Nature

16 April 2013

Next month’s set subject at my camera club is Nature. While many subject categories in the camera-club photographic scene are pretty flexible, open to interpretation and creative licence (the degree of latitude depending on the judge!), Nature is not one of them! “Nature” category images are very specifically defined. The entire treatise from the PSNZ Natex website reads:

Nature Sections

Nature photography depicts living, untamed animals and uncultivated plants in a natural habitat, geology and the wide diversity of natural phenomena, from insects to icebergs, from the depths of the ocean to the limits of the universe. Photographs of animals which are domesticated, caged or under any form of restraint, as well as photographs of cultivated plants are ineligible. Microscopic nature photography will be allowed if the subject shown cannot be depicted in any other way.

Minimal evidence of humans is acceptable for nature subjects, such as Welcome swallows or Monarch butterflies adapting to an environment modified by humans, or natural forces, like tropical cyclones or tsunami, reclaiming it. The original image must have been taken by the photographer, whatever photographic medium is used. Any manipulation or modification to the original image is limited to minor retouching blemishes and must not alter the content of the original scene. Digital techniques that extend the capability of the camera may be used providing that they honestly and accurately represent the original nature story or event at the time of capture. After satisfying the above requirements, every effort should be made to use the highest level of artistic skill in all nature photographs.

Images in New Zealand Nature must have been taken in the natural environment of New Zealand or its offshore islands.

For all nature images, scientific or common names must be included in the titles.

Photographers must have complied with the PSNZ Nature Code of Conduct below.

PSNZ Nature Code of Conduct

When photographing nature subjects, there is always a certain amount of stress put on the subjects by the photographer. The Photographic Society of New Zealand (PSNZ) therefore has put together a series of principles for all members when they are photographing or even observing nature subjects, so that any stress is minimised.

The welfare of the subject is more important than the photograph. This applies to geological as well as biological subjects. Any local or national conservation requirements must be obeyed. This includes getting appropriate permits and observing restricted areas. Permission should be sought from private landholders before venturing on to their land. There should be minimal disturbance to the surroundings. It is most important that the photographer has a reasonable knowledge of the subject before attempting to take any pictures.

For uncommon subjects this knowledge needs to be extensive. It is important that the photographer has a general knowledge of other associated subjects so that the process of photographing causes no risk or stress to them. This in particular refers to small life forms.

Compliance with the Code of Conduct

The aim of this code of conduct is to prevent any damage to the environment and subjects being photographed, and so members of the PSNZ are expected to comply with it. Compliance will be assisted by taking time to study the subject to be photographed so as to ensure that it is not inadvertently placed at risk. Where evidence of a serious and deliberate violation of this Code by a PSNZ member is drawn to the attention of a PSNZ affiliated Club or PSNZ member, it or they will refer the matter to the PSNZ Council for consideration.

The Final Image

Any nature picture should record the truth of what the photographer saw at the time the picture was taken and reflect the competence of the image as captured by the photographer. Digital techniques that extend the capability of the camera may be used providing that they honestly and accurately represent the original nature story or event at the time of capture.

Being something of a structured soul, I quite like well-defined guidelines. So I set out with the camera last Saturday morning on a trundle through my local neighbourhood wilderness. (I should have been out earlier to enjoy better light, but I was anticipating a high tide a bit before 9am–when the light at this time of year is still OK. However, I read the Auckland tide times not the Manukau tide times… so had to wait till 11am for the high tide, by which time the light was much too harsh. But it was a beautiful morning for a walk!)

For the record, in the images below:

a) the fauna are all wild; in no way restrained or domesticated

b) the flora are effectively wild–on public land and not in anyone’s garden, although the pine tree was probably “cultivated” by somebody originally.

c) no fauna were stressed (or at least not very much) by my presence. When the herons decided I’d got close enough to get a shot that filled the frame, they decided I was too close–and left to sit in the tree!

d) no part of the environment was damaged, although I did stomp in and around some fairly unstable mounds of kikuyu on the edge of a rather steep bank;

d) the digital techniques employed have been reserved to dodging, burning, sharpening and lots and lots of cropping! The final image does retain the reality of the scene in front of my lens (except for those specifically stated as otherwise.)

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