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Photographer Ethics

To feed or not feed!  

59 members have voted

  1. 1. Should divers feed frogfish to get better photos?

    • Yes
      3
    • No
      56


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Hi All,

 

I would like to ask for the group consensus on uw photography ethics. Over the last year we have seen rather a few frogfish with grossly distended bellies and guides continuing to feed them, which has led to some discussion amongst the operators about the feeding of animals in the Lembeh Straits and what to do about it. As operators most of us are against this practice as we feel our frogfish are special enough on their own merit. I would like to ask what photographers think. Do you see value in a picture of a grossly overfed fish? Is video of a stunned sand diver being eaten by something of any value?

 

Some of the arguments for feeding (from guides) have been the following:

 

We disturb the animals for so much of their day, so they don't have time to hunt properly, so giving them a little gift is a fair compensation

Frogfish cant overfeed anyway - they'll stop when they are full..

Its really cool to watch

The guests always tell us to do it

No-One has ever complained

 

Arguments against feeding have been the following:

 

It's not natural

The Frogfish *could* die

Sacrificing a smaller fish isnt really very fair!

Some guests really hate it

 

We have been talking with our guides over the last year (as have many other resorts) and telling them that it's not a good thing to do. But as you can see from the above there is still some demand for this type of scenario. I have seen it and done it as a guide before, but i think a line has to be drawn somewhere and it happening every day is not acceptable, so it should be stopped.

 

As a responsible operator, i feel that we have made significant steps in reducing this behaviour in our resort - but would like to ask that people visiting Lembeh with us or anyone else let their guides know how they feel about this practise (hopefully telling them not to do it rather than encouraging them! :) ).

 

Disclaimer - I am posting here as a wetpixeller, not a business. I am also not naive enough to believe that my guides don't do it when we're not looking... That's why i'm posting here - we hope that together the people who love Lembeh can help keep it great :D. Also, this is not to say that all sequences of animals feeding in Lembeh are fake, it does happen naturally quite often, especially here as the critters are so used to divers.

 

I am sure most people will be against this, but if someone is for it, please dont lynch them! It would be interesting to hear both sides.

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Great thread, Simon.

 

One thing that photographers should consider is that photos taken with live bait are banned in most nature photo competitions. But would anyone declare this in their frogfish photos taken in this way?

 

I've seen this (not that often) on dives (particularly at night) in Lembeh and never had a strong negative reaction to it. Although I don't usually stay and watch. Although in all honesty this is probably more to do with the fact it is not really going to yield still images, unless the fish is too big to be swallowed in one go.

 

Alex

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It is all a case of degree. I do think there is a big difference from dead to live bait. Otherwise you could say the same with feeding seeds to the birds in your garden to take pictures of them.

Most shark feeds use fish left overs, fish that were already caught and killed for human consumption. Of course, if you spear a fish so you can immediately use it as dead bait - I don't see a lot of difference from live baiting. And all baiting has an impact, though.

 

Alex

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I guess it (as well) depend on "where"/"how far"/"how close" you position yourself. If you are a bit far (as point of view), the only thing you will care about will be using endangered species or abuses in amount. if you get closer (personnal, feelings, etc...) then you will start to care about individuals, fish or not.

 

Same for human : from the point of view of a entity excluded from the system, the death of a human life is something benefic (as almost every living human have a negative impact on the planet) you are happy about. Let the same entity get close to someone and love him/her, and the same death of the same person will the be end of the world.

 

But, I guess we all agree on one point : the less you disturb the better it is.

But then, can you make very good documentaries about sharks with no feeding/chuming? the same documentaries that will make so many people sign petition, get involved, stop eating sharks or other seafood.

 

So, to me, the first step to this discussion is : where is your point of view (or where ARE). Which point of view do you think is the most logical to have. And if you have it for fish, should you not have it for human? is it fair to feed/be fed on other ways than acutally hunting? :) Ok I'm going too far !

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In the camp of "the less we disturb the better". If feeding is really to help keep the creatures from going hungry due to human influences....But the devil is in the details, who is to judge, what kind of "human influence"? I have become very uncomfortable with ops using food to "pose" creatures.

