Research: Landscape & Wildlife – Contemporary Issues/debates

To further refine my knowledge of potential approaches to both landscape and wildlife subjects, I started to consider various contemporary issues and debates in news stories relating to the natural world.

The first article I have highlighted, relates to recent pressure upon politician to focus upon environmental issues as means preserving Britain’s heritage and wildlife. Within some of my previous research of this subject, I noted that Natural England had posted an article highlighting various flaws in recent government policies towards environmental concerns. This article featured upon the RSPB’s website, offers a more positive view of the potential developments in conservation. However, the overriding concerns for the ever increasing deterioration of our surrounding land and how drastic changes need to be made in governmental attitudes to ecological issues.

RSPB response to Nick Clegg green speech

Last modified: 07 November 2013

The River Lune
Image: Alex Sarney

Today’s green speech from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg contained welcome commitments on environmental issues – but these must be turned into reality.

That’s the message from RSPB Conservation Director Martin Harper, after the event this morning hosted by the Green Alliance.

Mr Harper said: “It was right that the deputy prime minister put the natural environment back on the political agenda.  It is clear that nature matters to him and his family.  That it is why it is important for Mr Clegg to outline his agenda for protecting and investing in nature.

“Mr Clegg encouraged the environmental movement to continue ‘holding our feet to the fire’ when it comes to pushing for progressive environmental policies from this administration. However he also sought to defend the lobbying bill which could seriously affect our ability to do just that.

“Government does have a role to play so we welcome his commitment to statutory environmental bodies such as Natural England and Environment Agency – but these are bodies that are facing major cuts and are no longer able to speak truth to power.

“The current plan for saving nature is inadequate so we need a political arms race for the best answers to these problems.  Mr Clegg must therefore turn intent into action and we look forward to hearing Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband’s response.”

Another article featured upon RSPB draws highlight to another reoccurring, national issue in relation to wildlife, the impact of farming and agri-business upon deteriorated natural habitats. One of the most avid campaigners of this concept found within the field of natural photography was Fay Godwin, in particular within ‘Our Forbidden Land’. I found that this issue has continued to escalate further, but there is an element of optimism within a recent rise of social awareness in regards to the significance of negative human influence. Within this article, RSPB discusses how various farmers and agri businesses have taken steps to show a vested interest in preserving local wildlife.

Minister urged to give wildlife-friendly farming a future

12 November 2013

Farmers and agri-businesses from across Northern Ireland have lent their support to the RSPB’s campaign calling for DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA to give wildlife-friendly farming a future by transferring vital funds into the Rural Development Programme (RDP), and specifically agri-environment schemes, to ensure that farmers can continue to help threatened wildlife and restore natural habitats.

The farmers and agri-businesses have signed a letter sent to the Minister earlier this week, encouraging her to transfer the maximum rate of funding (15%) from Pillar 1 of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). It is understood that the Minister will make a decision on how much will be transferred before 31 December this year.

John Martin, RSPB NI Senior Conservation Officer commented: “The letter sent to the Minister is quite unique. Almost 70 farmers and agri-businesses are clearly saying that investing in wildlife friendly farming is vital to protect wildlife and habitats, as well as providing a clear and targeted purpose for public money.

“Within Northern Ireland 73 per cent of our countryside is agricultural land and the way in which it is farmed has a massive impact on our wildlife and natural environment. Many farmers are already giving nature a home and this letter to the Minister demonstrates an appetite to continue protecting our natural heritage into the future.”

Jack Kelly, a farmer who signed the letter, added: “As a local farmer I know that I can help restore nature in our countryside – and have been doing so for the past number of years.

“Things have changed dramatically during my time in farming. Species such as the corn bunting and grey partridge used to be regular visitors to our land, now they are a distant memory. I have also seen a sharp decline in butterflies and bees as well as other beneficial insects that help to pollinate and protect my crops.

“I have added my name to the letter to the DARD Minister because I believe that Government should be doing all it can to help protect our wildlife and habitats. I attended an RSPB farm event on 4 November which highlighted how agri-environment schemes are helping to reverse the declines in birds and other wildlife. I recognise that when farmers get help to work their land in a more sustainable way, it is a lifeline for many of our most threatened habitats and species.”

