Canned Wildlife Photography

Canned Wildlife Photography 

words Peter Hanscomb , photos Peter Hanscomb

What makes a great wildlife photographer ? Stunning images , outstanding field craft , technical ability and empathy with the subject matter . Well a combination of all of these plus experience gained in the field and time , plenty of time and last on the list , just a little bit of luck.

A select few wildlife photographers are blessed with all of the above and produce stunning original images capturing animals in the wild.

But for most wildlife photography enthusiasts , myself included the most important element is learning and developing our skills whilst at the same time balancing the demands of a full time job and family commitments and the welfare of photo shoot star , the animal.

Last night ,while i was checking the world according to Facebook i came upon a post , well more of a rant from a “wildlife photographer” . Anyone who uses a commercial hide , baited areas and photographs captive animals can’t call themselves a photographer , let alone a wildlife photographer. He carried on with his point blaming anyone and everyone who has every set up a hide or left out food to attract animals , paid for a wildlife guide etc. Not real wildlife photographers . Now this in only his opinion but the shocking thing for me was the number of comments supporting him.


So here is my take on canned wildlife photography .

Firstly anyone with a camera regardless of the cost / style / make of camera that has a passion for wildlife is a wildlife photographer. Granted we are all at different levels levels of ability , time available to commit to wildlife photography and funds available. It’s a photographic journey.

Animal conservation and welfare is top of my list. This is reflected in the content of this blog site. I would not support any individual or company who puts profit or the perfect shot ahead of animal welfare ( including “proper” wildlife photographers with big egos ) This includes the use of captive wild animals or any behaviour that changes a wild habitat or any wildlife’s natural behaviour .

I have used several paid for wildlife hides. If properly managed these cause no environmental damage or harm to the subject . I take it no one has a problem with the hides at most wildlife reserves , animals kept separate from people ?

Captive animals , this is a little more contentious . Simple here , wild means wild . If for any reason , an animal born in captivity can’t be released , i have no problem with this animal being “used” for research providing no harm is caused to the animal and it’s kept in a human , stimulating environment and this increases knowledge of the species. This includes photography , provided the animals welfare if the prime concern.

An example of this is Boo the bear , at the grizzle bear refuge in Golden , BC , Canada. Orphaned at birth , most orphaned wild bear cubs are euthanized. However Boo was rescued and has lived in captivity for the past 12 years. Yes he’s a tourist attraction during the summer , but he is kept in a 22 acre enclosure . If he doesn’t want to be seen , you will not see him. He hibernates just like a real wild bear and has generated a huge amount of money. But that money has been used to fund the Northern Lights project , which to date has cared for 34 orphaned bear cubs , all of which have been returned to the wild.

I think anyone who loves wildlife doesn’t want to see wildlife in a circus or old fashioned Zoo. but well run establishments have their part to pay in education , this includes photographic education.

Finally my last point , honesty . Don’t pass of a photo of a captive wild animal as “wild” .


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