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From the point of view of someone who goes to Lembeh every year. I found the feeding fascinating the first time i saw it while with KBR in 2008 after a Dive competition where Simon was a judge. Still shots of the feeding behaviour were impossible the best you could hope for was a tail in the mouth of the frogfish. My last couple of trips to NAD, Bastianos, Cocotinos (Manado) and La Rascasse (Manado), I tried video with a compact camera but the sequence is just not very natural although i've seen really clever attempts to disguise the fact that the 'bait' was stunned.

 

Besides frogfish, i've seen over the years the guides feeding Rhinopias, flamboyant cuttlefish, mantis shrimp. Butttt.... the most rewarding stills and video sequences are still natural behaviour. A case in point was my trip to NAD in june when i found myself alone with a hunting Flamboyant cuttlefish and followed it for a good 5-10 min and was rewarded with video sequences of the cuttlefish striking twice.

 

So maybe besides educating the guides, the guest can also be educated in the sense that shots will always be the best when they are natural?

Edited by howeikwok

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Anyone consider the fact that fish will not if they are not hungry.

And if they are, they are going to eat some one weather a guide herds a bait fish in front of it or not.

 

Probably should debate some thing significantly more invasive: do divers shadows inhibit coral growth!

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I voted "No" as has everyone else (at the time I voted). I much prefer to watch (and, if I'm lucky, photograph) natural behaviour. I am often rewarded on dives around Sydney with feeding cuttlefish which is always a huge thrill for me. I even got to watch a (naturally) feeding flamboyant cuttlefish at Kapalai last month.

 

By the way, by "frogfish" do you mean anglerfish (Antennariidae - which are often called frogfish)? There is different family of fish, Batrachoididae, also called frogfish.

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Only been to Lembeh 3xs, twice to KBR and once to Kasawari and have never witnessed anyone feeding any of the marine life. I do think that there is a big difference between shark feeds and the feeding of Frog Fish and smaller marine life. Many years ago there seemed to have been a fad of some divers taking down Cheeze Whiz to feed fish. I never saw it done but I didn't approve of it then, nor now.

Steve

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Thanks for the responses everyone. ATJ - Yes, Anglerfish.

 

It's a nice gauge for us to use when chatting to the guides... only 10% of people were interested in this behaviour.

 

Cheers,

 

Simon

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It's always the minority that keeps certain things going Simon. :)

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I know most of you agree with me but this topic made me want to rant.

 

Personally if my guide starting feeding a frogfish I would be furious, as divers we have a responsibility to try and be as unobtrusive as possible and try to not effect the natural order of things in anyway, why people think its ok to feed fish I will never understand. Is it normal to go on a safari in Africa and feed the lions? so then why is it OK to start a feeding frenzy with sharks? If you have ever been diving in Guam then you will see how horribly fish feeding affects the natural behavior of fish, they stop eating their natural prey and rely completely on the dive guides and tourists, which in turn has all sorts of negative impacts on the local eco system, its so bad in some spots that on your dive or snorkel you start getting attacked by harmless chubs and blue tangs if you dont have food for them because they have become so reliant on the japanese tourists and dive guides that like to feed the fish, I am not a scientist but you do not need to be one to see that it is negatively affecting the natural behavior of these animals. Obviously Guam is an extreme case but my point is that all fish feeding is unacceptable and we should tell our dive guides and operators how we feel. One dive guide in Guam had his finger bitten of by a Moray when he was feeding it a hot dog, i really don't feel sorry for him!

 

If there is enough diving happening in Lembeh that the guides feel they are starving the poor frogfish to death by constantly invading their space then maybe the marine park should be enforcing some limit of how many times a certain site can be dived a day, the answer is not to start feeding them.

 

Fontaine

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With ref to Autopsea's point on 'would you get as good documentaries?' I think that Frozen planet is a good bit of proof that you would. Sure it would take a lot more time and the old adage of time being money is obviously the main perk of it.

 

The problem is if someone were to just do it once then i am sure it is fine but when has that ever been the case. The sad fact is that humans are just too arrogant and too darn impatient and want it all.. the pressure is passed on to the dive operators who feel the obligation to 'guarantee' shark sightings and other things and if they don't the competition will. Hell, it is a never ending circle. Personally i think it is wrong as it does start to change entire feeding patterns and do believe that it can lead to more risk for the divers as the various species loose the fear of humans and start to me more expectant. It also makes the fish so vulnerable to local fishermen that poach in reserves etc. that they never end up being around for that long and so can lead to a whole load of juveniles never reaching the age to mate of the end result of that one is... well..