I also came across a story that raised certain ethical issues in the agenda and priorities of natural organisations. For the last decade there has been a great deal of dispute within scientific communities in regards to the spread of tuberculosis via badgers within the UK.  Despite a significant amount of scientific findings and evidence against culling badgers, some which suggest that badger culling could spread the disease further as a result. The decision to go forward with the cull regardless highlights a priority in the interests of farmers and landowners in potential financial losses that could arise through the death of their cattle. This could possibly be further reinforced through a national past time of hunting for sport. This article highlights neglect of Natural England, an organisation I had previously respected for its efforts in encouraging social awareness of environmental issues.

Natural England overruled its adviser to extend badger cull in Gloucestershire

Badger Trust prepares for court action as internal documents show NE acted against advice on bovine TB’s link to cull
theguardian.comWednesday 13 November 2013 16.11 GMT
Group of badgers (Meles meles) foraging at night, in woodland of Devon

A group of badgers (Meles meles) foraging at night in woods. Photograph: NPL/Getty Images

The controversial decision by Natural England to extend the culling ofbadgers in Gloucestershire was narrowly approved against the recommendation of its own top scientific adviser, according to internal documents seen by the Guardian.

At the board meeting, the head of NE’s science advisory committee, Professor David Macdonald, described the view that killing more badgers would lead to better disease control was “not easily reconciled with the evidence”.

The nation’s official wildlife body, granted the extension without seeking independent advice and against Prof Macdonald’s guidance, the minutes of an NE board meeting record.

A legal challenge to abandon the cull is now certain, said the Badger Trust, which successfully ended culling in Wales through court action.

The NE executive who made the final decision to extend the cull, Andrew Wood, told the meeting: “The science was uncertain and did not give a definitive answer. A judgement-based decision had to be made.”

Prof Macdonald, an NE board member and badger expert, told the Guardian: “It’s an appalling dilemma, but the evidence suggests an extension of the culling in Gloucestershire is unlikely to [curb tuberculosis in cattle]. I fear there will be two tragic losers, the farmers who are paying the crippling bill for extending this trial and the badgers whose lives may be lost for little purpose”

Jeff Hayden, a director at the Badger Trust, said: “This government has a feudal attitude to wildlife and feudal attitude to transparency. They have withheld information as long as possible and have still not disclosed other information. We will make the legal challenge, it is just a matter of timing.”

The badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire are intended to test whether shooting free-running badgers at night can kill enough animalsto cut TB infections in cattle. Both failed to kill the minimum 70% required in the six weeks allowed but both were granted extensions by NE. Even after its extension, the Somerset cull still failed to meet its minimum target. Bovine TB has risen in the last decade and led to the slaughter of 28,000 cattle in 2012, which ministers say cost taxpayers £100m.

The NE board meeting on 23 October considered the case for extending the Gloucestershire cull by eight weeks, but four of the nine members expressed severe reservations, particularly on the pivotal advice of the government’s chief veterinary officer (CVO) Nigel Gibbens. Wood said that advice was “the key” to the decision to extend.

During the meeting, the minutes of which have been obtained by the Guardian, MacDonald said: “The CVO’s advice that killing further badgers would lead to better disease control is not easily reconciled with the evidence.” He added it was “hard to understand” how further trials could be licensed following the failure of the initial culls. Other board members agreed that the extension was likely to increase TB infections in cattle, with one noting “independent advice should have been sought”. The minutes record discussion of “the fact that it was difficult to predict what the disease control benefits would be”. In the end, the board voted narrowly to allow Wood to make the decision.

A decade-long project that ended in 2008, called the randomised badger culling trial (RBCT), found that killing over 70% of badgers for several years curbed TB by about 16%. But it concluded that culling under 30% of badgers actually led to an increase in TB infections in cattle, as fleeing badgers spreading TB more widely, an effect called perturbation.

In the first six weeks of the Gloucestershire cull, only 30% of badgers were shot, even after a drastic cut in the badger numbers initially estimated to live in the area. The NE minutes, marked “restricted – in confidence”, reveal that “part of the Gloucestershire culling area had been inaccessible due to protester activity.” In the RBCT, the badger culls were conducted over far shorter periods: 8-11 days to reduce the risk of perturbation.

