No image, no matter how good, unique or special it may be, is worth stressing, endangering or otherwise harming wildlife. As wildlife photographers, we all need to be advocates for wildlife, after all, if we, who love to photograph them, are not, who will?
As wildlife photographers we need to set the example for others, we need to take responsibility for our actions and make every effort to lessen our impact on wildlife and the environment. There any number of organizations promote their own code of ethics for safe and respectful enjoyment of nature, and I will list a few of those at the end of this article.
Here is my basic set of guidelines that I follow. I’ve made these simple and to the point in an effort to make it easy to remember and stick to.
- First do no harm – The foundation of the wildlife photographers ethic. You must always ask yourself if the next action you are about to take will bring any harm to wildlife. Sometimes it’s is very clear cut, sometimes it’s a little more difficult to discern what consequences your actions make have. In any case you should always be considering the welfare of your subject first and foremost.
- Leave no trace behind – We have all heard this before. This means not to alter, modify disturb or destroy any habitat, food source or surroundings. Leave your location in the same state than you found it.
- Never harass wildlife – This means never to never taunt, bait or force an action out of your subject. Be patient! The most beautiful wildlife photographs result from natural behavior. Never interfere with animals engaged in breeding, feeding, nesting, or caring for young. Learn the habits of your subjects; Respect and protect your subject, look for signs of stress. If you notice your subject is altering it’s behavior as a result of your actions, stop. Learn to recognize wildlife alarm signals for the safety of both wildlife and yourself.
- Enjoy yourself – We all have to remember why we wake up early in the morning, endure mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, leaches and whatever other nasties mother nature throws at us when we are sitting in a blind for hours on end. We are out there to enjoy wildlife, and if we are so lucky, we get to make some great images in the process. So enjoy yourself.