BBC Nature Photo Controversy (cont'd)

Started Jan 5, 2010 | Discussions
Victor Engel Forum Pro • Posts: 19,053
BBC Nature Photo Controversy (cont'd)

http://www.elmundo.es/suplementos/cronica/2009/741/1261868405.html

I'm posting this link because I think the story has some information that wasn't in the recent thread:
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1000&message=34002876

For example, "And the gate of the image, which the deep throat of this story can still be found with the same nails and holes within the limits of Cañada Real." (google translation)
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OP Victor Engel Forum Pro • Posts: 19,053
Movie Starring Ossian, the wolf

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1417582/

Currently, there's not much there. I post this because it confirms the article I posted at the start of the thread -- at least the part about the film.
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Justme Forum Pro • Posts: 22,193
Re: BBC Nature Photo Controversy (cont'd)

Interesting link.

xx
xx

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I know you mean well but please do not embed my images into the forum. Thanks for respecting that.
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Rat Salad Regular Member • Posts: 377
Re: BBC Nature Photo Controversy (cont'd)

Below is the text of an email I just got in response to an email I sent them asking why it is taking so long to make a decision about the wolf photo:

Thank you for your email. Please find a statement below from the Competition Organisers.

“The Museum is aware of an allegation as to the veracity of the photograph, storybook wolf, by Jose Luis Rodriguez, specifically that an animal model was used in breach of the competition rules. We are investigating this thoroughly with the Judging Panel and will report back in the New Year once our investigations are completed. Mr Rodriguez strongly denies any wrongdoing or breach of the competition rules.”

Because we are investigating this issue we won't be providing further details until the New Year.

Kind regards,

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Natural History Museum

Cromwell Road, London , SW7 5BD

Tel: +44 (0)207 942 5015

Email: wildphoto@nhm.ac.uk

OP Victor Engel Forum Pro • Posts: 19,053
When does the new year arrive? -nt
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Rat Salad Regular Member • Posts: 377
Re: When does the new year arrive? -nt

It depends on which calender is used.

As far as I'm concerned the delay in their decision is ridiculous.

SteB
SteB Veteran Member • Posts: 4,534
Thanks for the links

Victor Engel wrote:

http://www.elmundo.es/suplementos/cronica/2009/741/1261868405.html

I'm posting this link because I think the story has some information that wasn't in the recent thread:
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1000&message=34002876

For example, "And the gate of the image, which the deep throat of this story can still be found with the same nails and holes within the limits of Cañada Real." (google translation)
--

I haven't commented on this issue yet as I was waiting for more information to emerge and I am a bit surprised as to how long this issue has dragged on. In case the allegations were not true I didn't want to speculate. However, the more I see the more it confirms my suspicions that these allegations are true. More evidence keeps emerging that this is not a photo of a wild wolf as claimed and so far I have not seen one jot of evidence to back up the claim that this is of a wild wolf. It is the lack of any evidence that proves this photo is genuine that raises my suspicions. These excuses for not revealing the location are very unconvincing.

One of my concerns about this whole issue is why was this story not properly checked out before it was announced as a winner. Initially, when I first saw the image I was suspicious. However, when I read the fantastic story surrounding the circumstances in which the photograph was taken I was reassured because I thought surely they could not just have taken this story at face value and must have done checks. So I am somewhat shocked to find that the basic facts such as the location of the shot never even appear to have been checked out. It was especially important with a trap camera shot of very unusual behaviour with a large mammal to check out that this was not a staged shot with a tame animal. This is because for quite some time there has been a quite an industry that provides "tame" wild animals for photographers.

If this image was of a wild Wolf, then it was an incredible and unique photo. However, if it was a tame animal it is not a particularly impressive as in reality it would be little different to someone photographing their pet dog jumping over a gate. With a tame cooperative animal and a good stock of film (what was used here) it would be possible to get a shot like this in a few hours. Whereas with a wild Wolf it would take a huge amount of effort, planning, tracking, and a big slice of luck. So establishing whether it was wild or not is extremely important.

