Hi Everyone. As the new moderator for Human and Fauna, I thought I’d give a little background on why I asked for this job when it became open and why I think this forum is important.
While I have been only an occasional contributor to this forum over the years, when I saw the post from David asking for a Moderator, I jumped at the chance. Sometimes life gives you a nudge and the stars align.
In this case, the nudge was a four day photography trip to the Skagit Delta in north western Washington State. I was somewhat familiar with the area from volunteer work for The Nature Conservancy near the town of Stanwood when I lived north of Seattle, but I hadn’t been there since I moved to the south end of Puget Sound. I discovered that the entire area is reclaimed tide flats with the ocean held in place by dikes. The rivers were cleared of debris many, many years ago to make them “navigable” and are still mostly channelized. Most of the area is still kept in agriculture, though I did see a few suburban developments creeping in and there is even some industry in spots. My point is that this entire landscape is far from “natural” I doubt that there is a single feature that is “untouched by the hand of man”.
It occurred to me that this is really the new norm. Yes, there are places that are relatively free from human influence, particularly in North and South America, but most of them require considerable travel on the part of the majority of the human population, including nature photographers, to reach them. From all accounts, the African Savannah is so crowded with safari vehicles that it’s difficult to keep them out of the frame when you’re photographing (I haven’t been there yet, so that’s hearsay). Certainly there is almost nothing untouched by man in Europe, and everything east of the Mississippi and most to the west has been altered by human presence.
This is nothing new. I spend quite a bit of my time working on restoring remnant prairies in the area where I live. Yet these prairies, left to themselves, would have become solid forest thousands of years ago. Instead, when the native Americans moved in after the last glaciers receded, they kept burning the areas they found as prairies for food harvesting and hunting and this served to keep the Douglas Firs from encroaching. Thus I find myself, as a person who believes in conservation, working to restore a man made landscape.
To return to the Skagit, while I was there, I found myself photographing Short-eared Owls with roads, cars and people in the background, Tundra and Trumpeter Swans with houses, boats and oil refineries in the background or foraging in muddy farm fields, Rough-legged Hawks perched on chain link fences and man made posts with farm buildings in the background, and Bald Eagles everywhere perched on any farmyard tree or power pole crossbar they could find.
So I’ve found myself rebelling against the old adage that nature photography can’t include what we have created-there’s no avoiding it in most of the world. Most places when we photograph birds, wildlife or landscapes, we are photographing in a human altered environment. As long as we are creating something beautiful and/or meaningful with a critter as the focus of the image, it is welcome in the Human and Fauna forum. And maybe someday there will be no need for this category and we’ll acknowledge that nearly all “nature” photography takes place in a human altered environment.
Thanks, and I look forward to seeing lots of new people posting in this forum.