Gibbens’s advice to NE, based on the RBCT data, was that extending the culling for another eight weeks would reduce TB in cattle. However, a core member of the team that conducted the RBCT, Prof Rosie Woodroffe said: “The chief vet’s advice to carry on culling is based upon a very incomplete view of the available evidence. The targets were set high for a reason – if you don’t get enough badgers, you make things worse.” The scientist who commissioned the RBCT, Lord John Krebs, has called the culls “mindless“.

MacDonald said: “My biggest concern is a higher level issue that transcends the case of badgers, and I am deeply concerned that ‘advice’ from Defra officials should have such a determining effect on the decisions of [Natural England] whose function is independently to evaluate evidence. It is crucial that government should have the benefit of constructive challenge from non-departmental bodies that are sufficiently well-resourced and independent to give the highest calibre of advice.” In September, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg revealed that he had blocked attempts by his Conservative coalition partners to scrap NE.

An NE spokesman said: “There are obviously going to be different individual views expressed during meetings. The executive has granted the cull extensions with the full authority of the board and taking account of the very clear advice of the CVO that this would have net disease control benefits.”

A Defra spokesman said: “NE’s experts carefully considered all the information and recommended the licence to continue culling should be granted. This was in line with the CVO’s advice, which has been backed by the British Veterinary Association. We need to do everything we can to get on top of bovine TB which is spreading across the country and devastating our cattle and dairy industries.”

I came across the next article originally when considering ethical issues relating to zoo photography. As a result, I hadn’t fully considered the wider implications of the ethical issues highlighted throughout other aspects of wildlife photography. It is an excellent piece which educated me a great deal in the wider spectrum of wildlife documentary and how the greatest importance should always be placed upon the preservation of the environment and wildlife being studied. Minimal interaction and disruption should be preferable.

There is also the issues of dishonesty when using captive subjects, staging images or intensive post production manipulation, the result is misinformation and misrepresentation of the truthful reputation of ‘wild’ and ‘natural’ scenes. Due to the intensively competitive market in professional wildlife photography in the digital age, there is a greater sense of pressure to produce remarkable and iconic images to distinguish your work and stand out. The conclusion of this was especially constructive, as it offers a series of guidelines for ethical wildlife photography.

Always photograph animals from a safe and respectful distance.
If an animal shows any sign of stress, move further back or leave altogether.
Be patient and never try to force an animal to do something. Remember that the impact of many people is cumulative: you might be the 100th person that day to yell “Hey moose” while the poor creature is trying to feed or care for its young.
Never encroach on nests or dens during the breeding season.
Treat the habitat with the same regard that you have for the animals themselves.
Respect local cultures and customs when you are working abroad.
Check published recommendations, such as the excellent code produced by the Nature Group of The Royal Photographic Society
Finally, always be honest and truthful when captioning your photos.

Ethics in wildlife photography

Ethics in wildlife photography article spread

You might be surprised to learn that wildlife photography has a dark side.

As the digital revolution opens up a new world of possibilities, Mark Carwardine considers the rights and wrongs of wildlife photography.