Many here might be puzzled as to why this is so important. However, anyone that has been involved in or who has followed wildlife photography for a long time will be aware that there were huge ethical debates about this some time ago - particularly in BBC Wildlife magazine, hence the competition rules.

I have read BBC Wildlife magazine for a long time, I currently subscribe to it, and have done on and off for 15 years or so. The Photographer of the Year competition has always been a highlight for me. So I find this very disconcerting that no proper checks seem to have made before awarding the winning prize to a photograph that invited questions.

Rifleman1776 Regular Member • Posts: 161
Re: Thanks for the links

SteB, I don't have a dog in this fight and am interested in this thread only from a standpoint of fairness.

Would/could you please explain to me how it is even possible to assure fairness in a competition of this kind?

As I asked earlier, the argument over what constitutes "captive" or "wild" is, in my opinion, impossible to define. e.g. Is an animal roaming a 5,000 acre fenced ranch wild or captive? I have seen 'wild' deer in large parks eat out of campers hands.
The issue is impossible to resolve.

The winner of a competition should be decided on the final photograph with no other factors involved. Second guessing will accomplish nothing.

I understand your post and compliment you for being straightforward and courteous. We come at this from different points of view.

I suggest, if the judges are able to resolve this to the satisfaction of all parties involved, they should move on and solve all the problems with middle east conflicts. I believe they would be well qualified to do that.
Regards, Frank

Smudger79 Contributing Member • Posts: 933
Re: Thanks for the links

Rifleman1776 wrote:

As I asked earlier, the argument over what constitutes "captive" or "wild" is, in my opinion, impossible to define. e.g. Is an animal roaming a 5,000 acre fenced ranch wild or captive? I have seen 'wild' deer in large parks eat out of campers hands.

This is as you say a very difficult definition to make. Perhaps it could be the reason why the decision is taking so long.

The issue is impossible to resolve.

Hopefully not, hopefully someone with all the information can see a way forward.
Besides, the outcome of the investigation should be pretty final either way.

The winner of a competition should be decided on the final photograph with no other factors involved. Second guessing will accomplish nothing.

I agree to a certain extent. This picture in question I personally believe is a magnificent one. But the judges have to decide if the animal was tame enough to warrant the photographer to notify the judges, as per the rules and the brief of the competition. If the animal was "tame" then the photographer would have broken the rules. I personally believe that a wolf that lives on a reserve in it's own den and it hunts it's own food, that it is a wild wolf. A wolf that will perform tricks on command or for food, or given food by humans, is not a wild wolf.

I realise that this comes back to the argument we are both decrying but, but as with the subjective decision of which picture was best, the judges have to make the subjective decision of what level of "wildness" would have constituted them being notified, as the rules stated.

The competition set out the rules, so they have to be followed for fairness. If the competition brief and rules simply said, best picture wins, then yes, i completely agree, there is no issue. But this competition laid down the rules. It will perhaps teach them to review their own brief in future for any potential ambiguities in interpretation.

I suggest, if the judges are able to resolve this to the satisfaction of all parties involved, they should move on and solve all the problems with middle east conflicts. I believe they would be well qualified to do that.

Ha ha, they are certainly treading a tight rope!

Regards, Frank

zackiedawg
zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 33,034
Great photo, but the description is the problem

I too stayed out of the first thread's debate, as I felt there wasn't really enough for me to form a firm opinion on - while my suspicions told me something, I had to admit the photo was still quite lovely, and since the competition allowed captive animals, it was just too murky for me to wade into.

However, as this has gone on, I see a few key points that have been raised that made me look deeper into it. While some argue the photo should be judged purely on its own merits, and not on whether the definition of 'captive' or 'wild' defined the shot, especially as the competition allowed captives to be shot...the bigger issue raised which I agreed with was that it needed to be disclosed up front for issues of weighting during judgement phase. And if indeed the wolf was captured at a refuge location as has been accused, then the photographer failed to make such disclosure which may have given him unfair weighting against other photographs.

