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Should the Hidden Remain Unseen?


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#1 JimSwims

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 12:33 AM

Hi Folks,
I recently went searching for a particular species of Anglerfish(Frogfish) which is highly secretive by nature and is usually only found
under rocks or ledges. As a rule my attitude with my Underwater Photography and critter interactions is one of 'do no harm' but with this particular
species to be able to see it I have to interfere with it's habitat. Even though I took great care when looking for the fish and put things back as they
were I wonder if others would find it acceptable. Of course if everyone followed my lead any potential damage would be magnified and sustained. Also
some others may not be as gentle as I was myself.

I am left with mixed emotions, on one side I feel excited and happy to have observed and captured images of an amazing creature but am left also
pondering whether it is justifiable to go looking for it in the first place

To clarify the species is the Prickly Anglerfish, Echinophryne crassispina, found only on the Southern Australian coastline. Their habitat is Rocky Reef,
consisting of rocks and weed on a sandy/rocky substrate at depths of 5-18metres.

I do understand this may provoke some extreme reactions but I do still wish to see this discussed with my piers.



Cheers,
Jim.

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#2 davichin

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 02:00 AM

I personally would not do it. I understand you are probably not going to harm anything etc... but I think that kind of photography has less or no value as wildlife photography and discredits the photog in a way that next time, when you find something special by luck, people could think: "...he probably to modified the subject to get that pic..." etc...

Where we live, we have a home dive that we do around 100 times a year and some people (including first timers on the dive) have seen some critters that we are yet waiting to see once. One example is the bumblebee shrimp, that lives usually under seaurchins. Would it be right for me to go and pickup every single urchin until I find the BBshrimp just for the "pleasure" of taking a pic of it? I donīt think so, I prefer to wait for whenever my time comes to see it by nature.

I understand that biologistīs work and places like Lembeh, where critter diving is a sustainable source of income for local people, are different and I support both.
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#3 Scubamoose

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 02:14 AM

I'm with David on this one.

If You would photograph the fish for a scientific purpose etc. - it would be OK I guess. For You'r own personal interest - no. Like David mentioned - the photograph would have no value to me, as it is more or less faked situation. Even tough if everyone else will not see or know that - I still know.

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#4 scorpio_fish

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 03:17 AM

I'm OK with it.
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#5 yahsemtough

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 05:10 AM

I am with David more on this. I fell if it is meant to happen it will happen. What I mean is if you are supposed to have the encounter and capture the image you will get it at some time. If not then carry on as there may be something bigger and better waiting around the corner. IMHO

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#6 NWDiver

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 06:45 AM

One more for scientific purpose only. But from your post it is clear you know this is best kept from the general public.

#7 tdpriest

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 03:05 PM

Sorry, but definitely not: a shot out of habitat is no more useful, scientifically, than a sketch or a pickled specimen. If the species is known, it's not neccessary: so, who was your image for?

Tim

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#8 BrendanS

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 07:04 PM

James, as you know I am Not O.K. with this type of behaviour.
I have dived with you on numerous occasions and have seen the respect with which you treat our treasured dive sites. But this fish was under the rock for a reason. In order to get the image you have put a rare and vunerable creature out in the open at the mercy of it's predators.
You have set an example, and as you say, others may not be so carring of which there is already evidence i.e Brian Mayes and the octopus with eggs that he photographed under the sign at this very site, when he returned later he found the the sign upturned and the eggs eaten.
This site in particular is very rich in it's biodiversity and home to an emourmous amount of life that seeks shelter under these rocks.
Surely as these rocks are turned many other creatures are left vunerable or crushed in the process ?

A very bad practise that is unfortunately becoming common here in Melbourne.

Edited by BrendanS, 10 April 2010 - 07:20 PM.


#9 Aqua_soul

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 10:21 PM

I vote is also defiantly not. Further I fail to see why the green light should be given to scientist. So many bad things are being done under the scientific mantel. Even many of the honest studies, after years of killing and dissecting the specie they are studying have learned relatively little. I think if all scientific research efforts are to be put into studying human behaviour and how we can better in habitants, that we will be far better of living in harmony with our planet.

#10 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 10:33 PM

I've been lucky enough to dive with quite a few of the posters on this thread and those who I have I know are people with the upmost respect for their subjects. I think the instincts/morality you follow is spot on, which is part of the reason why I enjoy diving with you. I know Jim, Todd and David have never met each other - but I know that you would all enjoy diving together too.

But I also know from my travels and conversations that there are a small number of underwater photographers out there who always put the shot first. Move every subject that they can, poke it with their poker etc. And I know that they smile to themselves when threads like this come up on Wetpixel. Very sadly.

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#11 doug.deep

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Posted 11 April 2010 - 12:37 AM

Jim,

Good on you for posting this. Your honesty about your diving behaviour - and your concern about the consequences of your behaviour - are highly admirable.

Your post makes me wonder just how much thought divers generally give to the consequences of their actions, and the extent to which they may try to minimise the harm they cause...