You might have thought that wildlife photography would be a pleasant, harmless and harmonious activity. And, in many ways, it is. It certainly gives a great deal of pleasure to millions of people.
But it’s also a hotbed of controversy, arousing some very strong and opposing views about how it should be done. Is digital manipulation acceptable? Is it OK to photograph animals in zoos? What about hiring an animal model that has been trained to pose for photographers? Is camera trapping a viable technique? There are no easy answers, but hopefully this article will provide some food for thought.
Digital manipulation
Photographers have been manipulating their images since the earliest days of their art. The iconic portrait of US President Abraham Lincoln, taken in 1860, is one of the first cases of serious fakery – it’s actually a composite of Lincoln’s head grafted onto someone else’s body.
Even the great landscape photographer Ansel Adams used to work more than a little magic in his traditional darkroom. He was quite open about it and happy for people to compare a straight print of his famous 1941 photo Moonrise, Hernandez with the heavily ‘dodged’ and ‘burned’, high-contrast prints that he exhibited. He wasn’t trying to trick anyone, of course, but the difference between the two was quite extraordinary.
In those days, there was an assumed truth in photography. People genuinely believed that “the camera never lies” and that what they were seeing was an accurate record.
But then, in 1982, National Geographic catapulted photographic manipulation into the headlines. Its designers famously squeezed together two Egyptian pyramids to make the image suitable for the cover.
The ‘squeeze’ caused an uproar but, far from stopping photographic forgeries, it heralded a new era in which manipulating photographs has become almost routine. What’s changed is the advent of digital photography. The technology is so good these days that it’s easier than ever for photographers and art editors to make significant changes to pictures without most people ever knowing. Indeed, it is actively encouraged by the adverts for some digital manipulation software: one memorable slogan tells us to “Spread Lies”.
Does any of this really matter? After all, most of us assume that fashion, advertising and even paparazzi photos are likely to have been doctored in some way. We live in a world where airbrushed celebrities rule.
Well, many of us in the wildlife photography business do care. We believe that there should be a tacit understanding between photographer and viewer that what you see in a picture represents the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Sadly, this isn’t always the case. Some professional photographers will add or remove anything that makes an image more commercial. If they think that a polar bear would look better in a snowstorm, they use computer wizardry to include some falling snow. If two baby gorillas would be better than one, they simply add a second.
What really raises the hackles of most nature photographers is the attempt to pass off heavily manipulated images as genuine. At the very least these photographers could admit that their pictures have been faked by disclosing in the captions that they are digital art and not authentic photographs. But they don’t. The camera itself may never lie but, sadly, some photographers do.
Decency and deception
At this point I ought to stress that creative computer (as opposed to photographic) skills can produce quite beautiful results. And one might also argue that photography is an art, after all, so its aim should be to make pictures as appealing and eye-catching as possible. Nevertheless, lying about images has two serious repercussions.
First, deceitful photographers steal the trust that should be inherent in wildlife images. Once a few cheated photographs have shaken your confidence, you begin to doubt everything you see. In this respect, the culprits do themselves a disservice, too – as far as I’m concerned, all of their images become suspect.
Second, digitally manipulated images raise the bar in wildlife photography to an unnaturally high level. Everyone begins to demand better and better shots based on the artificial ones they’ve seen before. This puts enormous pressure on other photographers to compete, either by slipping into the world of digital manipulation themselves or by pushing their subjects to the limit in a vain attempt to achieve the impossible.
Many experts believe that the answer lies in honest captioning. I agree – but only up to a point. What is the likelihood of mainstream publications telling their readers that a picture isn’t real? It’s certainly something they should be striving for, but they worry that their readers might feel disappointed if they were told that a beautiful image was created largely on the computer rather than in the wild.

So confessing sins in the caption may ease a photographer’s conscience, but it doesn’t solve the fundamental problem.