On its own, failing to disclose the location or the captivity of the wolf would not be something I would call a big issue - it might have slipped someone's mind. But the fact that an entire elaborate story was built up that may not be true would be much more deceptive and for me, subject to much greater criticism if proven to be a fabrication. And of course the continued defense of the story by the photographer, who is either fruitfully defending the truth or digging an ever-deeper hole for himself to fall into.

So I decided to find a nice, high-res version of his shot on Google images search. I copied that, and opened it in PSP8, and started working it in layers stacked in screen mode, negative imaging, levels, etc, until I had the best possible visibility of the background which is too dark in the original. I then compared it to the daytime shot of the park where it has been accused the photos were taken which would prove the story to be fake. And in my own personal analysis, satisfying only me and my own curiosity, I've concluded that the locations do indeed match. I can find not only the bent tree behind the wall, but also a forked tree, another bent tree on the left, two tall straight trees with a perpendicular branch, a patch of open dirt, one very prominent rock in the foreground wall with a 'face' on it, two half-buried stones in the ground, and another tree in the background that all match in both photos. Whether anyone else finds the locations to be same or different, i'm certainly not going to claim anyone's right or wrong...just that I am personally satisfied that the locations are indeed the same, which makes the story and subsequent defense false, and for me enforces that the photo, as great as it is on technical merit and subject matter, should be stripped of the win due to non-disclosure which was required by the contest rules, and for the moral issue stemming from having been caught lying and fabricating an elaborate story to cover up the truth.

It seems they should have been able to come to a conclusion by now, one way or the other. If they end up leaving the photo as the contest winner, then I have no argument - it's their contest and if that's what they decide, then that's their right.

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G. Gray
G. Gray Veteran Member • Posts: 4,535
Re: BBC Nature Photo Controversy (cont'd)

interesting controversy
.

1st, I don't think the photographer who has won the prize should have to provide proof of anything. The judges accepted the photo and have judged it. I believe the people accusing him of something should prove him wrong. Remember innocent until proven guilty.

2cd I would investigate the people making sour grapes claims to see what axe they are grinding. (A stuffed animal ??)
People on this forum (as always) try to autopsy a photo.
wolf , no tail, tail up, tail down..........
Wolf will not jump fence bs ...
wild wolf in captivity, is it wild ...
meanwhile the photographers reputation suffers because of the negative comments.

The photo in question is a striking photo on its own.

I always have trouble with photos taken by motion detectors but I resolve it in my head by saying most photos are ART. The only exception is forensic or journalistic and they are doctored too .
my 2 cents
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SteB
SteB Veteran Member • Posts: 4,534
Why this issue is important

Rifleman1776 wrote:

SteB, I don't have a dog in this fight and am interested in this thread only from a standpoint of fairness.

Would/could you please explain to me how it is even possible to assure fairness in a competition of this kind?

As I asked earlier, the argument over what constitutes "captive" or "wild" is, in my opinion, impossible to define. e.g. Is an animal roaming a 5,000 acre fenced ranch wild or captive? I have seen 'wild' deer in large parks eat out of campers hands.
The issue is impossible to resolve.

The winner of a competition should be decided on the final photograph with no other factors involved. Second guessing will accomplish nothing.

I understand your post and compliment you for being straightforward and courteous. We come at this from different points of view.

I suggest, if the judges are able to resolve this to the satisfaction of all parties involved, they should move on and solve all the problems with middle east conflicts. I believe they would be well qualified to do that.
Regards, Frank

Hi rifleman1776

I've followed this debate for a long time and the other year I started a thread on a nature photography forum to try and canvas opinions about it.

Whilst the captive animal thing may have been about for longer, what started all this debate about ethics in wildlife photography was the arrival of digital. This was before DSLRs and was when pros started scanning slide film and then processing it with Photoshop. I remember one photo that started a lot of debate with the pro wildlife photographers (in the UK) was a shot of some dolphins leaping out of the sea. Someone had photographed them in an aquarium - then placed the dolphins on a natural ocean background. If I remember rightly a dolphin expert pointed out that wild dolphins don't leap in formations like this.

