|Wedge-tailed Eagle (captive animal)|
Wedge-tailed Eagle - Aquila audax, is the largest raptor in Australia. What a majestic animal!
Yesterday, we went to Lone Pine Sanctuary in Brisbane. This photographic wildlife eldorado could not be more different to where I normally capture animals, namely in the wild.
In such a beautiful wildlife park, every unique photo opportunity comes like chips at McDonalds. You can order or help yourself to more at any time, repeat encounters with normally shy and rare animals. You can even plan the lighting and background with a bit of patience. You are seduced by cuteness and uniqueness in a multipack.
To me, it feels a bit like cheating wildlife photography. Seeing flocks of tourists taking phone selfies with birds, marsupials and other animals feels weird. Seeing people poke, chase and otherwise harass the 'faunal objects' even frustrates a bit.
Does the existence of places like this depreciate the value of wildlife photos in nature? Surely, it clarifies the context on which my wildlife photos are judged by the public. Seeing the many baby Koalas at close and eye-level distance with natural looking background and perfect light convinces me that photos taken in the wild should not even try to compete.
It somehow becomes archaic and irrelevant when hard work and luck competes with paying an entrance fee or a ticket. In many parks, you can and even should attempt to make staged and arranged photos look like wild ones. Vice versa, it is highly uneconomical and often impossible to make natural wildlife photos look like perfect studio shots.
Let's not pour more fuel into many examples of cheating and even fraud in wildlife photography. Just bear in mind: if some photos seem too beautiful to be true, unfortunately, we might (wrongly but often rightly) assume that this is what they are. In the end, what works and what evokes emotions has justification. But we should not fall for populism in photography even if that is exactly what all of us wildlife photographers are guilty of when we try to please anyone.
Does such a wildlife park replace the appreciation of real natural habitats in general or complement it? Does the modern alienation of nature combined with a narcissistic culture pose a threat or quite the contrary? Will we soon only have wildlife 'ghettos' in a rapidly developing cosmopolitan city and society? Will the public have a distorted understanding and little care of natural habitats and ecosystems?
Lone Pine is mainly a rehabilitation centre for injured animals and has also an educational function with respect to native fauna and heritage. They are doing a great job. It is so good, that I would recommend to spend a day there, preferably not around school holidays or on weekends. Maybe even take a picnic and commute there with a direct bus from the CBD to take advantage of lounge chairs at the bus stop. How innovative!
One of the Wedge-tailed Eagles, came to the park as a shooting victim. It is a bit ironic that real bullets have now been replaced with photos for the shoots. The eagle in the daily scheduled raptor show certainly don't seem to mind that much. This guy got a mouse for lunch as you might see in a few photos presented on my webpage.
Photographically, my choice of a long zoom lens was an unnecessary choice out habit. It was a compromise that saved me changing lenses all the time. Quite contrary to a photo shoot in the wild, a professional would prefer a shorter, good quality prime lens under such controlled conditions.
A wildlife photographer in the bush would rather worry about how to collect stardust on mars than about too much or the wrong reflection in a wild eagle's eyes. It amuses me somehow that the result I got doesn't satisfy me from a technical point of view. And yet, it is another good example to show that context matters in photography. This was almost a studio shot and needs to be regarded and judged as such.
Do I really want to see a reflection of myself and my background in the pupils of an eagle picture? My answer is clearly 'no'. How could I plan that better next time? Many photographers would simply argue that photography skills start with Photoshop and don't end there. I disagree. Frankly, I am still short of an alternative option. A reflection board (let alone a flashlight) might distract or freak out the animal and would certainly need permission and thorough consideration to be used.
This picture is still artistically pleasing to me because the busy background is eliminated with a soft, creamy contrast to the dark animal. The portrait makes me wonder what the eagle is reflecting on and where it is focussing its thoughts. Is it happy or is its life too artificial and too close to human cameras?