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Flying Octopuses - comments on the proliferation of these images


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#21 NWDiver

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Posted 12 March 2008 - 06:36 AM

I'll say it again, time for some form of 10 Commandments, gives the guides something to point to and takes the pressure off them.

#22 craig

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Posted 12 March 2008 - 11:58 AM

I'll say it again, time for some form of 10 Commandments, gives the guides something to point to and takes the pressure off them.


I don't agree. What makes anyone entitled to tell guides how to act? No one here is the moral authority.
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#23 MikeVeitch

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 04:51 AM

Problem is I already don't respect you much for leaving the party to go home...


He has a habit of doing that...

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#24 NWDiver

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 06:19 AM

We have spoken to a lot of guides and all seemed to like the idea of not being pressured to handle or manipulate creatures. All the ones we spoke to are very concerned about preserving the health of the creatures their long term lively hood is dependent on.

This is like arguing religion the more you say the more each side gets entrenched in their belief.

Edited by NWDiver, 13 March 2008 - 06:20 AM.


#25 Drew

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 10:38 AM

NWDiver
I think dive guides should also bear some of the responsibility. They don't have to do what photogs ask, especially if it means endangering the critters others will pay good money to see. For eg, if all the mimics disappear from an area because of being harassed or become super skittish, then they lose out too. The onus should not be solely on the photographers, who already bear the majority of the problem's cause.
I know of a liveaboard cruise director who, after verifying my warnings about 3 professional photographers being very destructive in their practices, took them to lesser sites to protect the best sites for more responsible divers. One might argue that is dishonest but I say that's defending their meal ticket. I certainly wouldn't pay to go see a destroyed site. They could've barred the divers from diving, but that'd mean losing money and reputation because some photographers can't behave themselves?
So the guides and operations have to take some of the responsibility as well.

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#26 tjgreen

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 01:49 PM

Folks, I very much doubt we'll solve the problem of over-manipulation here; I doubt we'd even agree on a definition of what constitutes harassment. If I'm reading his post right, Alex just wanted to raise awareness of a potentially abusive practice; I'll defer to his judgment on the likelihood of benthic cephalopods miraculously developing the urge to parachute through the water column.

Appreciate it Alex - as the original poster stated, I wasn't aware of the unlikeliness of this behavior, and probably would have snapped away. For myself, my response when I think my dive guide's a bit over-eager is to politely decline the photo opportunity and swim away. My integrity's worth more than a good pic.
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#27 oceangrl

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 05:53 PM

Dived Lembeh @ this New Year's, one of our dive guides (in training) used his stick so much that we nicknamed him 'POKEY'. The guides (at times) where over zealous in unearthing hiding critters.

#28 Drew

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 06:11 PM

Tim
We are not going to solve anything by discussing it but by discussion, some people may make that conscious decision not to do that when they are presented with that situation etc. It's sorta like discussing sex between teenagers and parents. Just cos you don't talk about it don't mean it don't happen :)

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#29 craig

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 08:02 PM

We have spoken to a lot of guides and all seemed to like the idea of not being pressured to handle or manipulate creatures. All the ones we spoke to are very concerned about preserving the health of the creatures their long term lively hood is dependent on.


I don't think you've spoken to every dive guide, though. You assume that dive guides only act under pressure from their guests but that's far from true. I've been to Lembeh, too, and I've experienced the enthusiasm of the dive guides there. While I've seen them do things many may consider aggressive, I'd object to the suggestion that they only act under pressure from their guests. They do care about their underwater environment and they do train each other to do things many of us would not. None of that bothers me nearly as much as the photo pro that went there and took pruning shears to the sea fans. It's good to keep some perspective.

I believe that dive guides are adults and are more than capable enough to be involved in decisions that involve their livelihood and their home. I don't believe its on us to advance any such guide to underwater living for dive guides to follow. None of us own the undersea world, but I'm of the opinion that they own it more than I do. It's their home; I'm just a visitor.

