Field Ethics

Spring in Colorado, © Mary Brock
Spring in Colorado, © Mary Brock

Ethical Field Practices

by Lonnie Brock

As nature photographers, it is our job to promote the well-being of our locations and subjects, which in the end will also promote the photographer. Every place, plant and animal is unique in nature and cumulative impacts occur over the course of time. Thus we must always exercise good individual judgment. The following principles will encourage all who participate in the enjoyment of nature to do so in a way that best promotes good stewardship of our natural resources (developed by the North American Nature Photography Association).

Environmental: Knowledge of Subject and Place

  • Learn patterns of animal behavior – Know when not to interfere with animals’ life cycles.
  • Respect the routine needs of animals – Remember that others will attempt to photograph them, too.
  • Use appropriate lenses to photograph wild animals – If an animal shows stress, move back and use a longer lens.
  • Acquaint yourself with the fragility of the ecosystem – Stay on trails that are intended to lessen impact.

Social: Knowledge of Rules and Laws

  • When appropriate, inform managers or other authorities of your presence and purpose – Help minimize cumulative impacts and maintain safety.
  • Learn the rules and laws of the location – If minimum distances exist for approaching wildlife, follow them.
  • In the absence of management authority, use good judgment – Treat the wildlife, plants and places as if you were their guest.
  • Prepare yourself and your equipment for unexpected events – Avoid exposing yourself and others to preventable mishaps.

Individual: Expertise and Responsibilities

  • Treat others courteously – Ask before joining others already shooting in an area.
  • Tactfully inform others if you observe them engaging in inappropriate or harmful behavior – Many people unknowingly endanger themselves and animals.
  • Report inappropriate behavior to proper authorities – Don’t argue with those who don’t care; report them.
  • Be a good role model, both as a photographer and as a citizen – Educate others by your actions, enhance their understanding.
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