I am in West Africa now, and have seen a number of wild Chimps and Gorillas, seriously far in the jungle. Rain, mud, fog, etc. play hell on the cameras, and I can only get to within a few hundred yards before I am told that's close enough and/or the animals leave.
The photos are worse than bad.
I just spent a week at a great conservation project where I was just a few yards away from many, many chimps for 30+ hours. (behind electric fence).
The photos are the best I have ever taken in my life. (not online yet, coming soon @theroadchoseme)
I've never really done wildlife photography, but I've done a decent amount of hunting, and spend a decent bit of time near game farms (but never hunted on one). Hunting here in New Zealand is very different from the USA, it requires a lot of walking and actually finding animals, so you end up covering a lot of ground and spend a lot of time looking at things through binoculars. I've seen a lot of animals from far away, getting close to them is a different matter.
In the open, it's seriously hard to get near animals. They have better sight, hearing, and smell than us, and can run faster up steeper terrain than us. This applies to most game animals. It's not easier in the bush, deer stalking is not an easy skill. They also tend to stand in annoying places that are hard to climb to, and wouldn't be very nice for photos.
Wild animals tend to avoid humans, because humans have guns.
On the other hand, one day, we were driving past a game farm, and there was a serious trophy stag just sitting 50 m from the road behind a deer fence, would probably set you back near 10 grand to shoot if that's what you're in to. We stopped and took a couple of photos of it. It just sat there. We waved at it, it just sat there. We tooted our horn at it, and it stood up but didn't move at all. It was not bothered by humans at all in the slightest. We got some rather nice photos of it, photos you'd struggle to get in real life, first because such a stag in real life is once in a lifetime, and second, because you wouldn't be able to get anywhere near a stag standing in an open field with no cover.
If I was in a mind for poaching, it would've been the easiest trophy ever. Without hunting pressure, animals get amazingly placid.
Another thing to note about wild animals (or animals in general), is that they tend to spend most of their day doing boring things, they usually just sit down and don't do anything.
Out west (CO,UT,NM,NV,WY,MT,ID) things are different. There is a lot of public land so there is definitely a lot more long range hunting. Also the private land out west tends to be much larger than the private land tracks out east. So you will see a lot of pay to play hunting ranches.
What I mean is, who told you all those photos were of wild animals in the wild? Who doesn't know that models in the cover of Vogue are covered in makeup? Is the dress blue or gold?
But unfortunately there is a cross-cutting of two unrelated problems here: the populist view that art should be nothing but a strict representation of the real world, coupled with the elitist view that photography is not real art.
Journalists choose words and cherry pick quotes to create an impression they want. Painters have literally zero external constraints. But involve a mechanical contraption literally designed to bend light and suddenly we ask people to not bend light.
But post processing has existed long before Photoshop. People who shot film did (and still do) alter their developer times, or do stand development over agitation, or dodge or burn prints. And every modern digital camera does some post processing in camera as well. White balance, color correction, or even more fancy stuff like film emulation modes...those are all forms of post processing.
I know a lot of photography contests require the submission of an unedited raw file in order to enter, but that's not what people want to see in the end. They want the Photoshop look without going into Photoshop, and that's very, very rare to pull off. So where do you draw the line?
Which of these is the "neutral" way to portray this shot? And says who?
From there it's all a matter of degrees. Pulling a distracting highlight, desaturating a distracting visual element, cloning something out, it's all on a spectrum. But you could do the same manipulations by changing your positioning and perspective a little bit when you take the shot.
Even stuff like white balance and color correction is frowned on, which is incredibly stupid when using a filter or changing your film stock would have the exact same effect. And the fact that digital is inherently a processed format in itself - you're not seeing color, you're seeing black and white run through a Bayer filter and interpreted back to a color image.
Basically, photojournalism is a bunch of people jerking themselves off and handing out awards for getting "the perfect shot" in-camera.
