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    • Chris MacAskill

      In 2010, José Luis Rodriguez won the prestigious British Natural History Museum's wildlife photography award, placing first among 43,000 entrants. He shot the most beautiful photo of a wolf I have ever seen. Wolves had recently been re-introduced to Northern Spain, where José lived, and he set up a Hasselblad camera with a sensing device and flashes to capture it.

      After the award was granted, some wildlife biologists got suspicious, saying this wolf was a rare species and wolves don't normally jump over gates. It bore resemblance to a trained wolf that lived in Northern Spain. They rescinded his award.

      I didn't know how to judge authenticity, but I wanted to make a 72-inch print for our walls at SmugMug. I kept writing José for 2 years. Finally he gave in and let me purchase the rights. Every time I walk by the print, I get a great sense of awe.

      But now The Guardian has published a story about how photographers work the system. For cheating the contest, it sounds despicable. For making glorious images of animals, it sometimes sounds amazing. What do you think?

    • I read about the wolf some time back. It's still a great photo-well, I like it. I've known about the freezer technique for insects and game parks. Maybe it's only a big deal when you're claiming "wildlife"?

    • My father took up photography about 5 years ago and is getting voted quite highly on sites like Gurushots,

      https://gurushots.com/bruce.brodie/photos

      Mostly his shots are of natural composition and the only post production is for lighting/tone/colour but occasionally he'll produce an image where background features like power poles and lines have been removed or an extra animal has been added or removed.

      It's amazing to see how easy it is to manipulate the shots, a few seconds in Photoshop is all it takes to remove an offending power pole and lines right across the picture and photoshop makes up what should be there in the process so to the naked eye it's almost impossible to see. He's not claiming to be a wildlife photographer however or presenting the pictures as something they are not and that i think is where the issue is. As the article indicates proving whether an image is or isn't real must be very hard, both for the judges and the photographer.

      My father has travelled from New Zealand to Utah and surrounds twice now and went to Africa last year all specifically for photography and is a few months away from another trip to the US to drive from New York across to Washington with side trips up to Montreal and Vancouver at each end.

    • Chris MacAskill

      Wow, your dad is seriously good. I flipped through all his photos there. His range is broad too, from food to wildlife to action motorsports. He likes a lot of drama in terms of contrast, color and sharpness. Invite him to Cake! It'd be a thrill to have him here.

    • At the risk of getting off topic. I love to photograph ducks and geese at the park where the Willamette flows through. I made a conscience decision a lot of years ago not to photograph the water foul while people are feeding them, I know the birds only hang out at the park because people feed them. They usually feed them right next to the sign that's says, "don't feed the birds." Have people just become numb to the damage they're doing, or do they just not care?

    • Yes. What matters is whether the image fulfills the claim the photographer is making. I shoot zoo animals once in a while. I try to shoot from angles that don't reveal the location, but I never claim that they're shot in the wild. This is a more general issue in photography, of course. Was it staged or candid? Photoshopped or original? I think there's room for all approaches, but a photographer should not make misleading or dishonest claims.

    • Seven years ago or there abouts, a vet in NM bragged about poisoning a coyote that killed a cat. Although it was not easy, I captured a trail cam pic of the vet with one of America's best loved coyotes in her clutches. This has NOT been Photoshopped!

    • I read the anteater story and I can't say I'm surprised. News photographers -- notably those in war zones -- have been caught altering photos to make them more dramatic. Obviously, that's a huge no-no for something that's meant to represent reality. We've known since the days of Walt Disney that nature videographers stage and/or misrepresent scenes. Logically, then, it follows that some still photographers, somewhere, will also cheat. In the end, human nature can't be denied and we're imperfect creatures.

    • I think transparency is the key, and I was especially struck by the image of the bee sleeping in the article the OP linked. The difference between seeing a dead bee posed on a piece of grass and knowing someone actually caught a bee napping is HUGE in terms of the impact of the image for me.

      The stuffed anteater just has me shaking my head. I'm hoping that was a misunderstanding? That would be quite a low move for a photographer to make...

    • As a wildlife photographer, I think a decision has to be made by each individual as to what they are trying to do with their work. I will attempt to keep this short!

      For me, wildlife photography starts and ends with authenticity. Animals in the wild, native to the area, whose behavior is not altered by the photographer or others in the area, should be considered wildlife. No baiting. Or using trained animals. Or animals that are dead and stuffed. Animals in sanctuaries that are being fed and otherwise cared for by the owners are not wildlife, since their survival is dependent on the caretakers of the property / business.

      For art, the parameters can be adjusted to satisfy the artists' need to create the image (s)he is attempting. Using trained animals, or stuffed animals, and using post-production techniques to create a work of art would be acceptable to me. I still will not agree to baiting and chumming - that is destructive behavior that often leads to death as the animal becomes more accustomed to being fed by humans and less able to survive on its own. But the rest would be acceptable when creating art.

      In contests, ethics are paramount. Presenting an image as wildlife when it has been staged or when the subjects behavior has been altered by anyone, neither meets the textbook definition of wildlife nor the professional standard most wildlife photographers use in guiding their work.

    You've been invited!