24 November 2010

Top Ten Ways To Piss Off A (Fellow) Nature Photographer

Let me just start this post with a qualifying statement.  In general, I think nature photographers are a decent bunch that have the best interests of their subjects in mind.  I think sometimes we do a lot of unnecessary hand-wringing (although commendable that we care enough to) about our impact on the animals/environment and we generally get an unfair amount of negative attention.  Compared to many other resource user groups (outdoor and motorized recreation for example) and the general public, I think serious amateur or professional nature photographers have, on average, a lower impact on the animals and the environment.  We generally are more knowledgable (and aware) of the animals and their environment, ethical about our impact, and contribute more to the conservation of the habitats we frequent.

That being said, there are clearly some nature photographers out there giving others of us a bad name; and even the best of photographers can forget their manners in the heat of the chase or through getting lazy over time.  Otherwise, I wouldn't have had the relatively recent personal experiences that led to the creation of this list.  I've been wanting to write an article of this nature for a while now, but was unsure how to approach it.  In this format, I hope it comes off as a timely, somewhat humorous, but succinct reminder to us all, and not as snarky or preachy.

All right, without further equivocation, here are my top ten ways to piss off a (fellow) nature photographer:

10.  Always represent your studio set-ups, captive animals, composite images, or heavily photoshopped images as representing a wild or natural situation to buyers or the public; especially when you juxtapose elements that are temporally, seasonally, or geographically impossible in the wild.

9.  Monopolize the best position, vantage point, or subject and never give other photographers a chance, even if you’ve already got a bunch of keepers or are not actively shooting anymore.

8.  Engage in loud, boisterous conversation with your photographer friends at popular vantage points or where the animals are located.  Never have the courtesy to move the conversation to the parking lot or better yet a local coffee shop after the shoot. Nobody is in this endeavor to enjoy the peace and tranquility of nature.

7.  Be denigrating or condescending towards anyone who doesn’t have the latest, multi-thousand dollar gear or who appears to be less knowledgeable.  This is an endeavor for the rich and the experienced.  Beginners and, especially, people without large disposable incomes should be discouraged as quickly and efficiently as possible.

6.  Find a photographer or group of photographers photographing a subject by the side of the road, jump out of your SUV or truck and leave it running so that the photographers are enveloped in a constant cloud of exhaust and noise.  Bonus points for adding insult to injury on this one by simultaneously contributing to global warming, air pollution, and the need to drill for more fossil fuels.

5.  Find a photographer that has painstakingly stalked up to a subject or waited quietly for a long period of time for the subject to come to them.  Charge up to the subject in an upright position and blast away with your long lens and motor drive as the subject “heads for the hills”; then leave without saying a word.

4.  Never quietly (or non-verbally) ask permission to approach an animal subject that another photographer is already working.  Good manners and recognizing other’s efforts or priority aren’t important.

3.  Suggest directly or indirectly that the good work a photographer does is a result of a good camera and/or lenses and has nothing to do with the photographer’s talent, technique, patience, perseverance, knowledge of natural history, and/or time spent in the field.

2.  Ignore all signs and/or directions from rangers, biologists, law enforcement, and property owners.  Enter prohibited areas, trespass, and ignore minimum approach distances as long as it means you get your shot.  Work tirelessly to ensure that frustrated public and private land managers over regulate nature photographers or eventually ban them entirely.

And the number one way to piss off a fellow nature photographer is:
1.  Always put getting the shot above the welfare of the animal, your own welfare, and/or the welfare of other photographers.

Did I miss any?  What is on your top ten list that I didn't include here?

My thanks to the Photoshelter Blog for inspiration on the format.


  1. No 5. Big thumbs up.

    I was photographing Buff breasted Sandpipers on a beach and had spent half an hour inching closer and closer and got to within 10-15ft Meanwhile other people on beach were avoiding coming close to me. Then another Bird photographer arrived saw me and walked right up next to me and BBS flew. I was raging but too polite to say anything. It was the first time I had come across these scarce migrants.

  2. An awesome list that needs to get around! :)

  3. Love it!!!
    Your photography is beautiful.

  4. Good list, but I have been fortunate, haven't encountered many of these oafs. But that's one reason I prefer to go birding by myself: no chatting, no noises, no distractions. Although sometimes going our with a group can be fun as for the Christmas Bird Count. Great time to catch up. Happy Thanksgiving, Elijah!

  5. Great post! You've said it all. Wonderful photographs, as well.

  6. Well stated - and I am glad that you included #10.

  7. Great post. I had a person almost do #5, except they walked right past the bird I was photographing, and didn't even see it!!

  8. Fantastic Blog. I come across some of the idiots a fair bit...I try to avoid conflict but it has a habit of following me.
    I have been laughing my head off at your blog, great stuff.

  9. I think you did forget one: Be sure to discard all of your trash where ever you want to. After all, you have the right to do anything you want, and surely someone will come pick it up after a while.