Framing, composition are also aesthetic decisions, not just political ones, and those decisions are made both by the photographer at shooting time and picture editors at publishing time. The point is to draw the reader into the story.
Making corrections and alterations to digital images is not 'stupid', it is a development that has occurred over time in response to accusations and revelations of genuine manipulations and fakery. With film, large-scale changes were very hard and almost impossible to do with the original negative or positive, so elaborate printing techniques were considered to be almost entirely aesthetic and artistic. With the advent and ascent of digital darkrooms, manipulation and alteration is easier and harder to catch, therefore the appropriate approach is to respect the original pixels and not change any: the integrity of the picture can never be called into question.
This is a potted summary and there are certainly more nuances, complexities and subtleties than I can relate here, I also have a Masters in Photojournalism and do not appreciate the abusive tone bolted onto the previous comment.
These words are literally synonyms.
> Framing, composition are also aesthetic decisions, not just political ones, and those decisions are made both by the photographer at shooting time and picture editors at publishing time. The point is to draw the reader into the story.
Certainly, but the need for drama doesn't detract from the editorial aspects inherent to those artistic decisions.
> With film, large-scale changes were very hard and almost impossible to do with the original negative or positive, so elaborate printing techniques were considered to be almost entirely aesthetic and artistic.
No, for someone with a degree in photojournalism you're highly misinformed. Basic darkroom work is trivial to accomplish (it's literally taught in Photo 101 courses) and was routine during the entirety of the film era. Up to and including outright manipulation of photographs in many cases.
Famously, consider some of the "unpersons" removed from images of Stalin - although I certainly agree this is the type of thing that should be avoided in works of a documentary nature.
> With the advent and ascent of digital darkrooms, manipulation and alteration is easier and harder to catch, therefore the appropriate approach is to respect the original pixels and not change any: the integrity of the picture can never be called into question.
I don't see how that substantially addresses the problem. Retouching is not inherently unethical, and individuals who engage in unethical behavior aren't going to be slowed down by your code of conduct.
To wit: did your code of ethics keep the guy from being removed from that image of Stalin?
> I also have a Masters in Photojournalism and do not appreciate the abusive tone bolted onto the previous comment.
Please don't descend to the level of tone argument. It's a logical fallacy and not constructive at all.
I think where it matters to me is when you are saying something is "authentic". Lets say someone is taking pictures of a beach for a resort advertisement. One could photoshop the sand to appear as some sort of rare pink color, but when you arrive that color will be nowhere to be found. Same thing if a news article has "beaches are more polluted than ever" and tint the beach to look green. That to me is akin to false advertisement.
I also agree people like and want photoshopped images since almost all photos benefit from a little tweek to saturation and brightness.
Just my 2 cents because I agree with all you said.
Sidenote if someone says "wildlife photography" and its not in the wild, its not wildlife photography.
It can also be said that post processing can be used to cover up mistakes that were made when the image was captured, and as a photographer one should strive to minimize those mistakes.
TL;DR: Photographers should do their best to do a good job when they capture an image and to be aware of what they are trying to convey in the final version that they share with the world.
Understand the sentiment though.
I'd really just like folks to be honest about this sort of thing. They could just say they got the picture at a nature park instead of acting like it was a lucky shot. It doesn't change the wonderfulness of the picture.
I had no idea.
How Nature Documentaries Are Fake
I know how edited are nature documentaries. But I like them anyway. As the video says that makes it more a story, that makes it more interesting.
The pictures with captive animals are a different thing. As chaining a wolf so people can take nice pictures is cruel. To make animals suffer to take a nicer picture without any scientific value is immoral.
That's not to say the photos won't have been processed, of course - that's entirely up to individual taste, whether that's casting it to monochrome, or boosting the contrast to bring out the skin texture of an elephant.