The biggest threat by far to the marine environment is global warming. And yet I wonder how many divers pause to consider how much their diving activities contribute to this problem. Jetting halfway around the world to spend a couple of weeks aboard a diesel-powered liveaboard is an activity that has a huge ecological footprint, and that's before you even begin to think about the diving and photographic equipment involved. Obviously not every diver is so extravagant, but whichever way you look at it, recreational diving and u/w photography are prime examples of the kinds of consumer activities, pursued by a priveleged minority, that continue to drive global warming and its consequences.

Every one of us that enjoys and loves our fragile marine environment should acknowledge and take responsibility for the consequences of our diving lifestyle. Taking care not to do direct harm to the marine habitats we visit is clearly important, but other less direct means of harm minimisation need also be considered - calculating the carbon footprint of our diving activities and balancing our ecological account by purchasing carbon offsets may be a good place to start.

Doug

Edited by doug.deep, 11 April 2010 - 12:39 AM.


#12 Pfuller

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Posted 11 April 2010 - 07:41 PM

We mustn't kid ourselves here. Our impact underwater is significant no matter what we do. Just our presence is enough to change animal behaviours, and when we 'focus' on a target species, there will be other species that will also turn their focus to that target. This is especially dangerous when we turn our attention to critters that use camoflage to blend into its environment that would usually go unnoticed. In fact, a critter might be safer if we find it under a rock and then gently cover it up again, than a critter thats out in the open and being photographed with no protection when the photographer leaves. (Not that i condone rock turning..i have done it twice and as careful as i was replacing the rocks, i felt like i was squashing things and disturbing homes!).

I think as photographers we ARE scientific researchers and we have an obligation to share images because they have educational value. I'd love to see a well designed database were we can post all images mapped to locations so they can be used to aid in decision making for protection and correct management of areas of significance. And also to provide awareness to the general public about what actually exists out there.

If a seemly barren environment had critters that only lived under rocks and never ventured out, then the ecological value might be undervalued and earmarked for dredging for a shipping channel etc. Again, not a valid reason to disturb the environment, but it can have benefits if the results are directed correctly.

Conservation and Technology have a long way to go, and photographers can help bridge the gap, but it must be integrated with agencies that actually guide decision making. We also need to be mindful of our own actions, but the well considered hand of a conversational diver may have benefits over the indescriminate excavationing equipment of a dredger, or scallop harvester.

#13 Otara

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Posted 11 April 2010 - 08:31 PM

Thats an interesting point Doug given Jim is a local diver, total impact wise he's probably well ahead. He's also someone I'd say is pretty environmentally/ethically focussed, hence him asking this question in the first place.

The site I know of where they can be is not exactly a fragile or pristine site, some large swells can run through there. Rocks get overturned and moved there on a regular basis unless you're talking rather large rocks indeed. Its also a pier with 2323432 fishoes above, the area is littered with fishing tackle, its a major diving training site that gets fairly thrashed, etc etc. The place I saw one shown to me once was under the pier just past the bicycle and road sign, a fair way past most of the road tires and the now new pylons where tons of rock and sand were moved.

But I still feel uncomfortable with it. The time I did it after watching someone else find one by doing it, fish were rushing in to eat the shrimps etc, making it pretty obvious its happening all the time with divers anyhow, but also making it pretty hard to say you're not really having an effect. Of course similar happens with night dives too....

I guess if nothing else at least more people know now from this thread if they see a picture of one of these creatures is 99% likely you know what happened for it to occur, and can make their own judgements about the pictures value as a result.

#14 Paul Kay

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 01:29 AM

Further I fail to see why the green light should be given to scientist. So many bad things are being done under the scientific mantel. Even many of the honest studies, after years of killing and dissecting the specie they are studying have learned relatively little. I think if all scientific research efforts are to be put into studying human behaviour and how we can better in habitants, that we will be far better of living in harmony with our planet.

Many (government) decisions which affect the marine environment are taken on the basis of scientific research - some supplied by volunteer divers. This information has got to be robust and whilst I have been working on trying to show scientists that underwater photography can actually be more effective than even taking specimens in some circumstances, there is an absolute requirement for usable, highly accurate data when decision making is undertaken. And practices which are wholly unacceptable on land remain the norm underwater - even by scientists. Which is why it is important to show people imagery of the marine environment (I was asked the other day whether a turtle shot was actually a large tortoise - this is depressing). Taking pictures which involve causing damage to the marine environment is a moral question and whether you can justify it depends on you and why you are taking them. To put this in perspective though, the fishing boats of Rockall in the NE Atlantic lose 00s of 000s of km of netting which probably has a more significant effect on the marine environment than diving does. Studying human behaviour is not as effective as trying to change it. Changing it means showing people that the marine environment is worth retaining in good conditions which means showing them photos which.......
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#15 tdpriest

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 01:44 AM

... I fail to see why the green light should be given to scientist...


Well, I agree that the reasons for scientists' actions can be poor (professional advancement, dissing colleagues, supporting politicians...), but the nature of a lot of good science, even ecology, is reductive and analytical. There is often a trade-off between limited harm from research and overall benefit: for instance catching fish to determine population structure, breeding condition and so on in order to set sustainable limits to fisheries (sadly, usually then modified into irrelevance by political wheeler-dealing).