 

We really need to pay attention to the people who have actually spent time studying it but then most vitally actually have the moral back bone to follow the advice given, even if the operator next door continues. There needs to be some sort of environmental independent rating that dive operators can get that testify that they adhear to certain standards and then we have to keep our fingers crossed and hope the customers are not all completely selfish and choose to vote with who they give their custom too... Darn long shot i know!

 

But the tittle was 'Photographer ethics' and there have been many posts on that one.. seeing photographers in photo comps squashing nudi's so others can shoot them and many other antics.

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I just posted a rant I wrote a few years ago in "Crazy Dive Stories" titled "Dear PADI", it talks about my fish feeding experiences in Guam in detail and the other ridiculous antics which happen on a daily basis, check it out!

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On a dive trip recently to Lembeh, i was on a night dive alone with my guide. For the first 10 minutes i could not fathom what my guide was trying to do. He was busy looking for something in the sand and suddenly caught something. It was a tiny fish. He shoved the fish into his metal stick and then took me to an orange frogfish. He tried feeding the fish but it was kinda spooked. I told him to forget it and he realized i was not interested. Post this all went smoothly.

 

My question is, obviously there were people before me who were pleased with this act and probably gave him a better tip ? I could see that his only intention was to please the diver in the hope of a better tip. I don't really blame him for this, but do think the divers who encouraged these kind of practices are at fault. I am sure if the dive resorts discouraged this along with divers..this could be stopped. There is no doubt in my mind that one should discourage this. I have also seen on another dive, another guide proudly opening his palm and putting two harlequin shrimps on a rock. Wonder where he got each from ?

 

So are the guides to blame, or the divers who encourage this ???

 

Cheers,

 

Diggy

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On a dive trip recently to Lembeh, i was on a night dive alone with my guide. For the first 10 minutes i could not fathom what my guide was trying to do. He was busy looking for something in the sand and suddenly caught something. It was a tiny fish. He shoved the fish into his metal stick and then took me to an orange frogfish. He tried feeding the fish but it was kinda spooked. I told him to forget it and he realized i was not interested. Post this all went smoothly.

 

My question is, obviously there were people before me who were pleased with this act and probably gave him a better tip ? I could see that his only intention was to please the diver in the hope of a better tip. I don't really blame him for this, but do think the divers who encouraged these kind of practices are at fault. I am sure if the dive resorts discouraged this along with divers..this could be stopped. There is no doubt in my mind that one should discourage this. I have also seen on another dive, another guide proudly opening his palm and putting two harlequin shrimps on a rock. Wonder where he got each from ?

 

So are the guides to blame, or the divers who encourage this ???

 

Cheers,

 

Diggy

 

I think that the instructors who taught them to dive are also largely to blame, when I used to teach diving I always made a big effort to educate my students about the UW world and why touching, feeding etc was bad, and I always put a huge emphasis on proper weighting and buoyancy. If divers are exposed to feeding, bad buoyancy, etc from the get go then they probably have no idea that this kind of behavior is unacceptable to begin with. But yes I certainly dont think its the guides fault (obviously thats circumstantial), many dive destinations are in the third world and its often times every man women and child for themselves, if they see an opportunity to make a bigger tip then I certainly dont blame them for trying to take advantage, it certainly is up to us as divers not to put up with it, its also up to us to tip guides who do a good job!!! and the dive shops need to get together, establish a marine park in the area and create ground rules, this approach works very well and with a few motivated individuals can be done (im not trying to imply that this has not been done in Lembeh, but if it hasnt it should be). Roatan is an extremely good example of how the local dive shops and individuals can get together and make a big difference.

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I am in the do-not-disturb category. We won't even do shark dives.

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expanding the discussion a bit further, how does this differ from a fisherman, sitting on his boat or river bank throwing some bread or bait into the water to bring in the fish? If that is morally acceptable, is taking some bread down on a dive (something that often happens on a dive site here in Gozo) or on a night dive allowing fish to use your torch light to hunt for small prey that might be blinded by the light? This last activity is really common in the red sea where Lion fish often use diver's lights to hunt by, whether the diver intends it to happen or not. Where is the line drawn?

I took the following photograph in Gozo where the bream queue up to be fed and allowing divers to carry a slice of bread gives them an extraordinary experience.

 

Caves-055211.jpg

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Some years ago I researched for an article about fish feeding. It was in response to people alleging that the super-sized Napolean wrasses at Sharm had died through cancer caused by being fed potato cheese and eggs.

