In the previous articles we have covered on (i) Preparations For A Macro Trip, (ii) Knowing Your Subjects, (iii) Sharing Knowledge And Accepting Criticism; all of which will help make you a better macro photographer, or any photographer for all that matter. Today we will look on the final aspect of the series: Caring For Nature.
One of the most important aspects you learn through macro, apart from the photography techniques, is the appreciation of nature and its diversity. After all, it is the huge variety and colors of nature that keeps Macro Enthusiasts shooting, and the passion often drives them to various secluded locations, just to be able to photograph different subjects.
Even as a beginner living in the city, I noticed how hard it was to get a subject that really “stands-out”: A good subject will improve the quality and popularity of your final image, as covered in Taking Better Macro Shots- Choice Of Subjects.
So, I headed out onto the University grounds and gardens to look for subjects that were slightly less common. Things were going well at first, and I was soon able to identify specific habitats for certain organisms: they were always there as I observed their characteristics and way of life. However, this all ended when the authorities decided to flatten the said places for development. Needless to say, I was deeply saddened. It was hard to accept that all the life I used to know and cared for lost, just like that. Of course, phenomenon like this is very rampant throughout the world, which is why we have so many organisms go extinct.
The dwindling of diversity becomes especially apparent if you have been in the field for years, and it is not too unusual to hear about it from wildlife lovers, seasoned zoologists or real Macro Enthusiasts. It is experiences like these that make a Macro Photographer truly appreciate Mother Nature, which brings us to our topic today on some simple etiquettes to caring for Nature:
1. Never Litter!
I understand that we Malaysians still do not pay that much attention to cleanliness and eco-friendliness at the moment (perhaps excluding the folks in Penang). So urging the public to pick up rubbish may be far-fetched at this time. However, prevention is always better than cure: Don’t create rubbish in the first place!
Artificial substances are not only unsightly, but pose a threat to life that accidentally consume or come into contact with them. Cigarettes, for example, are a cause of devastating forest fires, killing countless.
So be responsible for your own rubbish, throw them into dustbins provided, they are almost always available in public places. Even if they are not, have the decency to keep them for until you find a rubbish bin- Just because there is no rubbish bin around doesn’t give you the right to litter.
2. Never Reveal Locations Of Rare Subjects
Make no mistake, as you dwell down the path of Macro Photography, you will eventually encounter populations of unique subjects, most of which are probably new to science. When it comes to locations of rare subjects, sharing is NOT caring! The moment the information is released onto the internet, it will be publicly searchable, and in no time the location will be swarming with Macro Photographers or worst still, poachers: The unique creatures will be gone before you know it.Of course, this does not only apply to animals and arthropods, but to floral communities too.
As a scientist, I have noticed some so-called “experts” (either photographers or zoologists) releasing sensitive information like this onto the internet; upon checking the location, needless to say everything is gone due to oversampling. In the end, we have gained nothing from this, not even for Science- a mystery we will never solve.
If you really must share the information, share it with those you trust, those who would not leak the information. If it is really a rare and potentially endangered species, it is often best to contact Scientists or Conversationalists. They are the people who can really help.
3. Never Bring Subjects Home
I am against people bringing subjects home “for fun” or “for photography”. How much experience do you have in rearing and breeding? How sure are you that your subjects will survive? Also, is it worth torturing your samples just for better shots that get you more “Likes”?
Most Extreme Macro Photographers freeze or kill off their subjects (so that they don’t move) to take highly detailed shots. Make no mistake, these photos are often the most popular, but is the photo worth sacrificing a life for? And apart from those few “Likes”, how much is your photo worth scientifically? Did your subject die in vain? Think about it. *I have no qualms if you are killing off pests though :p
Of course, there are exceptions to this point. I am Okay with Scientists and Conversationalists bringing subjects back, provided if it is for Scientific research or publication, or for breeding projects (offsprings to be returned to the wild). As a Scientist myself, I follow my principle of collecting only what I am studying, and I never collect more than what I require for my research. I always rear my subjects first while observing their characteristics and behaviour. It is until they die that I subject them for destructive analyses. I agree that to some it might still be cruel, but at least something useful resulted from their sacrifice.
