On the Fringes of Nature: Spacial Awareness and Respect

Tips for the aspiring photo-naturalist
Monday, October 28th 2019

Spacial awareness and respect both come with a twofold meaning when it comes to wildlife photography, one being the relationship one has with ones subject, and the other being the relationship one has with the surrounding human element. Getting started with wildlife photography will likely have you frequenting more “popular” areas for their abundance of critters, or if you’re lucky to live near the wilds, you may be taking your wanderings around homes and private property, both situations of which may have you encountering the human element either in other photographers and viewers or simply property owners.

Respecting Wildlife
In the case of wildlife, sadly, it is all too common these days to see videos of the consequences of humans getting too close and paying a hard price, some with tragic end for both human and animal. While it may seem redundant to say, it is imperative that spacial awareness be on the forefront of ones mind when photographing wildlife, to keep ones self safe as well as to not add undue stress to an animal that may already be tense at a humans presence. It is important to gain an early understanding of the behavioral signs of stress of your subjects, as an animal in undue stress does not typically make for a good photo subject. In the case of smaller animals they may simply flee, but say, a 1000+ pound moose, and you may find yourself “at one with the earth” a lot sooner than you might prefer.

Respecting Humans
As for the human element, things can sometimes get “complicated”, but as with any human interaction, it never hurts to be respectful to one another. When it comes to being out in a popular area such as national parks or wilderness preserves, it is not uncommon to encounter lines of photographers and their gear all snapping away at the scenery or given animal. While this can be more of a “social” scene with it’s own accompanying ideals of respect and space, for the purposes of this post, I am leaning more towards the respect of space when one is wandering outside of the popular places.

Respecting the Land
When starting out with this type of wandering, it will pay well to know what lands you plan on exploring are public, and where possible boundaries may lie with private property. While it is legal to photograph across a property line, physically crossing that line is not good for anyone. Trespassing is not good in any way for that human to human relationship in general, it gives all photographers a bad name, and if you happen to live in a “make my day” state, may end you with a backside full of bird shot (or worse) and possibly broken gear. If you know a given area is private, yet has a “stash” of wonderful wildlife, get in touch and ask, even if you are simply wanting to spend time and take those shots across a property line.

All in all, get to know your neighbors. If you respect wildlife, it will respect you, and subsequently offer you far better photographs. Respecting fellow humans and their space may offer you new friendships and possible guidance when it comes to those groups of people in the popular places. Respecting property and it’s owners will not only help give us all a better name as photographer, but you may just get lucky and one day find yourself with permission to spend time on that land with those amazing animals.

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