As nature photographers, we should strive to represent our subjects as faithfully as possible. This means minimal tampering and never trying to misrepresent what we are doing. My own view is that it’s OK to straighten a lopsided horizon or brighten the sky, for example. Just occasionally it might be acceptable to remove a distracting branch or blade of grass – though this does feel like straying into dangerous territory.
How about removing a ring from a bird’s leg? Many photographers believe this to be acceptable, especially professionals who know that images of tagged animals rarely sell. A lot of British red kites have wing tags, for instance, but how often do you see them in photos?
Have all the tags been digitally removed or do people photograph only the kites without tags? I know honest professionals who really do wait until the untagged kites come along, but there are many others who just clone them out in Photoshop. Is it important who does what?
So it’s largely a matter of degree. Most photographers use image-editing software to enhance their photos. I do myself. The point is that we all have to decide which lines we are prepared to cross. And, in making those decisions, we have a responsibility to all of our nature photography colleagues and to everyone who sees our pictures.
Captive subjects
Whether it is right to photograph animals in captivity is another subject that’s guaranteed to ignite heated debate. Even well-travelled pros sometimes work in zoos, because it provides an opportunity to take intimate portraits of shy or endangered animals that are seldom seen in the wild. Surely there’s no harm in it? Well, yes and no.
Some people couldn’t give two hoots how a photograph was taken. They’re not bothered if the photographer spent weeks sleeping rough in a mosquito-infested swamp to get the shot, or merely an afternoon at the local safari park. They’re just interested in the end result: is it a great photo? Many others, meanwhile, still want to believe in the romance of the intrepid photographer.
Either way, I think you can often recognise a zoo animal in a photograph – it’s too fat or out of condition or simply doesn’t display the right ‘jizz’ (the characteristic behaviour of the species). Many captive mammals have facial expressions that just don’t look like those of wild individuals.
Some people choose never to photograph animals unless they are completely wild and free. Partly, this is because they believe that working in a zoo takes the ‘wild’ out of ‘wildlife photography’ – they want nothing less than to photograph a genuinely wild animal in its natural surroundings. But it’s also because they don’t like to support the keeping of animals in captivity.
A much more controversial aspect of photographing captive animals is the use of trained individuals, or models. A tame mountain lion, for example, can be hired for anything from a few hours to several days and moved to a suitable location by truck or helicopter. The photographer takes pictures from a few metres away while the animal is made to run through the snow, jump over a gate or drink from a pool. To all intents and purposes, it will look wild and free – but, of course, it is not.
Advocates of this popular form of nature photography often argue that the animal models are well looked after, if for no other reason than photographers demand healthy and happy-looking subjects. However, I have heard lots of horror stories suggesting that many of the animals are badly mistreated and kept in tiny cages.
Some photographers also maintain that, if it weren’t for animal models, certain rare or elusive species would hardly ever be photographed, and therefore would never be brought to public attention. Siberian tigers are a classic example – there are very few images of them in the wild. The vast majority of Siberian tiger photos feature models or animals that live permanently in captivity.
One could argue that, given enough time and effort, any animal could be photographed in the wild. That’s true to a certain extent, and taking pictures exclusively in the wild is without doubt a noble goal. But do we really want hordes of photographers out there, causing untold disruption and disturbance while they try to get that elusive shot?
Opponents of the use of animal models claim that it’s a lazy form of wildlife photography. Personally, I am against it because the underlying pretence – that the animals are wild and free – is entirely wrong. I also believe that keeping an animal in captivity purely for the benefit of paying photographers is totally unethical.
What’s worse, photographers may hire animal models, pass them off as wild and even concoct elaborate stories about how they spent weeks or months in the field to get their shots. This is unforgivable. Moreover, pretending that captive or restrained animals are wild can have serious credibility consequences for the organisations that publish the images without knowing the truth about how they were made.
There are few straightforward, black-and-white answers to any of these issues. There are no absolute rights and wrongs. But there’s one rule on which most serious wildlife photographers agree – the audience has a right to know whether a picture was taken under controlled conditions or in the wild. Again, it comes down to honesty and truthful captioning (a categorical ‘captive’ should be used to avoid any confusion).

Camera trap photography

A more recent controversy is the use of remotely controlled cameras, or camera traps. The basic concept is quite simple: a camera is set up where an animal is likely to visit and, when it trips a pressure plate or infrared sensor, it takes its own picture.
One of the main concerns about camera trapping is a feeling that if the photographer isn’t there to press the button, it’s cheating. It certainly makes a mockery of the old adage that the only camera setting you need is “f8 and be there”. But ‘being there’ is an impossible dream, or at least a luxury, when it comes to many rare and shy species. And just because the photographer was sipping coffee in his or her tent when the picture was taken doesn’t make it any less ‘real’.
Great camera-trap photos are definitely not the result of simple blind chance. The success rate is amazingly low. The photographer needs to have enough field skills to be able to predict where and when an animal is likely to pass, and how it might trigger the camera shutter, as well as advanced technical know how to make it all happen. Creativity is important, too – the best camera-trap shots are all envisioned in advance and then carefully planned.
True, many of the best camera-trap images have been taken with the considerable financial and technical support of National Geographic, but bear in mind that you have to be a top-notch photographer anyway to get this kind of backing.
Besides, simple camera trap set-ups are on sale for less than the price of a new lens – and their potential is huge. There’s also no doubt that camera trapping can produce some exciting results. It offers a privileged glimpse into the natural world that would otherwise be almost impossible to achieve with traditional photographic techniques, while causing little disturbance to the animals and their habitats.
Individual integrity
In the end, ethical wildlife photography is largely a matter of individual integrity. We should be free to do whatever inspires us creatively, so long as it causes no harm to the animals or plants we are photographing, to other people or to nature photography as a whole.
But it’s more than that. It’s also about a responsibility to the audience – and honesty. Unattributed digital manipulation or passing captive animals off as wild is lying, plain and simple.
Once the honesty has gone – and some days I don’t think we’re all that far from losing it – the power of nature photography has been lost forever.
Using bait to photograph wildlife
Almost everyone has baited wildlife at one time or another – even if it’s merely putting out food on a bird table. But doing so for photography comes with great responsibility, because animals can become habituated to humans and may end up dependent on your artificial food source.
By following these rules, you will reduce your impact on your wild subjects:
  • Provide only organic food that is part of the animals’ natural diet.
  • Be wary of live bait. It is probably OK to offer mealworms to songbirds, but providing mice for birds of prey is a step too far.
  • Try not to leave the bait out too long.
  • Don’t feed large species that are potentially dangerous.
  • Don’t use sounds as bait if they are likely to cause unnecessary stress.
  • Use the waterholes and feeding stations already provided in nature reserves.
  • Stress in the caption that you used bait.
Wildlife photography code of conduct
Some photographers are prepared to do almost anything to get the shot they want, so conservation groups and photography associations have published a number of codes of conduct for wildlife photography. Most of the recommendations are common sense – the welfare of the subject is more important than getting the photo. Here are a few key points to remember:
  • Always photograph animals from a safe and respectful distance.
  • If an animal shows any sign of stress, move further back or leave altogether.
  • Be patient and never try to force an animal to do something. Remember that the impact of many people is cumulative: you might be the 100th person that day to yell “Hey moose” while the poor creature is trying to feed or care for its young.
  • Never encroach on nests or dens during the breeding season.
  • Treat the habitat with the same regard that you have for the animals themselves.
  • Respect local cultures and customs when you are working abroad.
  • Check published recommendations, such as the excellent code produced by the Nature Group of The Royal Photographic Society
  • Finally, always be honest and truthful when captioning your photos.

