Mike Warburton Photography


Captive vs Wild

Posted by Mike Warburton Photography on December 8, 2012 at 8:00 AM

I was out last week with a mate looking for Waxwing in an enclosed Orchard.None were found but we did come across a Cat hunting the Blackbirds that were feeding on the windfall Apples.This got me thinking,how different is the scene in front of me to one I would encounter with a Lioness hunting Wildebeest on the Masai Mara?They are both feline predators using the same method of hunting prey,just on a different scale.I then got thinking about the great `Captive vs Wild` debate that seems to be so important to many Photographers these days.

My own personal view is that if you shoot captive subjects you should not dupe your audience into thinking they are wild.I have seen this happen on several occasions and not from just amateur/hobby photographers either,these are just two examples.

One was where the Photographer in question won quite a prestigous award for a captive species that was shot on a completely different continent way out of its natural range.The judges were aware of this as but being ill-informed where Wildlife was concerned they didnt pick up on it.

Another was where the Photographer in question took a beautiful portrait of a nocturnal species.To the layman it was just that but for an experienced Wildlife Photographer/Naturalist the image just didnt sit right.The vegetation in the photo indicated that the image was shot in high Summer and the lack of shadows on a sunny day meant it was around about mid-day.To get that image in the wild is next to impossible and it was later found to be captive shot.

I can totally understand a pro with deadlines to meet shootng captive species.After all a Picture Editor doesnt care whether it is wild or not providing it fits the requirement.It is when they pass them off as wild is what gets to me.

I have nothing at all against folk paying to shoot captive subjects and indeed it is sometimes the only way some people can get close to them.Not long ago I saw an image posted on a website where the Photographer described it as "Not very good,but special to me".Basically it was a photo of a Little Owl that was almost totally obscured by a wall except for its eye.It had taken the guy several weeks to get that close and to earn the Birds` trust enough to get a shot which is why it meant so much to him.I have been lucky enough many times to be in that postion with wild subjects so could totally understand where he was coming from.I replied to the post by saying that even though he could pay to do an Owl workshop and get a full frame,un-obscured image with a perfect background it would mean absolutely nothing compared to the one he had of the wild Owl.

Its just a shame that so many choose to go down the captive route these days as they are missing out on so much.The moments when you are on your own in stunning scenery using all your fieldcraft skills to the max to get that one image is hard to describe.When it does result in a good image the whole experience is remembered and pressing the shutter is just a tiny part of it.Dont get me wrong I think that captive workshops are good in the fact that it stops folk that dont have the necessary fieldcraft skills disturbing wild species,especially in the breeding season,which happens so often.

After saying all that I go back to my original statement on how different  is a Cat hunting Blackbirds in the Orchard to a Lioness hunting Wildlebeest on the Mara?

The Cat didnt get the Blackbird because as soon as he saw us he jumped up onto the wall and started rubbing his face on my mates chin.He wouldnt have let a Lioness do that (I dont think) so maybe it is different after all ;)

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