I interviewed Dr David Frape, the famous animal nutritionist.

To my surprise, he felt that fish could eat almost anything without any harm coming to them. The thrust of my article changed to that of how fish lost their fear of divers and divers often got frightened because of the close proximity of the fishes!

So don't feed the fishes. You will only encourage them.

Edited by John Bantin

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This is the text of an article that I wrote for UnderwaterPhotography (57) in 2010:

 

 

Sex ‘n’ dogs ‘n’ rock and roll…

… ethics in wildlife photography.

 

by Tim Priest

 

 

Wildscreen is a charity working around the world to promote nature conservation through wildlife photography. Their fifth WildPhotos meeting was held at the Royal Geographical Society in London to coincide with the announcement of the Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010 in October. Several successful photographers, including Hungarian Bence Máté, the overall winner, joined some of the world’s best to share their expertise and celebrate keynote speaker David Doubilet. His images still astound professional photographers who work above the water.

 

Beautiful, sometimes challenging, images made WildPhotos a rewarding experience. The most beautiful, perhaps, Tim Laman’s from Papua New Guinea where he is pursuing the almost unbelievable courtship displays of male birds of paradise, with a little time left over for the reefs of Raja Ampat. The most challenging, David Doubilet’s images of the dolphin slaughter in Taiji.

 

Three themes occupied the speakers: conservation, ethics and technique. The scandal over Jose Luis Rodriguez’s wolf in last year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and images of big cats, taken in a Montana game farm but presented (in the Daily Telegraph, amongst other newspapers) as coming from the wild, have brought into sharp focus a pressing question: how far can you trust an image? What lengths can you go to, to get an image? What does this mean for underwater photographers?

 

The audience at WildPhotos included a wide range, from seasoned (and famous) professionals to photo-club amateurs. A survey of the opinions of some 500 photographers was interesting, perhaps even enlightening:

 

95% would put out food to attract birds, and 70% would put out bait for predatory animals… but only 20% would consider live bait.

 

90% would photograph a tame animal, but only 70% would go to a zoo, and a mere 10% would shoot images in a game farm. 90% said that such images would have to include a caption making it explicit that they were not taken in the wild.

 

80% would remove elements such as distracting stalks of grass when editing an image, but only 5% would add visual elements. Most revealing, only 30% felt that this should be revealed to the viewer.

 

Mark Carwardine, zoologist, author, TV presenter (Last Chance to See) and Chairman of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, identified three areas of controversy: the use of live bait, the use of animals that have become used to humans, and the digital manipulation of images.

 

Live bait: a lively debate. No-one was terribly concerned about mealworms being used to attract birds, but mice to attract owls was a species too far (for Europeans, at least). There was more concern about the impact of feeding on the behaviour of individual animals and on the ecosystem around them, potentially disrupting the food web and making top predators dependent on naturalists’ hand-outs. This lead to thinking about the way in which animals can get used to humans, habituated to human presence by frequent contact, becoming in turn easier to photograph but no longer representative of the wild species.

 

Terrestrial wildlife photographers, in the main, see the impact of feeding and human interaction as bad things. Klaus Nigge, an eminent German photographer, artist and biologist, has a philosophy of “slow photography”, where prolonged research and familiarity with his target species combines with the use of technology and creative camouflage (he used a pelican-shaped tent in the Florida wetlands) to approach undisturbed animals after months or even years of preparation. Terrestrial photographers typically use hides (blinds in the USA) and telephoto lenses, options that are difficult in the underwater environment. We use natural cover, but nevertheless have to approach our subjects quite closely; the natural sensitivity of marine creatures to vibration and noise suggests the use of rebreathers as a kind of auditory camouflage, but it’s not yet widespread. Worst of all, we don’t have the time underwater to practice slow photography; even with repeated dives there is an opportunistic side to underwater photography, a moment when the image is in front of the lens, a moment that may not come again during the dive and perhaps not on repeated dives.

 

Shark feeding has much in common with game farming: the natural behaviour of the sharks is changed by human design, creating a group of sharks that can be relied on to perform in front of tourist divers. Shark baiting, using a scent trail, has been suggested as way of preserving normal behaviour, but it’s pretty clear that the sharks’ behaviour is changed, if only insofar as they become more willing to approach divers. Are they still truly “wild”? The sharks’ interaction with divers is much less predictable, their curiosity natural to a predator, but the encounter is still, in a sense, artificial.