In addition, I found a direct response to this article which was very recently published also upon discover, which elaborated further upon some the areas discussed previously. What distinguishes this though is that represents a more ambiguous, objective point of view, questioning and reinforcing different aspects of Carwardine’s impassioned opinions upon wildlife photography. One aspect I found particularly relevant was the purpose of the visual work influences the acceptability of post production manipulation and its credibility as a evidential documentation of animal behaviour.

The first question you might ask is: doesn’t it depend largely on what you’re planning to do with your photos?
If a picture of a tiger is intended to illustrate the anatomy and form of the animal – in a children’s textbook, for example, or just to frame at home – does it make any difference where the individual was shot (wild or in a zoo), or whether you removed irrelevant background?

Ethics of wildlife photography – revisited

Wildlife photo ethics debate
Mark Carwardine kicks off the WildPhotos debate about wildlife photography ethics with Chris Packham’s help.
Paul Bloomfield
In October, BBC Wildlife editor Sophie, Wanda (picture researcher) and I went toWildPhotos, a photography symposium organised by Wildscreen.
It was eye-opening, eye-catching and eye-watering in equal measures: to say that I was dazzled by the work and wit of the photographers sharing their wisdom and experiences would be a massive understatement.
And it is work: these people take their art (though not often themselves, and certainly not each other) incredibly seriously.
Among the visual and intellectual treats, the displaying birds of paradise documented by Tim Laman in New Guinea were arguably most memorable, not least because of the extraordinary lengths to which he and his Papuan and Indonesian fixers went to construct hides in the high canopy of the rainforest.
Equally, Charlie Hamilton James fascinated with descriptions of travails with complex flash wiring, Kai Fagerström enchanted with a story-book photo-story of the wild occupants of an abandoned Finnish woodland house (don’t miss the January 2011 issue for his enchanting portfolio), and Bence Máté – overall winner of this year’s Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year – astounded with his determination, ingenuity and talent. Oh, and his photos!
But the session that sticks in my mind was chaired by Mark Carwardine, during which – in a paltry 40 minutes – he chaired a micro-debate on ethical questions of wildlife photography.
It’s a big can of worms – or several cans, really – and the discussion barely scratched the surface of the subject, despite touching on many of the key issues Mark raised in his feature ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ for BBC Wildlife (May 2010).
WildPhotos ethics debateW
ildlife photo ethics debate (© WildPhotos)
You’ll no doubt have strong opinions yourselves: Is baiting with live animals okay – be they bloodworms for birds or mice for owls? Does it harm the subject or devalue the image? Should you photograph captive, trained or habituated animals – and if so, must you always declare that fact? And – the point that most interested me – how much digital manipulation of your photos is acceptable?
Let’s get to the BBC Wildlife ground rules straight up front: we expect photographers to be honest. Full stop.
We expect to be told if the subject is captive (so that we can be equally honest with our readers), trained or from a game farm (we won’t use them) or habituated (we will use them with appropriate captioning), and whether bait has been used.
We also need to know the location and whether the image has been manipulated in any way, even light colour boosting. It’s important to us that our readers can trust what they see.
Anyone who’s entered a photography competition will have come across a wide variety of rules relating to manipulation. Some permit pretty much any cropping, colour adjustment or even digitally removing errant blades of grass. Others proscribe virtually any computer adjustment.
The first question you might ask is: doesn’t it depend largely on what you’re planning to do with your photos?
If a picture of a tiger is intended to illustrate the anatomy and form of the animal – in a children’s textbook, for example, or just to frame at home – does it make any difference where the individual was shot (wild or in a zoo), or whether you removed irrelevant background?
And second: photographers have used lens-mounted filters for decades, to influence colour, light graduation and so on. So why shouldn’t similar adjustments be acceptable when made after the image is captured?
Finally: given that the human eye sees things differently from the camera – colours, depth of field, breadth of view – is manipulation justified if it makes the final image appear more like what you saw with your naked eyes?
And now I’ll step back and watch the fireworks…

