Being a nature photography enthusiast, every now and then I come across some ethical issues related to taking shots in nature. How disruptive should one be to get the shot they want? A good example of this dilemma occurred this Spring. We had a cardinal nest in our backyard and one day our 7-year-old and her friend discovered that they could get in the bush where the nest is and the baby birds would pop up and eat bugs that they dropped into their mouths. Of course, once I found this out, I asked her not to do that again, that she might have scared Mama and Papa bird away. Later that day, however, I thought...."there's a nest of baby birds. I could get a great shot!"
DD and I went back to the bush and all was quiet. She said the babies didn't come up until you actually fed them. Here was my dilemma. On one hand, I really wanted a nice shot of baby birds. On the other hand, I didn't want to mess with nature. I chose the latter, and told her to make sure we stay as far away from the nest as possible. I never got my bird shot, but I'm happy about the choice I made. Here's the vacant nest as it looked today:
The best shots are one in which you are a quiet observer, in my opinion. Earlier this summer, I was at one of our local Columbus Metro Parks and I noticed a bumblebee in the brush by the path. I couldn't figure out what it was doing in there, but it was definitely moving around. On further inspection, I saw what was happening: a very well-camouflaged praying mantis had caught the bumblebee and was eating it. I sat there, watching and firing off shots. After a while, the praying mantis noticed me, and he stopped eating to look at me. I sat there and watched him - I was far away enough where I wasn't disturbing him. After he checked me out, he went back to his meal. I took a few more shots and then quietly left. I love this shot because it reminds me of that moment, just the praying mantis and I looking at each other.
There are many, many ways in which nature photographers can bend the situation in their favor: using flash, going off trail, taking shots of captive animals, taking shots of dead animal parts, like a dragonfly wing, to name a few. But I think the best shots are the ones you get without those "tricks" because you'll always look back and know that it was nature, in its true state. And you were there, a part of it.