EcoTourism Home > Ecotourism > Nature photography
Nature, Wildlife and Cultural Photography
While on your travels to the far reaches of the planet you may feel the need
to capture your experiences on your camera. It is probably one of the only
ways besides your memory to get a true picture in years to come of your memorable
"Responsible photography is very much like responsible
travel. With a thorough knowledge of the place you’re visiting,
a genuine interest in sharing and not just taking, an alert intuition, an
open mind, enough time, and a little luck, photography abroad—just like
travel itself—can be a vehicle to build bridges."(Jim Kane - culturexplorers.com)
Here are some recommended tips that you should follow when on an eco tour
with your camera:
- No means no. When someone objects to your taking a photograph you must
respect them, even if you don’t agree with or understand their reasons.
You are a guest and you must respect their decision.
- Determine what the main attractions are in the local area and then decide
how you can best capture them and when. Invest time before traveling to
research the customs and photography mores of the place you will visit.
Customs vary not only by country but by region and religion as well.
- Research the local area and what if any events are going on, you may be
in luck with a local festival or even a local wedding taking place which
may provide photo opportunities that rival that of professional photographers.
- It’s always a good idea to check if it is ok to take pictures where
you are. There are certain countries where the police or local authorities
do not allow photos to be taken, there may be problems trying to take photos
of local markets, local government buildings or even churches. Always ask
if in doubt.
- One of the most controversial situations while abroad is the question
of giving money to people you photograph. We’ve all been in situations
where a once un-touched indigenous community becomes popular with camera-toting
tourists. Soon, there is a bustling business in “authentic”
photos for a dollar each and mobs of children running up to visitors shouting,
“photo, Mister?” On the other hand, isn’t a person you’ve
photographed entitled to some form of compensation? After all, you’re
benefiting from their presence, personality, customs, clothing, etc.
Engaging people openly and sharing time, a story, or a drink together is
often the greatest gift for both sides. However, if it is made clear that
someone expects money for a photograph, the decision becomes not whether
to pay, but whether to take the photo. That must remain a judgment call
that each of us needs to make on a case-by-case basis.
- Practice with your camera before you leave for your holiday; know all
of the features and limitations of the digital
camera before you arrive at your destination.
- Instantly showing people the photos you’ve taken of them can be
a wonderful ice-breaker. The photography becomes less intimidating and more
fun for kids and adults alike. They may even want to turn the tables and
- Vary perspective and view points as much as possible. Take close up images,
long views, wide angle and telephoto (zoom) shots. Wildlife photography
is always best when you take your photos from afar, this way the animals
do not get disturbed and will act more naturally.
- Remember the story telling power of photography, when travelling to the
nature park for example; take one or two shots of the roads and surrounding
scenery as well as the vehicle you travelled in before you get to the park.
It will help to add to the overall picture of your trip.
- You should treat people abroad with the same respect and courtesy as you
would at home. If you find yourself questioning the appropriateness of a
certain shot, ask yourself if you’d take the same picture in your
home country without feeling awkward.
- Take plenty of batteries and memory
cards with you. When taking photos in the heat of the action the last
thing you want is to run out of power and then find the memory card is full.
Always be prepared.
- If your digital camera has video capture, then do not forget to make use
of that as well as sound and moving images will bring the memories back
more so in years to come.
- Look after your digital camera, keep it safe and free from dust and sand
or you could find that your camera is not in good working condition when
it comes to taking any pictures.
- Taking a digital camera may not be possible when on your travels. A disposable camera can be just as capable when taking pictures. With modern technology disposable digital cameras can now be bought for a fairly small sum of money.
These guidelines are designed to ensure no harm is done to wildlife or their
natural habitats. This is accomplished by following the points given below
and by inquiring into and abiding by the rules and regulations of the area
(national park, wilderness area, etc.) you are visiting. Be aware that the
ecosystem you visit may be fragile, so tread gently and practice “leave
no trace” principles.
- First and foremost, view wildlife from a safe distance for both you and
them. Respect their spatial needs. If the animal interrupts its behavior
(resting, feeding, etc.), then you are too close and must distance yourself.
- Never force an action. Be patient! The most beautiful photographs result
from natural action.
- Never come between a parent and its offspring. I’ve seen tiny bear
cubs distressed, treed then separated from their mother by a throng of tourists
eager for a closer look. This is unacceptable behavior.
- Never crowd, pursue, prevent escape, make deliberate noises to distract,
startle or harass wildlife. This is stressful and wastes valuable energy
in needless flight. The impact is cumulative. Consider that you may be the
65th person to yell “hey moose” at that animal that day while
it’s attempting to tend to its young.
- Never feed or leave food (bait) for wildlife. Habituation due to handouts
can result in disease or even death of that animal and injury to you.
- Never encroach on nests or dens as certain species will abandon their
- Never interfere with animals engaged in breeding, nesting, or caring for
- Learn to recognize wildlife alarm signals and never forget that these
animals are NOT tame no matter how docile or cuddly they appear. No one
would argue that you should not try to pet a bull yet there have been numerous
instances where a tourist attempted to have his/her photo taken next to
a bison with disastrous consequences.
- Do not damage or remove any plant, lifeform or natural object. Do pack
out any trash.
- Acquaint yourself with and respect the behaviors and ecosystems of the
wildlife you may encounter. By doing so, you will enrich your experience
- Finally, and most significant, remember that the welfare of the subject
and habitat are irrefutably more important than the photograph.