So the top pros immediately realised there was a problem. They might spend years trying to capture a shot in the wild, and yet someone else might take a technically better photograph of an animal in a game ranch or of a tame animal, and they could do it in an afternoon. This obviously created a problem because why bother putting all that effort into photographing a wild animal when you could get a visually better image with a tame animal. Also with a composite photograph you could put them in any environment you wanted. So the BBC Wildlife magazine "Wildlife Photographer of the Year" competition implemented rules to prevent this.

If you go back 15 years or more most of the top wildlife photographers either came from a scientific background (zoology etc) or they tried to follow a principle of serious natural history study. It is different now with many far more capable photographers, better equipment, and many amateurs taking top quality shots. With many newer wildlife photographers being more interested in the image, than its signficance from a natural history or scientific viewpoint.

From a science or natural history point of view it is important that photographs illustrate "natural behaviour". In other words a photograph of a captive animal might be misleading because it may show a type of behaviour or environment you would never see with a wild animal.

Unfortunately, as you rightly point out all rules create problems because you are bound to end up with situations that don't entirely fit in with these rules, or it is difficult to prove how it was captured. For instance how do you define a wild animal. Whilst I have never been to Africa my understanding is that many of the big mammals are mainly photographed in game reserves, or even game parks. Some of these are surrounded with fences and the animals introduced, or even fed.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition has much stricter rules than most competitions - I think mainly because it is organized by a serious natural history magazine and the British Natural History Museum. However, elsewhere it is normally just considered acceptable to declare whether the animal was captive or not, and if alterations have been made to a digital image (above the normal level, curves, sharpening type adjustments). It is quite similar to rules in news reportage, and competitions for photojournalists - it's all about authenticity.

Even if you take the view that this Wolf photo should be taken on its own merits, there is a problem. If it was a captive Wolf the claims of the photographer were quite clearly fraudulent because the photographer created a whole story about how they photographed a wild Wolf. This is important for this particular competition because Mark Carwadine, the zoologist/photographer who is chair of the panel of judges states in the foreword to the portfolio that comes with BBC Wildlife magazine: "While there is no magic formula for winning, the trick is to include one key ingredient: origninality. The judges are looking for something that stops them in their tracks. Successful wildlife photographers work hard: they aren't afraid to to climb high, crawl on the ground ... Winning photographers wait patiently for hours, days or months for the perfect light ..."

In other words a key criteria the judges use is not only the visual impact, but how the photograph was taken, and the originality of the wild behaviour it shows. Self-evidently the judges would have been very influenced by the account the photographer gave in how they had painstakingly set out to capture this image of a wild Wolf. So if they were misled it is an important issue because calls into question the ethics of the competition. This is no ordinary competition and it likes to see itself as the premiere wildlife photography competition in the world. It has been won by some of the top pros and many have launched big careers on the strength of winning the competition. It is a bit like winning a gold medal at the Olympics.

pcassel Senior Member • Posts: 2,026
How to separate wild from tame

Rifleman1776 wrote:

SteB, I don't have a dog in this fight and am interested in this thread only from a standpoint of fairness.

Would/could you please explain to me how it is even possible to assure fairness in a competition of this kind?

As I asked earlier, the argument over what constitutes "captive" or "wild" is, in my opinion, impossible to define. e.g. Is an animal roaming a 5,000 acre fenced ranch wild or captive? I have seen 'wild' deer in large parks eat out of campers hands.
The issue is impossible to resolve.

The winner of a competition should be decided on the final photograph with no other factors involved. Second guessing will accomplish nothing.

I understand your post and compliment you for being straightforward and courteous. We come at this from different points of view.