For my recent video project, I also started to consider more local environmental issues. One area which proved to be a subject of much discussion in the last few years was Chat Moss. This further reinforced the significance of preserving non-commercial areas of natural interest. A brownfield site containing a localised and diverse ecosystem, inhabited by numerous lifeforms. This like many similar issues strikes a personal interest, an awareness of human interference within both our surroundings and interaction (direct or indirect) with the lifeforms within them.

Chat Moss Peat Extraction: Bog under threat

Continued peat extraction would thwart hopes to revert the site to lowland raised bogland.
Name of project
Chat Moss Peat ExtractionDescribe the site currently, including details of protected or threatened habitat or species
The site is currently 100 ha of bare peat with not a blade of grass or any other vegetation on it, because it has all been removed to allow peat extraction. For that reason it has never been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest although a neighbouring site Astley Moss is designated as a SSSI and also a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the Habitats Directive. Ironically the Chat Moss site is regarded as having the greater potential for nature conservation.

The peat extractors dry out the site by digging deep drainage ditches around the perimeter of the site. These ditches have the effect of also drying out adjacent land. Two pieces of adjacent land are designated as Sites of Biological Interest and both sites are already suffering from reduced water levels and loss of bog vegetation. This impact will only get worse as peat extraction continues, unless the main Chat Moss site is rewetted and restored to lowland raised bog (active sphagnum forming bog).

What development is proposed?
The proposal is to continue extracting peat from the site when the current permission expires at the end of December 2010. The current permission requires the site to be restored, and it has always been understood that this would involve restoration to active spagnum forming bog. The developers want to ignore this condition and extend the peat extraction for another 15 years. During this period another 2 metres of peat would be removed from the site. This would not only put the planned restoration off for a long period, but also make effective restoration more difficult. The choice therefore is between bare peat and continued peat extraction or a rewetted restored site which would be one of the most important lowland raised bogs in the region. 99% of lowland raised bogs in the NW have been either damaged (many beyond repair) or destroyed completely.

The response to this was the uphold the existing ban upon continued peat extraction in Chat Moss, allowing it to begin its long haul recovery process. Upon visiting Astley moss within Chat Moss, I could see both aspects of remnants of humanities agricultural history of abuse and the rising strength of natural elements that were living and thriving within the local mosslands. One of the most significant concerns raised throughout this was the importance of reintroducing the next generation of the children to nature and the true importance of continued and increased preservation and conservation of such places.

Government upholds ban on Chat Moss peat extraction

9 Nov 2012 15:27

The government has refused to allow any more peat extraction at a 7,000-year-old wildlife haven, to the delight of campaigners.

Ministers upheld two separate council decisions to block future works at Chat Moss.

The government has refused to allow any more peat extraction at a 7,000-year-old wildlife haven, to the delight of campaigners.

Ministers upheld two separate council decisions to block future works at Chat Moss.
Farmers had hoped to continue extraction at the lowland bog, one of the last of its type in the country.
But environmentalists fought the move at a public inquiry last year, saying it must be saved for future generations.

