I liked the pictures but I have to say that one of the winners (the local Conner from Burnaby) lost much of its luster when I read how it was made. The swooping owl picture was planned days in advance and involved the use of a multi-flash setup. I recall another thread recently on the ethics of using a flash to photograph birds at night. Does the end justify the means? Apparently the award judges seem to think so.
When the credits roll on my pictures and videos, I prefer to see: Directed by Mother Nature.
Have to admit it did rub me the wrong way when I saw the pic and heard mention of the tactics... after witnessing baiting the Hawk Owl in Delta, I lost a little respect for the resulting photos.
When we first learned of the method in which the photos were taken my wife said "is that legal?" So I checked the contest rules and they state you can't use live prey. I guess you can buy mice at pet shops for snake food etc. and I would imagine raptors would love them. The flash methods are quite common with some photographers and are used in daylight to capture fast movement. The flashes called "slaves" have adjustable strengths and may be barely perceivable. See Roy Hancliff's site; royhancliff.com/aboutus.php His photos sell for thousands. I can't make up my mind if feeding an owl to get a picture is unethical or not. (I don't know what the incident is about the Hawk Owl that you mention Ian.) There is a chicken farm back east where the farmer throws out his dead birds every so often and people are invited to come and witness and photograph the eagles take the carcasses. I can't see anything wrong with that. I keep comparing the picture in the contest to the picture I just posted of the Hummingbird. They were taken under similar conditions in that they were both enticed by food. So to sum up, I can't decide if the picture is unethical or not but I think I am leaning towards no harm done. My mind is open though.
Last Edit: Nov 6, 2013 18:39:02 GMT -8 by oldfulica
My biggest beef is that Connor says absolutely nothing on his web site or elsewhere about using flashes. Many people are watching him with admiration and may try to "learn" from him. What if one of these grabs a flash or two and tries to take some pictures without knowing what they are doing? I would have more respect if his web-site laid out how flashes work, some eye biology, some warnings, etc.
As for the ethics of feeding them - dunno. It's like using a bird feeder which has good and bad aspects. I'm too lazy to remember to keep feeders full so my back yard feeder by proxy is a huge pine tree. We had our first Red-breasted Sapsucker at the "feeder" this past Sunday.
A little more about flash use on birds. I forgot to mention that Roy Priest explained the fill flash procedure here a few weeks ago very well. Thanks for that Roy. When I first started birding about 20 years ago I heard a story about an owl that was being continually bombarded with flashes and eventually went blind and died. It was later determined that the owl was probably blind before the photographers found it. However this story became an urban legend and persisted and added to the flash controversy. Because owls have more rods and cones in their eyes than humans it was believed they were much more sensitive to light and highly sensitive to flashes therefore more susceptible to damage. I asked a researcher (forget the name) about this and he assured me owls regulate the amount of light entering their sensors as well as we do. I have searched the internet and cannot find any references to flashes harming birds. If someone knows of a site I would like to read it. I have found on the net that they are distracted for a short time by flashes which may make them more vulnerable to predators but probably not more than a few seconds. I can count the number of times I have gone owling at night here on one hand but in Arizona it is a common practice. One bed and breakfast (that I know of) specializes in seeing the Elf Owl. The owner sets up chairs on his lawn for patrons and everyone waits for dusk when the Elf Owl emerges from a nest hole. Spotlights are shined on the bird and everyone takes pictures. This lasts about 5 or 10 minutes then the owls go on their nightly rounds. The lights are so bright you don't need a flash. The owls have returned to the same spot every year for 7-10 years, that I know of, and raise a family without any obvious deleterious effects. Portal Arizona also has an owing culture. Almost every night in the spring (and perhaps other times) people are out with their flashlights owling and, I am sure, taking pictures with flashes. The numbers of Western Screech Owls, Elf Owls, Whiskered Screech Owls etc. is amazing. Would there be more owls if owing was restricted? I don't know but from what I have seen and heard from locals the owl population there is thriving. I discussed the use of flash with Jared Hobbs a few years ago. Jared is a registered professional biologist, photography lecturer and professional photographer who has studied the Spotted Owl here in BC and probably has more photos of that bird than anyone. Many of them taken with flash. He assured me that if he thought the flash was harming the birds he certainly wouldn't have been using it. See his pictures here: www.hobbsphotos.com/index.php/galleries/view/3/ I don't use a flash (probably because I don't have one) and I used to think they can't be a good thing for the birds. However I have mellowed towards them in last few years as long as they are used in moderation and don't interfere with the bird's welfare. As Roy stated, the flashes can be toned down to where they are less intense than the natural light surrounding the bird. So in conclusion I welcome other's thoughts on the subject and hope I may have injected some insight on flashes.
Interesting thread Len, and thanks for the comments. I agree that I do not think there's really much evidence that flash harms birds' eyes.
I'm still not sure about the baiting of birds for photos. It seems to me that most of these photos are being marketed as nature photos or "natural". I think most of the public/purchasers would be assuming this. I just feel that baiting owls takes away from the "wildness" of the photo and makes it somewhat artificial. If I was buying a photo and knew that it was not as "wild" as I thought it was, I would be disappointed.
Just my personal viewpoint, but certainly an interesting discussion. Interested to continue hearing others' thoughts on this.
Other pictures of his bother me. He has one of a loon on an nest with a nice landscape in the background. This picture looks to have been taken by a wide angle lens (everything is in focus foreground and background). He would of had to be very close to the nest to get the shot. A tele-lens would have given a different perspective.
This was one of the links that I originally found: Effects of flash photography on owls. It seems to reflect what Len was saying about doing direct damage to the owls. Of course, if you believe the final anecdote, a flash, while not doing permanent damage, can distract causing harm in other ways. I can imagine lots of scenarios where things could go wrong indirectly.
I did check out Connor's Facebook page and his website when I first read the article. I find the message a little conflicted. From his web page, on one hand he is working on a degree in ecology and conservation yet his site has galleries and a place to buy prints and is predominantly about photography. On the Facebook page he refers to himself as both an artist and a wildlife photographer.
There really is a big difference between the two extreme ends of the photographer-first and naturalist-first spectrum.
if you don`t think using a flash on a night bird doesn`t effect them if it hits directly in the eyes go out at night with somebody and let the take photos of you with the flash going off and see what effect it has.