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The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

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The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread postby DinkyBird » Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:07 am

What are the opinions on this :D

Does flash leave an 'imprint' - although the light moves on, or dissipates, is there an 'effect' on the subject; does it disturb the animal in any way, blind them and so on.

Is using flash in daylight ok? Night time?

Should one rather use alternate lighting, and if so, what?

Before I head out and buy a flash, mainly for bird photography, I would love to hear your opinions.
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread postby Rooies » Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:23 am

I would say it definitely has an effect on wildlife. Their eyesight at night is better than humans and they use the available moon light better than humans. If a flashlight has such a blinding effect on human eyes, it must be worse for animals. When I was still a young boy, we used to catch spring hares by just shining a flashlight on them. An animal will be blinded for a couple of seconds during which time they will be easy prey for predators.
Last edited by Rooies on Mon Mar 04, 2013 2:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread postby Bush Baptist » Mon Mar 04, 2013 2:20 pm

On night rides the (good) guides have told us that our presence should not give predator nor prey an advantage they don't already have, so I would take that into consideration.
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread postby Rooies » Mon Mar 04, 2013 2:44 pm

I don't agree with those 'good' guides. He will obviously not admit that his flashlight has an effect on the animals. No flashlight, no animal. No animal, no tip. We have seen it how many times where animals, and here I am talking about predators, have used man to assist him in hunting. The Cheetah jumping on top of a car in Serengeti, to get a better view was first a big 'wow' Nowadays its a common occurrence. Predators use stealth, speed, and power to catch its prey while prey uses sight, sound and smell to detect the predators. Take these factors away from any of them and the other side will win the battle.

It has been suggested, although not proven, that lions take advantage of a slippery tar road in order to catch giraffe. Forumites have mentioned how many times they have came across a giraffe kill close to a tar road. It is another example where wild animals have used man made stuff to gain an advantage over others.
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread postby ecojunkie » Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:09 pm

I do not believe that an ordinary flash is a danger. Animals have to cope with lightning which is similar and can also be 'blinding'. A flash is not the same as a spotlight which is used for a length of time and certainly affects eye-sight. Some of the super powerful flashes are not good though.

The only light that really does not affect eye-sight is the red-filter.
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread postby JeanniR » Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:50 pm

I found this article about nocturnal birds... :cam:

"The latest research suggests that by using flash can severely impair the dark adaptation of birds such as Owls and Nightjars for as much as one hour, making it difficult (if not impossible) for the birds to hunt successfully during that period of time.

Such impairment, albeit temporary, can be catastrophic for birds with nestlings to feed - particularly at this time of year when the hours of darkness are at their minimum - and if the same bird is targeted repeatedly may prejudice the success of an entire brood".
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread postby Bush Baptist » Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:21 pm

I agree with what you say about man made objects Rooies. Leopards & cheetahs use vegicle 'cover' to get closer to their prey.

I was specifically speaking about flashes & strong torches. 2 guides i have been with especially, are above the 'tip' theory you espoused and rely on their knowledge and presentation for that.
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread postby Rooies » Mon Mar 04, 2013 6:35 pm

There was a bit of misunderstanding from my side. Flash light vs torch light, However, I will stick to my guns as far as the blinding affect of a strong light is concerned. Some of my acquaintances in the hunting fraternity tell me that when they have to go and harvest surplus animals, they use a strong spotlight to blind them and are then able to shoot the entire herd there and then. (Btw, they are not my friends because they are shooters and not hunters.) My experience with the hares is the same.
What may differ is the duration of the exposure to bright light that the animals have to endure.

I am not a trained guide with all the paper work but I know when someone wants to convince me that "perde drolle is vye" (horse manure are green figs)
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread postby DinkyBird » Mon Mar 04, 2013 6:46 pm

On a guided morning walk in Kruger a few years back, the guide would not let us use flash (this now in daylight) because it 'left an imprint'.

So, what about using fill flash during the day?

This whole topic makes me think too, of how much 'set up' is acceptable for a 'true wildlife' pic. I remember reading once of a very well known photographer, who had published a stunning pic of a gogo (insect) in the desert. Lots of praise for the pic ... until someone asked how the gogo got to where it was in the sand with no footprints ... and the photographer had to admit he has picked the gogo up and placed it on that spot.
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread postby ecojunkie » Mon Mar 04, 2013 7:02 pm

The reason you cannot use flash on a walk is that you do not want the animal to know you are there. A flash will attract attention. The ideal on a walk is to approach an animal and then leave again without it ever knowing you were anywhere close.
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread postby DinkyBird » Mon Mar 04, 2013 7:12 pm

Ah, makes perfect sense EJ! Thanks for that info.
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread postby Stark » Tue Mar 05, 2013 4:42 am

I can say with certainty that, when in an open air vehicle, in Greater Kruger, with your wife and son in the seat in front of you, while watching a pride of lions on a kill, having a flash accidentally go off when you switch your camera settings and miss the mark and set it to "auto", is a horribly bad idea.

I wasn't eaten, but a lioness was keenly interested in me and I felt very, very small. Thankfully our tracker gave her a hard stare and swung the spotlight in her general direction, and eating a foolish American became less appealing for her.

I'll have to find the picture that nearly was the end of me. :)
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread postby DuQues » Tue Mar 05, 2013 8:18 am

During daytime I will often recommend using flash on birds, or even on mammals hidden a bit in the bush.
No need to set it to full power, see the manual, just a brush of extra light.
That will remove some of the shadows, show more detail, and put the sparkle in the eyes. So your photo will look a lot better.
I have an example of the young goshawk floating around here somewhere, two photos side by side, one without flash, one with.

On nightdrives flash without an extender is mostly useless, you are way better off woth one or two torches shining near (not on!) the animal.
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread postby DinkyBird » Tue Mar 05, 2013 8:23 am

Duco, what flash do you recommend for a Canon 50D using a 100-400 lens, and only for the daytime use as you illustrated here. And at the moment, more for bird photography.
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread postby Josh of the Bushveld » Tue Mar 05, 2013 11:40 am

There's a decent thread on flash and fill-in flash over here.
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