Think About Your Flash   1 comment

IMG_3108The photo to the left was taken by my daughter in the Night Hunters exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo. The big, white blob was actually caused by another visitor who was taking a picture with a flash. It is a symptom of a problem I see at zoos: using flash for photography of animals, especially in nocturnal houses.

My daughter encountered the small issue with this: the glare produced often messes up photos. Be it your own flash, or someone else trying to take a picture, the glare makes the photo practically useless. A similar effect can be seen with other lighting at the zoo (you can occasionally be seen in my photos), but it is typically lower intensity, and predictable. Usually, you can work around it to some extent.

The bigger issue, to me, is kindness to the animals. Nocturnal animals are designed to let in as much light into their eyes as possible. Look at a cat’s eye: the pupil can grow to be quite huge. It can reduce down to a slit (rather than a circle) so that, in conjunction with eyelids, the amount of light allowed in can be fine-tuned in daylight. A layer in the eye known as the tapetum lucidum maximizes the use of the light that enters the eye (it is also what causes their eyes to “glow”). In an exhibit like Night Hunters, the animals are using a large portion of this capability.

And then some idiot decides to trigger a camera flash right at this delicate instrument. I’ve seen the animals wince in discomfort, or go hide in the back of the enclosure. It really is not a nice thing to do.

I’ve heard the argument that, if the zoo didn’t want people to take flash photography, they’d put up a sign. Perhaps. However, there is such a thing as “human decency.” Is your snapshot worth causing these animals such discomfort?

I don’t use flash when taking pictures of any zoo animals (and even limit my use of it with my house cats), especially in exhibits that are meant to minimize the amount of light reaching the animals. To do otherwise just seems mean. Given that I view taking such pictures as part of my hobby and advocacy, I optimize my equipment for such environments (camera, lenses, and software for post processing), take the time to learn how to use it, and spend a great deal of time practicing. While I know most people may wish to make the investment in the equipment, they can take the time to learn how to make optimal use of what they have. Read the manual! Watch a tutorial video! Take the time to practice low light photography. These skills can be transferred to other situations. It is, in my opinion, a worthy investment in time.


Posted 2012-08-29 by Mr. Guilt in animals, Photography, rant, Zoos & Aquariums

One response to “Think About Your Flash

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  1. Pingback: October, 2013 Hodge-Podge | Mr. Guilt's Blog

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