 

If images of sharks promote shark conservation, do they need to be taken in truly wild circumstances? Conservation photographers such as Florian Schulz, who recently found huge numbers of devil rays congregating in Baja California when studying animal migrations, and Italian Stefano Unterthiner, who revealed his professional secrets to WildPhotos (his “Plan B”: his wife takes charge!), show that they can work with minimal behavioral, environmental and ecological impact. Can that practice be emulated underwater? A code of conduct, as proposed by Martin Edge in The Underwater Photographer, is a start. Does the end justify misrepresenting the means? A consensus was that it doesn’t. A further question: should we document the plastic rubbish and filth that intrudes into the water? Dead and dying animals? Does conservation photography have a duty to record the downside as well as the beauty and terror of the natural world?

 

Dutch photographer and publisher Danny Ellinger was amongst the first to use digital cameras in natural history photography when he took an expedition to the remote island of Aldabra, home of giant tortoises. He believes that the essence of photography is communication, not documentation. He was echoed by Joe Cornish, based in Yorkshire and devoted to the coastlines and mountains of Britain. Although he has used large format digital capture, his love is an Ebony 5x4in field camera which, he says, is easier to use than digital (well, he is used to seeing the world upside down!). Joe describes landscape photography as a transcription of the landscape, not a description: it is an artist’s interpretation. The theme of photography as transformation was taken further by Karen Glaser, an American who accepts the limitations of ambient light photography with Nikonos V cameras in deep water and in the murky water of the Everglades National Park and has exaggerated those limitations in her prints, mysteriously turning what many of us would throw away into evocative images of sharks in Cocos and swamps in Florida. Sandra Bartocha, a respected German photographer, has adopted an even more abstract style, rendering leaves and flowers as stripes and spots of glowing colour and leaving little or none of each image in focus. If this degree of abstraction works, and it does, why is “reality” still a touchstone of natural history photography? We know that images are altered, even distorted, by the choice of lens, by film or by white balance, by exposure and by the optics of being underwater. Why, then, has digital manipulation been “outlawed” in a way that making prints from negatives and transparencies never was?

 

Photojournalist Nick Cobbing has been documenting research into global warming in the Arctic, his prize-winning images presented as a high-fidelity record of the melting Arctic ice and of scientists at work. Nevertheless, his images are highly selective and he stresses the importance of the photographer working to the direction of his editor. It is worth noting that Kathy Moran, the senior editor for natural history projects at National Geographic magazine, made a slightly confusing contribution to the discussion at WildPhotos. She expressed a strong preference for images created in the camera, without further digital manipulation, whilst also supporting roles for both artistic interpretation and photojournalism or photorealism. Perhaps more important was her insistence on real behaviour and on a record of the context in which a photograph was taken.

 

Mark Carwardine presented four principles as guidance:

 

• The welfare of animals and plants and the care of the environment override any photographic aim.

• Live bait and any bait that changes the behaviour of animals is not to be used.

• Photographers must be honest in declaring the situation in which a photograph is taken.

• Photographs should never be manipulated to misrepresent the behaviour and ecology of the subject.

 

Scientists can’t publish if they don’t demonstrate that they have followed ethical research practices. What would happen if photographs were only published if photographers could show that they have followed these guidelines? How much distortion of the image, how much manipulation remains honest?

 

Almost everyone at Wildphotos had traveled a lot, seeking out rare or special things to photograph. A lot of them were worried about the environmental impact of traveling around the world, about CO2 and energy. Planes and boats and jeeps criss-cross continents carrying photographers and their excess baggage. There is a common mistrust of carbon offsetting schemes. Should we be traveling so much?

 

French photographer Laurent Geslin has worked with refugees in Senegal, but more recently has been working with foxes and urban wildlife nearer home, in London and Paris. Kai Fagerström is a prize-winner in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition with images of raccoon dogs, badgers and the other animals that occupy abandoned buildings at home in Finland. Should we devote more effort to our native marine life?

 

Having written that, I should report that David Doubilet is still traveling the world in search of new images and inventing new techniques. With the aid of What kind of a mark should we make?

 

 

Wildscreen are seeking films and photos representing the world’s most endangered species, hoping to promote nature conservation through presenting the best images available: www.arkive.org/get-involved

 

 

 

Tim

 

:)

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