After six months’ deliberation local government secretary Eric Pickles ruled further extraction could harm the bog’s restoration and release high levels of carbon dioxide, harming the environment.It also said further extraction would discourage a drive to find more sustainable alternatives to peat.
Friends of the Earth’s north west regional campaigner Helen Rimmer said: “It’s a huge relief that common sense has prevailed and Eric Pickles has refused to allow further peat extraction at Chat Moss.
“It beggars belief that in 2012 companies still want to destroy British peat bogs. These are important wildlife sites that ‘lock in’ carbon and reduce flood risk.
“The government has rightly set targets to end the use of peat in horticulture and there are plenty of peat-free alternatives – digging up bogs for our gardens is unnecessary vandalism and must be stopped.”
Peat farmers William Sinclair Ltd applied to extend their peat farming license last year, sparking around 1,000 objections.
When both Salford and Wigan councils refused, the firm appealed, triggering a public inquiry in March.
Worsley and Eccles South MP Barbara Keeley said: “I am delighted by this decision to end peat extraction at Chat Moss. The decision is in line with the arguments that I put forward, alongside Lancashire Wildlife Trust and local people.
“Salford Council had rejected proposals for extraction to continue.

“This decision means that the damaging process of peat extraction at Chat Moss will end, allowing one of the country’s last remaining lowland peat bogs to be protected.

“The land can now be restored towards its original form and Chat Moss can be protected for future generations.

“This is a great victory for local people.”

To conclude, I found another article that also reinforced the importance of educating children to be aware of the environmental issues surrounding the protection of our surrounding areas and encourage them to get involved.

Planting trees for wildlife

Can planting trees help to convince a bunch of schoolchildren that nature’s not boring, after all? Kate Bradbury finds out
Tree saplings

Tree saplings ready for planting. Photograph: blickwinkel /Alamy

Last week I spent the day with 200 11-year olds, helping them plant as many trees in the grounds of their school. Most of the kids had never planted a tree before, and many didn’t hesitate in telling me how “boring” and “pointless” the exercise was.

And yet, in assembly later on, the majority listed planting trees as the highlight of their day. So what had changed? I think it was a case of “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it”. It was freezing cold, many of the kids turned up without a coat and some, sadly, had never experienced nature before. With every group of 10 pupils, each one clutching a brown stick (which I promised wasn’t dead and would one day turn into an actual tree), I asked: “who wants to dig the first hole?”. Suddenly this boring and pointless exercise had become a little more interesting.

Last month saw the launch of the UK’s biggest ever campaign to reconnect children with nature. Created by The Wild Network in conjunction with the documentary film Project Wild Thing, the campaign aims to encourage children to swap just 30 minutes of screen time for “wild time” every day, in order to increase levels of physical activity and alertness, and improve their well-being.

I thought of this campaign, as I watched each child plant his or her tree. Some of the kids marked the spot where their tree grew, in order to return and watch it mature over the next five years (seven if they stay on in the sixth form). Others asked questions about the species they were planting, or wanted to do all the digging. A few didn’t want to touch the soil and were terrified of worms (you can’t win them all).

The trees were native saplings including silver birch, rowan, hawthorn and blackthorn, and had been donated by the Woodland Trust. They were planted as a hedge at the edge of the playing field, and will one day block out the view of the nearby road, while providing a fantastic habitat for wildlife.

Planting a tree

Photograph: Stephen Shepherd/GettfaNative trees attract more wildlife than non-natives simply because they have been here longer – they have evolved together. Caterpillars of many moths feed on the leaves of native trees – some are fussy and specialise in just one or two species, while others eat from a much broader range. Aphids and other insects are also attracted to the trees and, eventually, deadwood specialists such as beetles will move in. The more critters a tree attracts, the more birds will visit to feed themselves and their young. And, as the hedge matures, it will provide nesting opportunities for birds and mammals, not to mention a good source of autumn berries.I hope that, as these trees grow and provide habitats for wildlife, the pupils that planted them will remember their 30 minutes of wild time, and enjoy watching the landscape change. Now they know first-hand that planting trees isn’t as boring and pointless as they had first thought, maybe they’ll be encouraged to get out and see a little more of what nature has to offer them.

Overall, although each article features a different views and purpose in highlighting certain wildlife issues, each reinforces the continued fascination and interaction with wild and nature dominated environments and how both positive and negative human influences represented the conflicted relation with man and nature. As a result, different forms of imagery (art versus documentary) whether landscape or animal photography, all of which are contemporary and relevant with public interest.


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