Raptors Gone Wild - Arizona edition

January 29, 2014  •  2 Comments

Ouch!  It hurts that we live in a time where all photos are viewed with a suspicious eye.  Because of Photoshop and the like the camera is no longer considered "the unimpeachable witness".  Hence I was disheartened, yet not surprised, when I received this question in an email from Arizona Highways in reference to my Bald Eagle shot on the back cover of the current issue. "We (Arizona Highways) got an email from another photographer who noticed the band on the bird's right leg, and he said it looked like the bird was tethered to the branch (or something). Is that the case, or is it just a band for tracking the bird?"

The answer is the eagle has ID bands on both legs as clearly seen in these shots from the same sequence.  And c'mon, if I were going to fake the shot, the eagle would have a penguin in it's talons, a polar bear dangling from it's beak and lightning bolts crashing over the Grand Canyon. (Hmmm, note to self - go shoot some polar bear stock.)

And I thought our ability to accessorize is what separated humans from the beasts.  Bald Eagle at Page Springs, Arizona.  This is two frames after the shot featured on the back cover of Arizona Highways.


Fast forward 19 seconds and the same eagle is about to land in a different tree.  Both ID bands clearly visible.  No leg tethers so this is obviously not a trained animal actor.  (If it was an actor it would have better abs.)


If the person who made the tethered-to-the-branch accusation was as classy, intelligent and savvy as you my dear reader, he would follow my blog and other writings and know how I felt about wild versus captive subjects.  Just this week I wrote a guest post about truth in labeling wildlife photos for Photography Life in which I discussed my experience shooting captive venomous snakes at the Kentucky Reptile Zoo.  Those photos all have the word "captive" in their file names, keywording and caption information so no editor will ever be misled as to how the shots were taken.  This is in keeping with the North American Nature Photography Association's truth in captioning statement.  When I'm shooting in the wild I follow the ethical practices summarized by NANPA.

Was that just the most boring paragraph I've ever written?  Let's hope I never have to repeat that.  I put in a lot of time in the wild trying to capture exciting moments in the lives on my subjects.  The thrill of capturing those moments is what keeps me alert during the tedious hours of following a subject waiting for something cool to happen.  Screw setting up shots with trained animal actors - that's just BS practiced by those who's main objective is cashing in on the animals.  They can have their pet cougar in Antelope Canyon shots.  For me, I'll take wild and raw.

So I'm only going to say this once.  I WILL NEVER TETHER AN ANIMAL TO GET A SHOT... unless they're into that kind of thing.


Restraints in action!  This Harris Hawk couple are getting kinky in Scottsdale - notice how the female has looped herself under the power pole wire to enhance the feeling of submission to her oh-so-powerful mate.  As an aside, the male showed up to this encounter with some telltale white feathers stuck in one talon.  Was he out swinging earlier that day?


it's not easy being a bird these days: the banders don't even consider
how these accesories may hinder an outfit choice while trying to look
hot and hunky.
You always make me laugh. Awesome post.
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