Alright. I admit it. I am fascinated by Shark Week but watching a few of the episodes and tracking the titles of each segment make me shake my head. Really? Swimming naked with vulnerable body parts in the ocean with sharks? Oh my!
Yet, that type of dangerous photography behavior is seen everywhere. Amateur and professional photographers alike, race to get that perfect shot of wildlife, babies, brides, and trains. Believe me. I get it. When behind the lens, I tend to take risks. All in an effort to capture something that is fleeting and unique.
The dangers, however are real. Last week a woman died when getting too close to a steam locomotive rolling through town. Brides who jump into water have been known to drown. Dolphins who serve the public with those incredible rides on their backs are trapped, caged, and used until they expire. Photographers and their subjects fall off the edge of mountains. The list goes on. Like all activities that have risks, there are ways to prepare in advance. Although not comprehensive, by following a few basic precautions you can still have the excitement of the “hunt” while decreasing the risk.
- Plan ahead. Go to the site early to determine where it is safe and where it isn’t. Look for loose rock, crowds, estimated distance to your ideal spot, and choose the right equipment. Using a telephoto lens is a smart move!
- Be aware of how your actions will affect the subject and those around you. If capturing the photo means that you are placing others at risk, it might be time to reassess. Sometimes, that means that you as the photographer need to tell your subject, “No”.
- Determine if additional precautions are needed, BEFORE you take that photo. When lost behind the lens it is easy to lose perspective. Enlist a friend and ask them to help. It is wise to say, “Stay close. I don’t want that baby to fall” or “Let me know if I step outside this safety zone”.
- Consider your impact. Will you actually do more with that photo than use it as a quick post on social media? If not, is that worth the cost? Each year countless visitors frighten wildlife to the point where it compromises their health and sustainability.
Photography is so much fun. It is great to see that everyone who owns a cell phone has the ability to easily experience the joy that it brings. Just be careful and use good judgement. In doing so, you and those on the other side of your lens will be able to enjoy even more exciting shots.