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#30 MikeVeitch

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 11:14 PM

pruned a sea fan?!?!?!?! seriouslY?

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#31 Scuba_SI

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 07:18 AM

I agree that poking/grabbing etc to get the shot is wrong, but my point here is that i got the shot without anyone touching the Octo, Mike V has been there on one occasion here in Bali when it happened, and DiveSolana (i think that is his ID here) witnessed it in the PI. That is if i really need to have references for behaviour i have witnessed. If i do then it's a sad state of affairs.

I think it is irresponsible of folks on here to say everyone who has that shot has somehow 'cheated' or manipulated etc.

And with that i'm out of here for a few months! I shall pack my pruning shears just in case! :P

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#32 tjgreen

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 07:27 AM

Tim
We are not going to solve anything by discussing it but by discussion, some people may make that conscious decision not to do that when they are presented with that situation etc.


Yes, exactly - raising the flag on the behavior informs me, and allows me to make a choice.

It's sorta like discussing sex between teenagers and parents. Just cos you don't talk about it don't mean it don't happen :P


Here's where we disagree - the parent/child relationship presumes a moral authority, "father knows best" kind of thing. We're not the moral authority here - the locals are. As Craig says, the dive guides are adults, and it's their home/their rules. Depending on where you are in the world, those rules can be very different. I'm uncomfortable telling them what their rules should be, but entirely comfortable placing further limits on myself.
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#33 craig

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 08:31 AM

pruned a sea fan?!?!?!?! seriouslY?


Yes, a while back a photo pro was shooting pygmies in Lembeh and used pruning shears to make his job easier. If you notice how conveniently shaped a sea fan is there, it may not be coincidence. I was told this by dive guides who witnessed it. At the time it was done, Lembeh was mostly a pro destination and there were atrocities.

There's an elephant in the room here. It is hypocritical that we concern ourselves with those who emulate a Michael Aw shot without discussing how to put an end to future "Aw shots" in the first place. If it's OK for Aw to do this and profit, it is surely OK for me to do it as well. Of course, I don't think anyone condones bad behavior such as this even when pros do it, but I do know that people here will turn their backs when a pro does something inexcusable. No list of commandments will have the slightest effect on them. We should stop doing business with those who willingly destroy the underwater world for profit and that includes some photo pros.

The important issue is one of sustainable underwater tourism. Most of us know less about these issues than those whose lives are immediately impacted by these things every day, so it's arrogant of us to preach to them about what they are doing wrong. The times I've been to Lembeh, the dive guides genuinely loved what they did and took great pleasure in showing things to the guests. It may be different now and it is, of course, always more complicated than it seems, but these people are smarter about their world than I am.
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#34 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 09:15 AM

The pruned seafan is unbelievable. It is amazing that there are people out there who think that their photography is so important...

Quite a lot of the old-school pros were like that. Most have reformed, but there are plenty with dirty reputations. The sad thing is that most of them are such big names that nobody ever confronts them about it. They are gossiped about across the industry behind their backs - but I doubt they ever hear it to their face. Pretty counter productive on both fronts.

The issue with Michael Aw's shot is that he states it was naturally swimming like that. So we either have to take his word for it or say we don't believe him. The aim of my original post was not to get into that thorny issue. But to draw attention that the proliferation of these parachuting octopus images is akin to the inflated pufferfish shot. They may be eye catching, but we should ask ourselves should we be taking them. I guess I was just hoping to raise awareness.

There is certainly no pro vs non-pro issue. One of the first copies I saw of Michael Aw's shot was by another pro (who I won't name) and in that photographer was persuaded by friends not to use the image to avoid encouraging these sorts of shots.

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#35 Drew

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 10:13 AM

I think it is irresponsible of folks on here to say everyone who has that shot has somehow 'cheated' or manipulated etc.

Whoa down boy. No one says every shot is harassment, just that many who want the same shot may push towards harassment to get it since it is a rare shot.

