"It is no more cheating than hiring a model for a studio shoot..... and the best thing is that chickadees will work for peanuts"
Of course I agree, that's a great line. I'm not some kind of purist, and being new to this I haven't acquired much if any bias but I am aware from the last couple of years of observing that there does seem to be hints of bias out there.
After jrita's reference to set ups I started looking carefully at my New Stokes Field Guide of Birds, looking a the background and perches and I guess it's apparent that there are some set ups in the book that have yielded excellent photos.
I have lots of mountain ash trees around my acreage and that translates into excellent Bohemian waxwing opportunities. A look at the Stokes book and hey, same kind of shots. Not exactly surprising, obviously. Likewise, my mountain ash trees have yielded great sapsucker shots. These are essentially equivalent to "set ups", I guess.
However, being the analytical type I am, I then wonder about the implications of all the different perspectives. Here's an example. As a little guy of maybe 7 or 8 I received a wonderful, hot off the press, Birds of Alberta book (late 1950's vintage). I am well aware of the positive influence that book had on me. Some pictures were missing, many were decent paintings and many were, by todays standards, very poor photos. Later, in the early 70's I purchased the much improved 2nd edition and at some point became aware, I'm quite certain, that some of the shots were taxidermy. As a teen I was into taxidermy myself and mounted a fair number of birds - relatives would bring their window kill etc, and my mother's freezer was a source of conflict in the home, so I think my judgement was accurate.
So, my question is, what is the concensus or accepted standard relative to nature photography. What's generally considered acceptable and in what context. Obviously, shooting specimens in zoos is fun and yields, in many cases, very wonderful photos and I personally wouldn't put it down.
Maybe this is something already beaten in some thread (link??). If not is it worthy of a thread? I'm not a fan of elitism and am not interested in generating negativity with this, just curious. Any comments?
There are certainly limits to what can generally be considered "acceptable and true or real". Personally, I would never consider a songbird setup, or baiting waterfowl, to be "fake." Sometimes, even with $25,000 worth of equipment, you just can't get close enough. As Don said, it isn't any different really than hiring a model...only instead of paying your "models" in cash, you pay them in...seed, peanuts, corn, shrimp.
The line really has to be drawn where you begin to interfere with the birds (or wildlife) directly. There are some photographers who are not above capturing and tethering wild birds, manually placing them in closed habitats in order to get a shot. I consider that crossing over the line. If a bird is bred in captivity, or properly trained as in falconry, then I don't see any issue, but to take a wild bird and cage it is too much. There are plenty of bird hospitals where owls, raptors, etc. are kept for a time during their recovery where, if you simply cannot get good shots out in nature, you can go to get closer shots of birds in captivity. Just, don't lie...to yourself or others, when you photograph birds in captivity.
WORSE though, there have been far too many reports of photographers actually breaking the birds wings to keep them from flying off!! That is beyond the pale, and just plain evil. Similar things have sometimes been done with wild animals...breaking a leg to keep them in close proximity. These things are just wrong, and should NEVER be done.
So long as you are not abusing the creatures you photograph, there really isn't anything wrong with using your knowledge of your subjects to attract them closer. Feeding birds seed, fruit, berries, creating pretty perches for them, etc. is harmless. Especially if they are already in your yard eating seeds, fruits and berries. When it comes to chickadees, they are so friendly they will happily eat right out of your hands, especially if you have peanuts. As far as ornithologists are concerned, setting out bird feeders and seed is of great assistance to migrating birds, which have been encountering increasingly difficult migratory journeys as habitat and food supplies are lost. A lot of scientific data is gathered by participants in Cornell's Lab of Ornithology "Feeder Watch" programs and eBird's birding lists, and this information is used to gauge population densities, behavior patterns, migratory patterns, etc. If you want to "legitimize" your use of setups (which will only attract birds already in the area), then you could consider creating bird watch lists and submit them to eBird, and during fall/winter join up for Feeder Watch and submit your sightings there as well.
I try my best not to disturb wild birds, I don't get too close or chase them...Sometimes it works, sometimes not.. but I try to learn from the failures. Different birds react differently.. As mentioned earlier, Chickadees will eat out of your hand. Geese in city parks are used to people feeding them and you can approach within a few feet and they still ignore you, but where I live you are lucky to get within 200 feet before they fly away.
Loons are another bird where it helps to learn their habits.... you could chase one around a lake all day and never get close enough for a decent shot, or you could just sit still in your canoe with a cup of tea and wait... eventually the loon will get back to where you are and then you can shoot away without disturbing it.
But I must confess, there is one flying creature that I have killed in order to take a photograph....