Jim's original post was brave, and, even tho' I disagree with taking the shot, there may be circumstances in which it is justified: making a documented case for establishing a marine reserve, for example.

Tim

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#16 JimSwims

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 04:06 AM

In the bigger picture I really don't think photographers have much relative impact on our ecosystems but then I have never dived Overseas to see areas that where formally pristine but now have signs of
traffic and abuse. Certainly though as Peter pointed out solitary subjects we focus on may expose them to extra predatory attention. We are all aware of the power of images to bring about awareness of
our natural world and then desire to protect. I personally make the choice to attempt to keep my impact to a minimum and have great fascination and respect for our marine heritage. In my personal quest to
see something incredibly cryptic I have erred and crossed my own boundaries to reveal it. To be honest I wasn't comfortable doing it and knew on one level I was engaging in disrespectful/potentially
harmful behaviour but my personal desire to see and observe the fish temporarily blinded me. It was on reflection of my actions I decided to seek feedback from my UWP piers. As I mentioned I have not had
the fortune to visit far flung places and can only comment on my local surrounds. A recent event made me reconsider also my previous procedure of listing location of images.
In November last year some buddies and myself had the rare privilege of seeing two Tasselled Anglerfish sitting on two clutches of eggs beside each other on a pylon. I encouraged my buddies to keep the
info to themselves until the eggs were safely hatched. We spent the next six weeks returning regularly to check on their progress. After about 4 weeks we were alarmed to find one of the pair and its clutch
of eggs had disappeared. I originally assumed it had been poached but then the fish turned up again about a week and half later. Over the six week period whenever we observed them they were always
in exactly the same spot and position. I noticed on two occasions that large amounts of weeds that were covering them had disappeared. I wonder if this may have caused the 2nd T'anglers period of
absence as their eggs are attached in sticky mass to the weed and pylon. If someone or something had removed the weed the eggs may have gone with it which would certainly have unsettled and perhaps
unseated the T'angler mother. Over the six week period we strived to be very careful as we observed the nesting fish. It is quite possible that some photographers, like myself with the Prickly Anglerfish,
couldn't resist the temptation to change the surrounds to suit their image making desires and removed weeds and encouraged fish to move into fetching positions. Either that or some fisherman had caused
the damage
trying to disentangle their line.

I would like to think I am learning all the time and that this momentary lapse in reason will be incorporated into my own understanding and growth. This has helped to further galvanize my own beliefs
and I appreciate folks for their opinions and feedback. I made the decision to share this as I know the feedback will be as invaluable to others as it is me. I understand though that it is a matter of personal
code and requires personal understanding and awareness. In no way do I want to get dogmatic about these matters but am happy to be pulled up on such matters and in turn share my awareness of them.


With Respect,
Jim.


Edited by JimSwims, 12 April 2010 - 04:12 AM.

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#17 bax737

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 05:01 PM

this is a recent (as in last night ) post from here in WA - you be the judge

http://www.wadivers....i...?f=5&t=4267


#18 Gunther

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 08:50 PM

Sometimes it is better to take the memory then the shot!
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#19 petern

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 09:04 PM

Congrats to Jim for raising this question on disturbing the environment, not one of us who take photos can say that we have never disturb marine life during our dives. Fin tips , knees, elbows, contents gauges ( even if they are in BC's) and bubbles under ledges and overhangs. Just take pigmy seahorses as an example even with the utmost care damage still gets done to acheive the image, how many shots do you see with the gorgonian with its polyps fully extended?
A lot of positive come from photographing rare species, whole areas become declared marine reserves due to the efforts of photographers. Dont feel bad Jim I would say we need more people like yourself in the water.

#20 tangler

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 01:49 AM

Hi Jim.

As I've dived with you numerous times I know first-hand how careful and respectful you are of the marine life and it's habitat that you photograph. However I believe it's your images that convey this the best. For instance many u/w photos I see are quite stunning, but I'm sometimes left with the feeling that the creatures and scenery contained therein are secondary to the photographer's ambition and ego. In your photos by contrast, the star is always the marine life, and what always comes through for me is simply a love of that life. Of course they are always beautifully crafted photos too.

With regard to the rock flipping, while I'd be very concerned if this became a common practice, as you, I, and most other Melbourne divers know, ignorance about the incredible diversity and beauty of the marine life of Port Phillip Bay is almost total, which I think accounts in large part for how the catastrophic dredging project proceeded with minimal public opposition. So on balance I think it is important that there are some photos out there in the public domain of the prickly anglerfish. People just have to know such things are down there, otherwise they will not care enough to fight for The Bay the next time it's threatened.

Also, for the benefit of non-locals, the exact location where the "prangler" photo was taken was absolutely hammered by a severe storm in recent times, eroding significant amounts of Portsea beach, damaging the pier, and giving the bottom a good thrashing. That is the environment the fish has evolved to cope with. What really worries me is pollution, climate change, and certain fishing practices.

Cheers,

Dave.

P.S. This is my first post here so a big Hi to everyone! Some of you may better recognise me as "funkyfoton" on flickr.