Yes, a while back a photo pro was shooting pygmies in Lembeh and used pruning shears to make his job easier. If you notice how conveniently shaped a sea fan is there, it may not be coincidence. I was told this by dive guides who witnessed it. At the time it was done, Lembeh was mostly a pro destination and there were atrocities.

Gawd I remember that. But that does bring the issue that one guy can do it and it's ok, but 200 people brings us to your next point:

It is hypocritical that we concern ourselves with those who emulate a Michael Aw shot without discussing how to put an end to future "Aw shots" in the first place.

Craig, no one knows for certain Aw's shot was manipulated. I'll go on record to say I believe it was likely manipulated but without proof, I will never be certain and it is conjecture. We are not here to belabor Michael Aw or his reputation, which can stand on its on merits.

If it's OK for Aw to do this and profit, it is surely OK for me to do it as well. Of course, I don't think anyone condones bad behavior such as this even when pros do it, but I do know that people here will turn their backs when a pro does something inexcusable. No list of commandments will have the slightest effect on them. We should stop doing business with those who willingly destroy the underwater world for profit and that includes some photo pros.

I do agree that this sort of behavior should stop. I was never the most popular guy in Lembeh in the old days when a few pros would trash a scene for their photos. I paid money to go there and many of these pros don't, yet they can trash a scene I haven't photographed cos they are pros? Does not compute to me. Unfortunately, times have changed and the number of people travelling to remote places is becoming pretty common place. Photographers actually have to think about other people now.
With the traffic at Lembeh now at possibly over 100 divers in the area at any one time, the traffic alone dictates such destructive/harassing practices have to stop. If not for the sake of saving the critters, it's also to show courtesy to fellow divers, who also want to see the critters. But that also brings out the issue of why this sort of thing is happening anyhow, because everyone has shots of mimics or whatever the subject is. To sell images, people have to have more unique images, thus the envelope is pushed. This is the problem. We all have to keep in context how much the photography world has changed just in the last 10 years. The number of photographers have exponentially increased as has the number of 'pros'. The same behavior that one pro could do in the 80s and early 90s is no longer sustainable for 200 photogs to do the same. Unfortunately this proliferation also brought competition for images. I mean look at Getty slashing prices just a few years ago to compete with the huge influx of photographers based on the internet. The result is the demand for more unique shots, so that they make it to the market first and then the hundreds of 'mimics' will follow and want to top by pushing the envelope even more.
Craig, I'll have to disagree with you on the ability of the guides to safeguard their environment effectively. Sure they enjoy their work but they also have families to feed and natural human avarice dictates that they think in the present for the big tip vs worry about the future of lembeh. It's natural for many all over the world to think like this.

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#36 craig

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 10:48 AM

Craig, I'll have to disagree with you on the ability of the guides to safeguard their environment effectively. Sure they enjoy their work but they also have families to feed and natural human avarice dictates that they think in the present for the big tip vs worry about the future of lembeh. It's natural for all over the world to think like this.

I agree, but if they decide to do what's not in their best long term interest, I don't think we can tell them otherwise although we can decline it for ourselves. In other words, I believe a 10 commandments policy isn't the right answer.

In many areas, dive guides make far more than anyone in their communities so they will not jeopardize their jobs. That is both good and bad news for the reefs. The stakes are high for them and they have conflicting pressures.

I agree with what you and Alex have both said and I didn't realize the Aw shot was claimed to be natural. Hopefully it is then because I hate when people lie about such things. I once shot a spontaneously free swimming mimic in Lembeh but it was nowhere near like Aw's shot. It was also teased out of its burrow though it was never touched or harassed IMO.

I think it's a shame that people see images and are motivated to duplicate them at considerable cost. There's so much pleasure to be had in the challenges of taking a good shot without such shenanigans. For those who pursue it for a living, things may be different but most of us are doing it for pleasure.
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#37 Drew

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 11:19 AM

I agree, but if they decide to do what's not in their best long term interest, I don't think we can tell them otherwise although we can decline it for ourselves. In other words, I believe a 10 commandments policy isn't the right answer.

