Friday, 19 May 2017


I grew up in the 1950's and, like many others at the time, my parents were great fans of musical theatre and cinema. One of their favourites was the Rodgers and Hammerstein production 'Oklahoma!' The score used to both amuse and baffle me: what was a 'Surrey', who was 'Poor Judd'? and why couldn't the Farmers and the Cowmen be friends?

It occurs to me that the current - and increasing - enmity between 'scopies' and wildlife photographers is becoming just as irrational and divisive.

On recent tweets and blog entries I've seen photographers roundly attacked for getting too close to birds, trespassing, and disturbing 'proper' birders with chatter and the clicking of shutters. I fall between two stalls: I've been looking at birds for fifty years plus, but, like lots of older birders, I came into bird photography late (aged 60, in fact!) Perhaps as a result, I reckon I can see both sides of the argument: I've seen hides jammed with camera gear, but then I've seen hides jammed with telescopes, too! A camera in a hide takes up nowhere near as much space as a telescope on a tripod: generally photographers rest their lenses on a bean bag or the shutter sill. The same is, of course, true of the gallery at a big twitch: take a look at pictures of the queues for last Autumn's Siberian Accentors - the number of cameras is about the same as the number of telescopes! I've seen just as many telescope users pushing nearer and nearer as I have photographers. (And digiscoping, whatever some people might choose to pretend, is still photography!)

When I went to catch up with the Buckenham White-tailed Eagle recently, I was told it had been flushed by a photographer who'd walked past the Red Barn into the woods. When this individual returned I discovered he was carrying a cheap bridge camera and binoculars: not what I'd call the equipment of a hobby photographer!
The fact is that a decent image of a good bird is increasingly expected by rarities committees: a field sketch no longer cuts the mustard. I've submitted three birds over the past five years, providing field sketches and notes in support: none were accepted! Other individuals of all three species were passed, based on photographic evidence!

Can't we all just accept that a minority in both camps will push the envelope too far, while the majority are merely using different optical equipment to enjoy the same pastime? There are far worse things  out there affecting wildlife than the click of a shutter!

The photo below is the Gallinule twitch at Minsmere: notice that telescopes still predominate! Even so, I was pushed and shoved by the same guy in two different locations because he objected to 'effing photographers getting in the way!' On the second occasion he actually followed me thirty metres to stand behind me and complain!

Last thought: just consider how many of the top birders carry and use a camera: Steve Gantlett, Rob Holmes, Lee Evans, Marcus Nash, Steve Smith and even many of the more vociferous critics of bird photography!

No comments: