Here are two interesting articles that came to my attention recently—and that are even more interesting when juxtaposed.
First is a story of remarkable persistence in the face of adversity, the tale from the Daily Mail Online of Greg du Toit and how he got his remarkable picture of two lionesses at a watering hole (the first picture at the link). I think you can tell this one's impressive even if you don't care for wildlife photography—and Greg suffered diseases, parasites, and lots of effort and frustration to get it. Not to mention fear: "There were times when I was shaking with so much with fear I had to stop what I was doing and breathe to get myself calm," he says.
'Captive wildlife' is an oxymoron
Then, consider this fascinating article from Audubon magazine about 'wildlife' photography's dirty little secret—animal models for hire. Although not exactly underground, the existence of these resources for photographers is certainly not well known the public, who often see impressive pictures of 'wild' animals that aren't really wild. Many are actually nearly as docile as pets, and run the gamut from pampered to abused.
Audubon doesn't spare itself in its exposé, either.
And it coins a rather odd locution—the "genuine wildlife photographer," meaning a photographer who only photographs wildlife that's actually wild.
I know I sound like a broken record, but photographs often don't stand alone. In order to know what you're looking at, you frequently need to be told—and the honesty and reliability of whoever's doing the telling is just as important with photographs as it is with written or spoken statements. The author of the Audubon article, Ted Williams, says as much: "Where there's no gray is in the need for honesty."
(Thanks to and Ryan King and David Bostedo)
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Chad Thompson: "I remember when I was a younger I found a wildlife photography book at my local library. It was produced by L.L. Bean. This one I believe. Anyway, upon reading I came to a 'tip' that included catching a trout and then tethering it to the bottom of the stream with monofilament. Once placed, just submerge the camera (in housing) and happily snap away. At that point I knew I could never view even the most innocuous wildlife photo ever again without thinking there was something, well, fishy about it."
Featured Comment by Greg du Toit: "Hi guys, it is Greg here! Always interesting to read how crazy people think I am—?
"I am a wildlife photographer by profession and like other wildlife photographers, I have to go to extreme lengths to capture my subjects. Disease and illness is just a part and parcel of the job. Take Nick Nichols for example. He is and has been a leading National Geographic photographer for decades and has contracted more diseases on assignments than I can list (far more than me—he has had malaria over 20 times). Growing up in Africa, tropical bugs and diseases are part and parcel of life, and getting bilharzia and malaria are commonplace.
"Also, what the papers omitted to tell is that these pictures are not just any old lion images! No, these are images of wild lions carrying out a precarious existence on Maasai-owned community land, outside a national park or game reserve. Very few of these lions are left in Africa and in 50 years time they might be all gone. I took it upon myself to capture images of truly wild lions carrying out an existence that is currently under severe threat! Yes, I could have used a remote trigger or a dry suit, but my plan from the start was never to be in the water, that is just how the project evolved. At the time of this project I was just starting out with a very limited budget and had only one body and one lens. All the images were shot on slide film.
"I do think I deserve just a little credit for being behind the camera and capturing an image of a truly wild beast in a day and age when other photographers are using remotes and captive bred animals? (Read the full story on my website).
"There is more about my story on a BBC World Service interview with Mathew Bannister."
Featured Comment by amcananey: "The direct link to Greg's account is here. (It can be a little difficult to find on his website.) A good story and great pictures. Some are even better than those included in the newspaper article and they definitely help you appreciate Greg's unique perspective from the water."