Week 2 The Index and the Icon

Authenticity of the image week 2 CRJ


In my practice as a nature photographer i want my images to portray nature as authentically as possible. I don’t want to interfere with the species and its daily life. These are my ethical and moral choices that i choose to adhere to, i have been known to move a bland of grass, leaves or twigs if they are in the way of creating a more pleasing composition, but not to the detriment of the flora. I will move instead and find a better position, i try and make the least impact can on the environment i’m in to help conserve and protect the area and wildlife. I want the viewer to see what i see but this will be changed from the view i see due to the camera, lighting, manipulation in photoshop the choice i make before hitting the button but i will not change the scene in front of me. The viewer will see my version of events, my creative eye and take on the scene in front of me. All the rules and some broken rules of how to aesthetically create and image come into play from my side of the camera. I chose to the angle, the light, composition and subject matter and when to hit the button and not to. My choices create my images.

I have strong ethical and moral standing on the way we as natural history photographers take images and how or if we should bate animals into our image space, i don’t want to be tricking nature into acting a certain way or trick the viewer in what they are viewing. The way you go about your image making i guess is based on your own ethics/moral compass. Do you interfere with things to get your shot? So it makes the process easier for you? Or do you change your plans to fit in with the natural world? Depending on your choices is the image authentic or not?

We are being careless with our approach about the natural world and one of those outcomes of that carelessness is the rise in plastic sea pollution being documented recently. A recent study by 

Dr Lesley Henderson, Senior Lecturer in Sociology & Communications at Brunel University London on ‘Solving the problem of plastic pollution: Beyond the natural sciences? states

“One suggestion is the public could potentially become more motivated to engage in ‘ocean friendly’ behaviour if powerful images were carried on everyday products, similar to that already being used on cigarette packaging” (Henderson, 2018) 


Images can be used in a powerful way to change the opinions of the public when used for health and or environmental issues, like the powerful health images used on cigarette packets showing the effects of cigarette smoke on our health,  Similar images could be used the same way on everyday packaging showing plastic pollution in the hope that the image will motivate a change in ‘ocean friendly’ behaviour.   A change campaigns or so called “Nudge' policies brought out by government using photography. So its important to show the reality of this impact as to not mislead the public. If you want to change their minds and behaviour by misleading them in the first instance is not going to win people round, if found out that it was misleading. With issues like this i believe it is vital to be truthful in text as well as the image. In my own practice i want to show the changes of the orchard and what inhabits the area as true as i can with my artist interpretation being used to create aesthetically pleasing images for viewers to enjoy. I personally want to experience nature to its fullest so i have to have the patience and determination within me to keep going to get that shot. 

In a lot of competition the rules state that no baiting is allowed or if so that you must state this on your image when entering. I think this is only fair. 


With this image by Rodriguez, In my opinion it was right for him to be stripped of his title of the wolf image. By using a tame wolf and baiting it, you know exactly where the wolf will be go and you can set up accordingly to get the shot. Any decent photographer with the right connections to a tame wolf could do it, but to create that image in the wild would take time, knowledge, patience and an understanding of the wolf’s habits etc, not only does the image then impress but it also gains recognition for the photographer who will be acknowledged for the complexity and achievement in getting the image naturally. Wildlife photography has a reputation of being a hard area to work in because of the environment and nature of the subject matter so by tricking the viewer with a image thats is staged it's cheating the hard working purists out there. If stated its set up then thats fine but don’t try and pass it off as nature and authentic when it is clearly not.

Yet, in wildlife film documentary i think it is acceptable to create staged set ups to document natures if its to dangerous for humans to film in the wild or if filming will endanger the subject. Explaining this process and why it has been done is also very important to allow the viewer to understand the complexity of the nature world and our limitations as human beings and film makers within the natural world environment, this then sets a standard and president for all who may possibly follow into the natural history industry or as a general interest. 


