Could we rethink our way of shooting underwater animals?
I have been passionate about underwater life for about fifteen years, and I spend a lot of time photographing it. Today, my whole life is dedicated to this passion, literally spending most of my time on the water with my love Marianne Aventurier aboard our sailboat Diatomée.
Unfortunately, it is only a short time ago I realized that I have probably bothered a large part of the marine species that I have been able to meet. The reasons for this are probably: my ignorance, my desire to make pictures quickly, a good dose of stupidity and also selfishness.
Social Medias have allowed me to make my work known a little, but today I have the impression that they impose a model of photos that must be liked.
I find it hard to understand how the image of a young girl wearing a thong in front of a tiger shark or a whale can have such a success, when everyone would agree to find the same attitude absolutely ridiculous in front of a tiger or an elephant fed in the middle of the savannah. Probably we do not feel close to these animals and give them less respect, but is that a good enough reason?
The animals which are most often exposed to our cameras are fish.
The do not get neither vocal cords nor eyelids, it is difficult to define their expressions, but it seems to me that they deserve an attention equivalent to that which we give to our earthly friends.
The marine fauna is very different from that with which we use to see on land, here often no head, no legs, no front or back, some animals remain attached to a rocky part all their life... so it seems to me necessary to learn to to know them, in order to admire them.
At a time when it seems important for many divers / freedivers to post a photo on social networks in a dream setting surrounded by large animals, it may have come time to rethink our impact on our favorite activity.
So I was simply inspired by the most basic rules used by our Land Safaris animal photographer friends to try to copy what seems to me the most obvious and which is not at all underwater:
An instruction that seems to be unanimous:
Not disturbing the wild behavior of the animals we meet (as far as we can).
How may we try to minimize its impact on animals?
-Get information from local guides who are the ones who know their environment best.
-Animals must remain wild (the aquatic environment is probably the last wild space on our planet, let's avoid having a behavior with these animals as we would have with a pet)
-Get to know the animals we are going to see (species, families, biotope)
-Do not touch (it seems the basis of respect on land, let's do the same under water, it is valid for all fauna, to any starfish to dolphins...)
-Find the right distance (if the animal seems disturbed, you have to move away)
-Not feeding (which is obviously not a natural behavior)
-Not chase (indicating behavioral disturbance)
-Avoid Strobes (why would it be less unpleasant for animals than for us?)
-Avoid disturbing them in their places and periods of rest (even if some individuals seem curious, these cycles and these places are known and we do not have to disturb them)
-trust your instinct, if your find that a behavior is inappropriate, it usually is.
All the obvious rules on our impact as a divers remain valid, and as photographers, we must pay attention to them:
-Do not pick up or move any organisms for the composition of a photo.
-Evolve discreetly and silently (Otherwise you risk not photographing much…)
- Pay attention to the different substrates when swimming (sand/coral/rocks)
-Obviously find out about legislation, protected/prohibited areas…
-Take your time (you will notice that the naturalist photographers you admire can spend months, even several seasons to make a beautiful series of photos, and sometimes noting happens.)
Feel free to complete, share or open a discussion on these concepts if you need….