I suggest, if the judges are able to resolve this to the satisfaction of all parties involved, they should move on and solve all the problems with middle east conflicts. I believe they would be well qualified to do that.
Regards, Frank

I think it pretty easy to separate wild from tame animals. The difference is that tame animals take direction. Wild ones behave as they will. If this wolf, on its own desires, ran a circuit with a fence jump along the way and the snapper trapped for it - to me that's fair. If the animal was directed to jump the gate so the snapper could get the pic, then that's out of bounds.
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SteB
SteB Veteran Member • Posts: 4,534
Very good points - I agree

zackiedawg wrote:

I too stayed out of the first thread's debate, as I felt there wasn't really enough for me to form a firm opinion on - while my suspicions told me something, I had to admit the photo was still quite lovely, and since the competition allowed captive animals, it was just too murky for me to wade into.

However, as this has gone on, I see a few key points that have been raised that made me look deeper into it. While some argue the photo should be judged purely on its own merits, and not on whether the definition of 'captive' or 'wild' defined the shot, especially as the competition allowed captives to be shot...the bigger issue raised which I agreed with was that it needed to be disclosed up front for issues of weighting during judgement phase. And if indeed the wolf was captured at a refuge location as has been accused, then the photographer failed to make such disclosure which may have given him unfair weighting against other photographs.

On its own, failing to disclose the location or the captivity of the wolf would not be something I would call a big issue - it might have slipped someone's mind. But the fact that an entire elaborate story was built up that may not be true would be much more deceptive and for me, subject to much greater criticism if proven to be a fabrication. And of course the continued defense of the story by the photographer, who is either fruitfully defending the truth or digging an ever-deeper hole for himself to fall into.

So I decided to find a nice, high-res version of his shot on Google images search. I copied that, and opened it in PSP8, and started working it in layers stacked in screen mode, negative imaging, levels, etc, until I had the best possible visibility of the background which is too dark in the original. I then compared it to the daytime shot of the park where it has been accused the photos were taken which would prove the story to be fake. And in my own personal analysis, satisfying only me and my own curiosity, I've concluded that the locations do indeed match. I can find not only the bent tree behind the wall, but also a forked tree, another bent tree on the left, two tall straight trees with a perpendicular branch, a patch of open dirt, one very prominent rock in the foreground wall with a 'face' on it, two half-buried stones in the ground, and another tree in the background that all match in both photos. Whether anyone else finds the locations to be same or different, i'm certainly not going to claim anyone's right or wrong...just that I am personally satisfied that the locations are indeed the same, which makes the story and subsequent defense false, and for me enforces that the photo, as great as it is on technical merit and subject matter, should be stripped of the win due to non-disclosure which was required by the contest rules, and for the moral issue stemming from having been caught lying and fabricating an elaborate story to cover up the truth.

It seems they should have been able to come to a conclusion by now, one way or the other. If they end up leaving the photo as the contest winner, then I have no argument - it's their contest and if that's what they decide, then that's their right.

Firstly, let me apologise because I have repeated some of your points in my above post. You hit the nail on the head about the description being the problem. Being as this competition puts so much emphasis on how the image was captured as well as the image itself, it is very important if the judges were misled by the description. They would likely to have been as much influenced by the story as by the photo itself. I entirely agree with your point about the background and it appears to be beyond all the bounds of reasonable probability that the background could match so closely by sheer coincidence. So certainly the photographer has got a lot of explaining to do to explain why this background seems identical, and it just so happened to have been the home of a captive Wolf with some identical markings to the Wolf in the photo. I suspect that the delay might be because the photographer is simply refusing to answer questions and just insisting it was genuine. This probably creates all sorts of legal problems for the judges - because if they made a ruling and then subsequently the photographer revealed more evidence, they might get sued big time. It is always tricky if someone just takes the legalistic position of admit nothing, deny everything. It puts all the emphisis on trying to disprove what they said. Trying to disprove something is always very hard if there is a lack of information - you might be 99% certain - but there is always the outside chance you may get proven wrong.

pcassel Senior Member • Posts: 2,026
Re: Great photo, but the description is the problem

I agree with your post and also am interested in seeing that one other has used layers to expose the dark background's contents which apparently match exactly a tame animal park.

I will only add that I think it incriminating that the snapper won't divulge the location of the shot if he claims it different from the park. This isn't some casual snap of our aunt Helen which for some reason, decades later, became important but rather a spectacular snap the fact of which would have registered right off on the photographer's memory. Thus he'd have remembered the location easily.

