As a wildlife photographer and observer you have a responsibility to enjoy your wildlife encounters safely and ethically. If you cause a subject to move away, you are too close. If your actions cause wildlife to flee, it could very well be the difference between life and death for your subject because the struggle to survive is great at certain times of the year. Keep in mind that you are not the only one your subject has encountered. Perhaps one small error on your part is no big deal in the overall scheme of things. But cumulative negative encounters by one person after another add up to learned behavior, and a once-tolerant subject may flee at the mere sight of the next photographer who comes along. Or, even worse, it may act defensively and attack.
My friend Moose Peterson has a quote on his website that states: “No photograph is worth sacrificing the welfare of a subject.”
NANPA has published the following guidelines for practicing good field ethics:
From a strictly selfish standpoint, if wildlife continues to have negative experiences with people, our photographic opportunities will become less frequent and making great shots will be an even harder challenge to overcome.
Laws and rules are put into place for your protection, as well as that of the wildlife you pursue. Be alert, obey the rules, and pay attention to signs that warn you of possible danger (Figure 4.5).
Figure 4.5 Signs are put in place to warn of possible danger from wildlife. By paying careful attention to them, you can avoid unpleasant, if not dangerous, situations.