Disturbance

A lone Muskox in a snowstorm

Last time I blogged about disturbance and photography. Best thing is to avoid disturbance as much as possible while taking pictures. During my study biology I did some research on disturbance in Barnacle Geese. The problem for us with disturbance is that the first signs of disturbance are invisible to us (a raised heart rate). This means that when we see a change in behaviour (the animal or bird looks up at the cause of the disturbance) the animal is already disturbed for a while. The next phase is that the animal stops with his normal behaviour and gives a reaction to the cause of disturbance (normally looking at it). The last phase if the animal fleeing. I think it will be really difficult (if not impossible) to avoid the first phase, especially if you want to make a portrait. But the second and definitely the third phase should be avoided if possible. But the question is how.

I think there are two things important to avoid disturbance: knowledge and patience. First of all you need knowledge about the subject and its environment. This way you can see changes in the behaviour if you come too close. With the same knowledge you can also avoid disturbance of other species in the same habitat. Secondly, patience. If you see a nice subject, the best way to disturb it, is to run towards it in order to take some pictures. So taking pictures cost time. Time spent in a hide waiting for the subject to appear, or by slowly approaching the subject. The picture of the Muskox above was made the second way. We slowly approached the animals, waiting regularly so the animals could get used to our presence. Every time when they looked at us we waited for some minutes until they continued with their normal behaviour. This takes time of course, but it also results in better pictures. The next day another photographer tried the same but taking less time. This resulted in the Muskoxen running away using valuable energy that they could have better used to keep warm in the cold temperatures…

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