As with everything concerning wildlife, extreme views on the interaction between humans and animals exist, no matter what the topic of conversation. Unfortunately the use of artificial lighting to photograph (domestic or wild) animals is only one such an (unnecessary) area of controversy. I believe that much of what Jane says is rooted in hearsay and anecdotal evidence and cannot be left unchallenged. To judge people’s photographic actions negatively right across the spectrum of flash intensities and “ban” the use of the electronic camera flash for wildlife photography (especially when used in fill-in mode), as she suggests, is an uninformed judgment.
Many different species of animals have been subjected to diverse light sources of various intensities for scientific research in laboratories over many decades to determine the effect of those light sources on the eye, ranging from fish, reptiles, birds and amongst mammals: mice, rabbits, cats, dogs and monkeys, etc. In none of these experiments has permanent damage to the eyes of test animals or even people been detected, even at close range and at much higher intensity than the strongest flashes produced by a photographer’s flash equipment. Extreme tests included dark-adapting animals for 24 hours before subjecting them to short durations of intense light, and even then the impairment was not permanent.
If you want to better understand the workings of the eye read here.
This site is a bit complex and you must navigate through the various sections of the site in order to get the full value. This one
is for cats (not much, but the best I could find).
Now, to specifically address the misunderstandings Jane’s post is responsible for, although joshilewis has already alluded to some of it …
The latest Nikon cameras have D Lighting so you dont need Fill Flash
D-lighting (or “Highlight Tone Priority” for Canon users) is in-camera software that enables more detail to be saved in highlight and lowlight areas of a JPEG image. Its purpose was never to replace the flash or fill-in flash. For RAW shooters it has no detectable value. Maybe a D-light or HTP thread can evolve from this one? I won’t participate as I don’t depend on in-camera software, but rather do my own image reworks from RAW.
… those delicate Carnivore and Nocturnal birds eyes … get damaged by cruel flashes which can harm those ultra sensitive and much needed retinas
The words delicate, cruel, ultra-sensitive, much-needed are emotional justifiers Jane used to rationalise her point. You now know (I hope you’ve read here
) how the eye actually behaves in changing light. Remember that fill-flash is not the primary source of light when it is used, the sun is. The eye has evolved to handle bright light such as the sun and the rod cells are "turned off" during bright light. At source the fill-flash is many orders of magnitude lower than the sun and by the stage it reaches the subject, even further diffused and therefore will have no detrimental effect on the creature. So all those hot-button words: delicate, cruel, ultra-sensitive, much-needed have no bearing here.
Bear in mind a leopard has eyes about 20000 times more sensitive/acute than our eyes
…a Pearlspotted Owl is a nocturnal animal and as such has extremely sensitive eyes and as such should never be subjected to flash photography .
20000 times! Jeez, that is an out-of-thin-air statistic/statement, if ever I’ve seen one! The closest I could get to this stat that cats can in ambient conditions eight
times dimmer than humans can. Mammalian eyes are eyes, human or cat. They all have similar components, only the unique requirements for each being has been catered for by evolution. Cat’s eyes have about 25 rods to each cone, compared to the composition of the human eye that has roughly four rods to each cone. Yet the number of fibres in human optic nerve is 1 200 000 as opposed to 119 000 in a cat’s eye. So, to make any “sensitivity comparison” is tough, wouldn’t you say? There is of course the tapetum lucidum, a membrane that is extreme well developed in cats and other animals, allowing light to be harvested in dim and dark conditions thus increasing the eyes efficiency. This membrane allows a cat’s eye to produces flash-back when caught in those ultra-powerful searchlights used to illuminate animals on night drives. These searchlights, often in the hands of untrained clients, inadvertently hits animal eyes at similar intensity but for much longer durations than camera flashes. Yet, even these searchlights have been proven not to have any permanent detrimental effect on the animals subjected to them, apart from making them temporarily uncomfortable.
I cannot argue with Jane about impairment of animals when a flash is indiscreetly used at low light times. That impairment is fortunately only temporary, even when used to such extremes as she infers is the case in the private game reserves. In fact, they have their priorities right! They will allow busy flash photography so that the client gets his money’s worth. Ten minutes after the event, the cat will be completely fit again. After repeated exposures to this sort of interaction, they get acclimatised to it, and suffer no long-term ill-effects.
To advocate taking away my ability to decide for myself if and when I want to take a flash-assisted photograph goes entirely against my grain, especially if that “ban” is based on unsubstantiated yarns. As far as Andy’s PSO goes, I have now idea how many shots were taken with a flash, but if it was curtailed, judiciously, the owlet would not have been stressed at all! An example to explain… strobing away at a cat chasing a mouse around will result in poor pix anyhow and a cat going without its dinner… (saved the mouse, though, heheheheee…) but shooting a few carefully composed portraits of that same cat enjoying its dinner will have very little effect cost-wise to the cat, while the good photographer will have front-page quality images of subjects that can increase public awareness and appreciation of nature subjects. We all know (I hope) the importance of maintaining a diverse population of birds and animals on this planet. There are not many better ways to publicise their plight and to improve the survival and quality of life than by showing the (potential) donators of bucks the subjects we photographed.
On the other hand, I can get quite disturbed when I see animals suffering as a result of human stupidity/greed… signal towers, power lines, feral animals, air and water pollution, vehicles, habitat reduction and the bush meat market are some concerns… To my mind these are of greater importance to the welfare of animals than temporary vision alteration due to flash photography. I feel that animals in general can cope with the peculiarities that are inextricably part of interaction with us humans much better than what those same humans give them credit for. What they cannot cope with is direct and indirect exploitation. This
is probably the most balanced article that you’ll find on the subject, written by a veterinarian and a doctor, both with a keen interest in wildlife photography, but Jane has already dismissed it as inconsequential!Here
is a good one on fill-flash photography.
I noted with interest the blunt way Jane dismissed joshilewis’s reference to the excellent Nature Scapes article
Maybe your vet article has some merit for the odd Kruger cat that gets a flash in the face once every 6 weeks or so but in all sincerity are you willing to risk possible harm?
, in spite of the conclusive evidence offered contrary to Jane’s views and I wonder whether this effort of mine will be bread on the water or totally…