I'll ask this group. Can you imagine getting this pic and then forgetting where you took it?
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SteB
SteB Veteran Member • Posts: 4,534
I don't think it is that simple

pcassel wrote:

I think it pretty easy to separate wild from tame animals. The difference is that tame animals take direction. Wild ones behave as they will. If this wolf, on its own desires, ran a circuit with a fence jump along the way and the snapper trapped for it - to me that's fair. If the animal was directed to jump the gate so the snapper could get the pic, then that's out of bounds.

At one extreme you might have a completely wild animal that has had no contact with humans before. Whereas at the other extreme you might have a trained animal that is virtually a pet. However, there are lots of intermediate possibilities. Some captive animals are kept in very large enclosures that mimic a wild habitat. Game ranches might be 1000s of acres. Many game ranches in the US have free ranging animals that are not native to the Americas. The difficulty is that there is great variation how animals in large enclosures are treated in various places. In some the animals might be free ranging, but still basically tame and habituated to humans. Whereas in other places an attempt might be made not to habituate the animals and they might be nearly as wary of humans as a totally wild animal. It is not just a case of the animal taking directions. Even finding a wild Wolf would be a difficult task, which would be made far easier if it was confined to a fenced area, even if this was very big.

Also I think that possibly you misunderstand all the rationale behind these rules. The rule on captive animals isn't just an issue of fairness. The other issue is whether that photograph shows the authentic behaviour of a wild animal, and whether what is shown is how a wild animal actually appears. For instance I can easily tell that a lot of big cat pictures I see are of tame animals because a lot of them appear a bit obese and you simply don't get obese animals like this in the wild. This is a competition run by the British Natural History Museum and a serious natural history magazine.

OP Victor Engel Forum Pro • Posts: 19,053
Re: Great photo, but the description is the problem

pcassel wrote:

I'll ask this group. Can you imagine getting this pic and then forgetting where you took it?

I don't think the photographer is claiming to forget where he took the picture. In fact, I would conclude the opposite. He has stated what province the picture was taken in and circumstances that required special arrangements with a specific land owner. He then worked on the picture there over an extended period of time. He just chooses not to reveal the location.
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Vivec Contributing Member • Posts: 532
Re: Thanks for the links

SteB wrote:

If this image was of a wild Wolf, then it was an incredible and unique photo. However, if it was a tame animal it is not a particularly impressive as in reality it would be little different to someone photographing their pet dog jumping over a gate. With a tame cooperative animal and a good stock of film (what was used here) it would be possible to get a shot like this in a few hours. Whereas with a wild Wolf it would take a huge amount of effort, planning, tracking, and a big slice of luck. So establishing whether it was wild or not is extremely important.

I completely agree: what makes the Wildlife competetion unique is that it must be clearly stated whether this was a wild capture or not. This means that as a viewer, I can rely on seeing an authentic wild animal. This is hugely important and is fundamental to what the wildlife competetion is about.

Sure, the photograph is great as it is. And I am sure there are many contests where you can submit great photos of tame animals too. But for the [b]Wildlife[ b] competition, the photos should be of wild animals (or clearly marked).

The question whether it is easy to enforce these rules, or whether one likes these rules, is completely orthogonal and just detracts from the real issue: did the photographer knowingly mislead the judges and the audience? Clearly, there is no hard evidence, but there seems to be quite a bit of circumstancial evidence. Coupled with the very vague responses of the photographer (did he forget the location??), I think we can predict the outcome of this with high confidence...

SteB
SteB Veteran Member • Posts: 4,534
Yes this is the issue

Vivec wrote:

SteB wrote:

If this image was of a wild Wolf, then it was an incredible and unique photo. However, if it was a tame animal it is not a particularly impressive as in reality it would be little different to someone photographing their pet dog jumping over a gate. With a tame cooperative animal and a good stock of film (what was used here) it would be possible to get a shot like this in a few hours. Whereas with a wild Wolf it would take a huge amount of effort, planning, tracking, and a big slice of luck. So establishing whether it was wild or not is extremely important.