In my practice I’ve been recording the winter scenes in the Apple Orchard. I went out on a shoot on Sunday, I initially looked around the environment to familiarise myself with the orchard again, it’s been over 3 years since i was living and working at Iford Manor. I used to spend the evenings sitting beside the orchard taking in the warm evening light. The light at Iford is very special many have commented. Maybe it’s the place the light shines through which is special, not the light. On this mid winters January day it was a grey, drizzling and cold.  The place was very quite, only the crowing pheasant could be heard loudly above other winter birds. Iford Manor is closed to the pubic at this time of year so i had the place to myself. A quick visit to Jane, a friend of mine and the current housekeeper to borrow a plastic bag to cover the camera with as i forgot to re pack the previous one I had used. Being an outdoor photography i’ve learnt to adapt with the weather, dress for the occasion and that includes dressing the camera. I had forgotten to re pack the plastic bag, high tech gadgetry at use here. With a plastic bag covering the camera, i was off to the orchard to see what was about. This was the first visit for this project, as i have changed location from when i handed in my research project proposal.


The weather was not pleasant, it is winter after all. I need to embrace this,  this is after all what i want to depict, A year in the life of an orchard, including good and the bad weather. At a quick glance it all looks a bit barren, at the moment the trees are in hibernation mode, shutting down for the winter, not many flowers or leaves. I’m currently reading a book about how trees communicate with each other, I've only just started this but its about how trees communicate with each other. Yes, apparently they talk to each other. Well, i’ll let you know as i read about how they do this.  As i’m standing in the orchard i get to pondering about the trees and they're communicating. What are they talking about? Are they discussing how the weather is this time of year?, or how big their crops were last year? Having  a joyful banter about who’s crop will be the best this year?  Well, maybe thats a children’s book in the making right there….


As i wonder around i look at the space and then go further into it. I always do this, look into the big landscape as a whole then slowly, slowly go further into it, getting closer to finding the details within the landscape and the environment i’m studying. I find this requires a slowing down process, emptying the mind of everything and just being present in the moment and the space around me, a sort of meditation, becoming mindful about the surrounding area. I’m reading a book called ‘Becoming nature’ learning the language of Wild Animals and plants by Tamarack Song. This is about how we as humans have lost touch with nature and how we can rebuild that connection, again this will feed into my project as i feel it fits. I feel i need to understand nature and the subject matter i’m photographing to enable me to become a better photographer of the subject not only through the theory we are being taught on this degree about photography, but we as photographers need to know and understand our subject matter especially in wildlife and nature photography.


If i’m photographing a habitat for a field guide then the image needs to be a true depiction of the species as people will be trying to identify species in the field along side written detailed text showing different elements to allow correct identification, this is very important when dealing with for example fungi, there are 5.1 million fungi species, some of which are highly poisonous if consumed by humans and one mushroom can look very similar to another mushroom that isn’t poisonous, so great care and skill is needed to correctly identify the right fungi. True depiction of the subject matter is crucial in these areas of science that use photography.


In my own practice i want to allow the viewer to identify species in the orchard correct to enable  a greater understanding of what lives within the environment of an Apple orchard that might not have been considered before hand, but, i also want to show the orchard off in a style thats connected to me, a more creative aesthetic approach to the photography. 

For example: These two images, one is a flowering tree, yet to be identified. I will spend a day with the owners who know what species of trees are in the orchard, and another old tree on the perimeter of the orchard. Again i will identify later. 

The first image isn’t so easily identifiable from the image, even in winter you can identify trees from their bark but this was taken at a distance so you wouldn’t be able to see it closely enough to identify it. People with years of experience would know it from a distance but i’m not that knowledgeable on tree identification in winter months. The right image is more identifiable as you  can clearly see the flowers enough to be able to make a judgment if you had a field guide with you, or had the knowledge. 

I’m wanting to make images that hold identifying qualities as well as aesthetically pleasing and creative, i’m experimenting with the method at the moment. The image to the right is the multi image shot from the two above. I do it all on site with a few adjustments in photoshop afterwards. I do think about the composition of the images before hand and i look to see what i think will work well together within the landscape. I think this image works well with the background soft colour contrasts with the stark black silhouetted tree promenade in the foreground, allowing the subtle pastel pink flowers to show through, representing bright colourful spring pushing through dark cold winter. 

These multi shot image don’t work for me the composition of the of the individual images don’t work together, the bottom image looks like it shot through a piece of glass creating reflections which are unappealing and distracting, and the top image with the central snowdrops positioning isn’t good. I don’t think the colour does it any favours, all the green is a bit flat looking. 

The text we are reading at the moment are making me think more about the image i take in the first instance, and how the single image will bled with another, and what am i trying to depict and say within this image. What will the viewer read from viewing the image? Are the images depicting the season and capturing the essence of the apple orchard that I’m becoming to learn about.