4. Try Not to Disturb Subjects
Some organisms can be extremely jumpy, whereas some don’t mind posing for a few (hundred) macro shots. Still, most creatures will flee or put on aggressive stances when they have enough: learn when to stop pursuing and let them go; I am sure you wouldn’t like being constantly bombarded by bright flashlights, right?
Some Macro Photographers love to add on a few “personal touches” to make better photos; this includes the popular water spraying technique- subjects with water droplets on them look fresher no? Techniques like this are okay so long as they do not endanger of kill the subject during the process. Most winged insects will lose the ability to fly when wet, leaving them vulnerable to attacks by predators.
Organisms in the process of eating or mating should be photographed with proper care since it may be a matter of life and death to them. For example:
- Most spiders don’t get to feed that often, which is why most will hold onto their food dearly and not moving, making them good macro subjects. However, disturb the spider enough and it will drop its food and lose its meal; and NOPE, spiders only eat live prey, so they will NOT go and pick up the food you caused it dropped. Who knows when the spider will get its next meal, it might just starve to death.
- Female praying mantises are known to attack and kill male ones after mating- sexual cannibalism. However, they will also kill males before copulation if there is too much disturbance, especially so if the female is hungry. Thus the need to be careful when photographing the mating pair. Of course, sexual cannibalism is not only applicable to mantises.
5. Subject Displacement
Ideally, it would be best if one could photograph a subject without disturbing or displacing it at all. Of course, as a Macro Enthusiast myself, I totally understand that sometimes it might not be possible. Sometimes the subjects may be too out-of-reach to photograph, hence the need to move them onto a spot easier to photograph. Personally I think it is okay to displace subjects provided they are “suitable” subjects, and that they will be put back to their original spot after the “photography session”.
Jumping spiders, a Macro Photographer’s favourite, are usually okay to be moved about, and curious as they are, most don’t seem to mind. Just be sure to put them back to a safe place when you are done. On the other hand, some subjects are not meant to be moved; for example, a viper, you don’t want to get bitten now do you? This is when knowing your subjects matter, as covered in Becoming a Better Macro Photographer- Knowing Your Subjects.
Subject displacement can also bring about very serious impacts to the environment and biodiversity. You might notice that passengers are never allowed to bring fruits into other countries, ever wondered why? No it is not because of the smell, but rather what’s inside the fruit- fruitfly larvae. Fruitflies are major pests to crops in most part of the world; displacing one into say, Japan will risk the country losing its entire crop industry. Yes, the fruitflies are THAT fast and dangerous at crop destruction.
Displacement of a subject into a new environment will also offset the food chain and thus the biodiversity. As a simple example, say that you have a pond full of guppy fish, now you introduce a few Betta into the pond, what will happen next? Being undisputed, the Betta will undoubtedly thrive in the pond, completely removing the original population of guppies, leading to an upset biodiversity.
Alright! I guess that’s it for today’s article~ I sincerely apologize if I got a little bit too emotional with this article- it can be frustrating when you realize that there are so many people out there who don’t give a damn about Nature. However, I do applaud efforts by some of the real pros who encourage learning and practising Macro Photography the challenging, but right way, one that doesn’t involve the torturing and killing of subjects.
After all I’ve written, I know it will take long before our country becomes as civilized as Singapore, Taiwan and Japan etc., but it is never too early to start caring for Nature! So let us play our part in keeping Mother Nature beautiful, healthy and diverse, so that our next generations will be able to enjoy and appreciate it as we do!
Until the next time, see you guys, and Happy Macro-ing! XD
** All photos in this website are taken and owned by me. The use of any photos here is not allowed without my permission.