Seeing how I've never been a guy to follow rules ( I don't even follow Eric's guidelines for here :P) I am not sure how effective it will be for any commandments. However, guidelines aren't exactly out of the question.

In many areas, dive guides make far more than anyone in their communities so they will not jeopardize their jobs. That is both good and bad news for the reefs. The stakes are high for them and they have conflicting pressures.

Well that is where the training of the staff by the often FOREIGN managers come into play. And many of those operators also fall into the trap of giving preferential treatment to 'pros', while restricting 'normal' people's activities. These operators have to be responsible as well, as I mentioned in a previous post.

Hopefully it is then because I hate when people lie about such things. I once shot a spontaneously free swimming mimic in Lembeh but it was nowhere near like Aw's shot. It was also teased out of its burrow though it was never touched or harassed IMO.

Welcome to the grey world of uw photography. To most, teasing a mimic by tapping on the burrow to get it to look is ok. But then for some, sticking a rod under it (without touching it) or putting food out to lure it out is already manipulation but others don't think so. Well to use a Clinton analogy, oral sex isn't sex to me.

I think it's a shame that people see images and are motivated to duplicate them at considerable cost. There's so much pleasure to be had in the challenges of taking a good shot without such shenanigans. For those who pursue it for a living, things may be different but most of us are doing it for pleasure.

That's the problem, to some the cost of waiting for a naturally occurring swimming mimic is so great that they'd force one to do it to get immediate results. Turning a blind eye or switching off the morals for 2 minutes is easier than many think. And it's perfectly natural to do so, even for holiday goers.

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#38 craig

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 02:32 PM

Welcome to the grey world of uw photography. To most, teasing a mimic by tapping on the burrow to get it to look is ok. But then for some, sticking a rod under it (without touching it) or putting food out to lure it out is already manipulation but others don't think so. Well to use a Clinton analogy, oral sex isn't sex to me.

I don't find teasing an octopus to be a grey area but I've never supported to the "no manipulation" approach. :P I realize others do but I oppose those views. I also understand I've been branded a reef-destroyer because I carry a pointer. No matter...

I'm not sure what the difference between guidelines and rules are when those who offer them have no power to enforce. Locals frequently benefit from the guidance of those experienced on how to sustain the health of the reefs. I think that's a lot different from "10 commandments". I agree that foreign managers can help greatly with that, and I believe that's far more appropriate than photographers doing it. Experienced managers can help make a resort or liveaboard a great experience in many ways, only one if which is striking a good balance on underwater policy.

Paul posted some excellent recommendations on another thread here recently. I think people respond much better to be helped in their understanding than they do to being told how it will be done.
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#39 hoovermd

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 03:10 PM

The "Lembeh sticks" are used to anchor into the sand so as not to silt up the bottom.

If more folks would use them, I would be happier.
Nothing pisses me off more than waiting patiently for the non-camera folks to look at the critter only to see them silt up the bottom on their way out...
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#40 Drew

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 01:00 AM

Well Mark from my experience, I've noticed it's the fins that cause the problems. It's technique (non-frog kickers) that cause sand storms. It's very easy not to silt up in much even if you're lying on it. Just hold your breath while remaining still until you get high enough to FROG Kick out of the way. Oh and not crawl kick once you turn away because you think you are safe. :P It is a lot more about body control and knowing where your dangly appendages are.

Craig, speaking of the stratification of people from normal to pros, even operators make that distinction as a courtesy to the pros. Airlines and other services all give professionals certain leeway. But then again, a pro like Alex only travels with 1 or 2 housings, while a buddy of mine, who has never sold a picture in his life, carries 3 housings and 3 bodies as backup on long trips. Even someone like yourself, with your legendary lighting system (Gary still talks about your setup), looks professional enough that if nothing it gets you conversations with strangers about your rig.
I think as the market matures and the lines between professionals and amateurs meld, hopefully there'll be a change in attitudes whereby everybody gets treated equally.

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