end to capture that precious and elusive image. We all need to slow down a bit when viewing images and put a bit more thought into not looking just at the face value of the image but give some due consideration and question on how it might have been achieved.

A few weeks back I visited one such commercial hide that is operated in West Yorkshire for Kingfisher photography. So before I show any photographs I would like to say a very big thank you to Mark for all his hard work in setting this up and without which none of the following images would be possible. I just turned up and pressed the shutter button.  I have photographed kingfisher before, albeit many years ago, but thought I was long overdue to spend some time with one. A day spent in close proximity to such a beautiful and interesting bird can be very enriching and lift the spirits. For me the photographs from this session are really for myself as a memory of the encounter but for those who have not had the opportunity to be up close to one of these birds I am more than happy to share them here. So I will say no more now and just post a few of the images, happy in the knowledge that you know how they were achieved.


rosie green said...

Absolutely beautiful images as usual, Rich! I also enjoyed your musings on hide use since I've resorted to them over the past few years (Saker/Hungary, Droitwych etc).I live in London, don't drive and am fast approaching the stage when carrying big lenses is a real trial. I've been in love with the natural world since I was a kid but only picked up a camera seven years ago. So, I take short cuts. I enjoy the commercial hide experience but nothing beats the feeling I get when a good image comes from a lucky encounter in the field. This year it was a toad at Holme.
I think you're absolutely right though; we must be honest about how we obtained our images and acknowledge the hard work of those who created the circumstances in which we obtained them.
Just keep pressing the shutter button!! Rosie.

Dave Williams said...

Superb images Rich.I'm sure it was very rewarding being so close to nature no matter how it was set up.

Brad James said...

Amazing images as always. I have been following your blog for a long time now and this post really stands out for me. What you said is so very true and I couldnt agree more with you. Keep up the amazing work and thank you for being the honest person you are.

Sylwia Grabinska said...

Beautiful pictures.

Have a nice day

Heather Wilde said...

Like you, photography for me comes on the back of a great love of wildlife. I'm not after a perfect shot, just something that makes me feel some sort of emotion when I look back at the pictures. But when I see your stunning kingfisher shots, there is a part of me that can't help thinking "where was that hide again"!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful images of a magnificent bird. I am unlikely to ever be in a position to see a Kingfisher so close and will never have the money for lenses good enough to capture such an image, but as an amateur bird photographer and lifelong bird lover, your images are a joy to me.

James Bylett said...

Totally agree with your comments here, I have always made a point on my own site of being upfront about any images I took from a hide or organised day. For many people like myself it is not a case of laziness or trophy hunting but simply having work and social commitments that leave limited time for photography, so I like to have at least an above average chance of going home with some images I am happy with on the occasions I do find time, and hides which can be rented offer a great opportunity to spend time enjoying nature and also offer a good chance of some worthwhile photographic results too. As much as I enjoy spending time in nature, if i go out with my camera and come home half a day later with nothing to show for it I can't help that niggling feeling that I could have use my time more productively elsewhere

Rich Steel said...

Many thanks. James I appreciate that photographers have limited time with their busy lives. As I have said I have nothing against these hides, which offer some amazing wildlife encounters, or any issues with people using them. However, I do object to how some are not honest about how they achieve their photos and try to mislead.

Best wishes



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