Nature Photography: Objectivity, Manipulation, and Ethics
From stitching together images to baiting wildlife subjects, what's acceptable when it comes to nature photography?
National Geographic’s February 1982 cover is famous for its deception: The Giza pyramids were squeezed together to accommodate the cover format. After its publication, the magazine took a hard line against doctoring its photography, even after the advent of Photoshop.
When Art Wolfe’s book Migrations was published in 1994, it was heralded as a triumph of nature photography. Two years later it came under fire when it was revealed that Wolfe had altered about a third of the images. To create this shot, for instance, Wolf cloned zebras to fill in spaces. Wolfe calls the work a “digital illustration”—a term he mentions in the book.
Above is one of the winning shots from the Natural History Museum in London’s 2013 Eric Hosking Portfolio Award, taken by Connor Stefanison. To capture this dramatic pose, Stefanison baited the barred owl—which he explicitly stated in the caption, writing that he used a dead mouse to lure the raptor.