In photography circles, parks like those are promoted as a means for enthusiasts to see species they'd otherwise have to travel great distances for - rather like a cageless zoo. It's not something I've engaged in, but I can understand the appeal from a hobbyist perspective; and understandably, if you're looking for "wildlife" photography on demand, perhaps for an advertising campaign, you're unlikely to commission someone to attempt to obtain just the right photo out in the wild.
 My wildlife focus is primarily rabbits, eg "Momentary":
I think that's what is happening here. People are expecting wildlife photos to be shot in the wild. A studio, or feeding the animals feels like a 'cheaper' or fake product. So they are upset. It doesn't matter if the footage is representative, or if the photos were of a better quality than what could be obtained in nature. It doesn't matter if baiting the animals reduces the cost of making the documentary, potentially increasing the amount of footage we can view. Their expectations were not met.
I've said it before, and probably will have to say it again. We are not logical creatures. We can expect people to behave logically, but we will be disappointed. Then we get upset ;)
EDIT: not saying you were upset
EDIT 2: this is why people don't want to pay for things on the internet. Their expectations have been set.
Its not clear how harassing wildlife living on the edge of survival is better than caring for animals, and taking pictures in return.
Edit: Wow, lots of down votes. I'm not being snarky. I genuinely ask. The term "wild" seems to have undefined semantics. Would a reservation park count as wild?
The absolute number of acres is not the only consideration. I am concerned about the ability of Ponderosa Pine or cougars to migrate as necessary for survival, to name a couple of species.
FWIW, I spend a lot of time in the Sierra Nevada and the Sierra foothills. I can see what is happening right before my eyes. I can see what the Ponderosa Pine on my own property are doing in response to stress. I can see the wildlife migrate through and can only imagine what happens to them as they try to cross a bridge from one wild region to another. I am blessed to be a steward of a parcel of wild land that can host mountain lion and other large fauna. Join me if you want to make a difference.
We have islands of wild habitat. That is not an opinion, that is a fact. Wildlife and especially wild plants have a difficult time migrating from one wild island to another. Not opinion, that is an observable, measurable fact.
HN has been getting out of hand lately -- getting down voted for making verifiable, factual observations is something that may be the accepted norm on SlashDot, but has no place here.
It's basically Steward Brands "we are as gods and have to get good at it".
However yeah, we either have to get good "at it" or die off to let something else take our place (eventually).
Obviously, the animals inhabiting the oceans and seas have a totally different answer along with birds.
It's not appealing. It's not exciting. It's farcical and insulting to a certain degree.
BBC's Hidden Kingdoms comes to mind, where they make no illusions about the fact that you are watching a film not a camera left out in the woods for ten days.
In fact, after each episode they double down and re-use all their work by showing you just how they got the shots and set up all the scenes.
That, and I think Planet Earth has occasionally been guilty of what you're talking about, but personally I've never felt insulted, more like impressed they managed to make a palatable narrative out of a bunch of wildlife scenes.
Sounds like a moon landing hoax "documentary" I unintentionally watched 15 years ago. They were very careful to not show the questions they asked the expert, so the supposed responses to very detailed (albeit bullshit) conspiracy evidence sounded cavalier and vague.
The only time I've seen people pester wildlife in the national parks, was when they wanted to get a close up using their limited-zoom-ability cell phone. (Nothing happened in this case, others haven't been as lucky -- see pg. 293 of this: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/pdfs/mm6511.pdf)
Age Sex Park affiliation Activity Distance from bison Encounter type Injuries
16 Female Visitor Photography; turned back to bison 3–6 ft Gored Serious
62 Male Visitor Photography 3–5 ft Tossed Serious
19 Female Employee Walking; did not observe bison 10 ft Tossed Minor
68 Female Visitor Walking; observed bison and continued to walk past NA Gored Serious
43 Female Visitor Photography; turned back to bison 6 ft Tossed Minor
For example the wolves I've photographed have been really really far away at Yellowstone. I like the pictures, but they've not great.
Though this takes some of the excitement out of it I suppose.
We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14248764 and marked it off-topic.