I completely agree: what makes the Wildlife competetion unique is that it must be clearly stated whether this was a wild capture or not. This means that as a viewer, I can rely on seeing an authentic wild animal. This is hugely important and is fundamental to what the wildlife competetion is about.

Sure, the photograph is great as it is. And I am sure there are many contests where you can submit great photos of tame animals too. But for the [b]Wildlife[ b] competition, the photos should be of wild animals (or clearly marked).

The question whether it is easy to enforce these rules, or whether one likes these rules, is completely orthogonal and just detracts from the real issue: did the photographer knowingly mislead the judges and the audience? Clearly, there is no hard evidence, but there seems to be quite a bit of circumstancial evidence. Coupled with the very vague responses of the photographer (did he forget the location??), I think we can predict the outcome of this with high confidence...

That's it, the real issue is not about how easy it is to enforce the rules, it is the principle that is important. In addition, I think this situation proves that the rules are not as easy to get around as many might think. Wildlife and nature photographers that do have strong ethical standards will be quick to point out any inconsistencies in any possible fraudulent submissions. Whilst it is only fair to wait a bit more before making any final judgements, the information submitted by other Spanish naturalists proves that these rules are more enforceable than many would assume. They have presented a strong case that needs to be answered. I think the main issue here is that ideally the investigations should have taken place before announcing the winners and not after. It is obviously impractical to check out ever entry (over 40,000), but I see no reason for not having more rigorous checks on contingent winning entries. Personally, if I had been on the panel of judges and the photographer would not submit any evidence to back up their story of how the photo was taken - then I would have disqualified it as a winner in case this happened.

pcassel Senior Member • Posts: 2,026
Re: I don't think it is that simple

SteB wrote:

At one extreme you might have a completely wild animal that has had no contact with humans before. Whereas at the other extreme you might have a trained animal that is virtually a pet. However, there are lots of intermediate possibilities. Some captive animals are kept in very large enclosures that mimic a wild habitat. Game ranches might be 1000s of acres. Many game ranches in the US have free ranging animals that are not native to the Americas. The difficulty is that there is great variation how animals in large enclosures are treated in various places. In some the animals might be free ranging, but still basically tame and habituated to humans. Whereas in other places an attempt might be made not to habituate the animals and they might be nearly as wary of humans as a totally wild animal. It is not just a case of the animal taking directions. Even finding a wild Wolf would be a difficult task, which would be made far easier if it was confined to a fenced area, even if this was very big.

Also I think that possibly you misunderstand all the rationale behind these rules. The rule on captive animals isn't just an issue of fairness. The other issue is whether that photograph shows the authentic behaviour of a wild animal, and whether what is shown is how a wild animal actually appears. For instance I can easily tell that a lot of big cat pictures I see are of tame animals because a lot of them appear a bit obese and you simply don't get obese animals like this in the wild. This is a competition run by the British Natural History Museum and a serious natural history magazine.

I understand these things but I don't think you considered that my simplistic solution may address all your concerns. If an animal isn't directed, then its behavior is natural. OK, it's a stretch to say natural in an enclosure, but it's still accurate to say that.

If we use only wilderness as a place where wild animals exist, then we eliminate most animals from consideration. Like where I am there is true wilderness, but there is also a place which are developed wetlands. They are developed and protected from hunting specifically to give a good winter place for millions of aquatic oriented birds. In addition, we have crops grown during the summer which are harvested and the grain scattered back into the fields to provide food for all these 'extra' birds attracted by the nice shallow ponds and hunter free zones.

I can ride my bicycle a short distance to fields where these birds are, right now, eating. I can get close to them because they are habituated to sense safety in those fields.

I consider those birds utterly wild because while I can approach closer than the same bird in another setting, I can't order the bird to behave as I see fit. So any snap I take would be, perforce, of natural behavior.

In the picture in question, I think the big question is if the wolf jumped over the fence on its own idea or if it was trained / directed to do so.
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-paul

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