Saturday 24 August 2013

Staged 'Wildlife' Images in the National Press

The national and international press are always on the look-out for eye-catching and unusual images and in recent months they have printed a large number of images of 'wildlife' in 'humorous' poses. The image below of the frog sheltering from the rain under a leaf is a good example. It seems to have been reproduced everywhere from the Guardian to the Daily Mail to the Huffington Post.

Photographer: Penkdix Palme

Anyone with any experience of wildlife and photography would know this is a highly staged image, despite the photographer's claim that he observed the frog sheltering from the rain in this manner for 30 minutes. This frog does not want to be there and it is not in good condition. The leaf doesn't match the aloe vera stem that it's sat on, the rain is too even and is either coming from a hosepipe/watering can or may even have been added in post processing and, to top it all, the photographer even has other images of frogs sheltering under different leaves. So it is very sad to see so many picture editors paying this photographer for this horribly fraudulent image. 

There have been many other recent examples and, for some reason, many are the work of Indonesian photographers. I was very pleased to see the blog post below exposing some of these images: 

Increasingly the reality behind these images is being exposed and so I can only hope that picture editors and news agencies will start to ask a few more questions and to remember the maxim that if a photo seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Edit: A few more examples to illustrate my point. All showing totally unnatural, staged behaviour.

the common themes in these 3 images are the Daily Mail, Indonesian photographers and animals balanced on top of other animals. However, a final example breaks that first common theme but not the other two. It's featured in the Daily Telegraph's news pictures of the year 2013. Yes, really.

note the mention of the 'rare moment' captured by the photographer. 

The only question I have is whether picture editors are themselves very naive and gullible and genuinely believe these images are natural, or whether they know damn well that these images are staged but are working on the assumption that most readers are naive and gullible. 

Thursday 15 August 2013

Mating Green Hairstreak Butterflies

When it comes to my nature photography I prefer to stay local. In fact, the vast majority of my photographs are taken within a 3 mile radius of my home. This is a deliberate strategy, in part because I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea of travelling 200 miles to photograph a butterfly. But in truth it's also due to the fact that it's easier to be on site early in the morning if the site is closer to my home. Also, I think macro photography lends itself to staying local perhaps more so than mammal or bird photography. However, I do make the odd exception to my rule and will occasionally travel a little further afield.

One trip that I usually make at least once each year is to Ryton Woods in Warwickshire (approx 35 miles from my home). The woods and the nearby meadow are generally good for a variety of butterflies. This year I paid a visit at the end of May mainly to photograph the Green Hairstreaks (I also visited again in July to see the Marbled Whites but that will be a topic for a future blog post as I haven't processed those images yet).

On this particular day in late May there were a number of Green Hairstreaks about but because it was quite a warm day they were very active and I wondered whether I would actually get any decent images. Luckily I spotted a mating pair, a first for me, and since they were preoccupied they let me move in reasonably close (not too close since I was using the Sigma 150mm macro lens which has a good working distance). Fortunately, they didn't seem at all bothered by my presence and continued mating for a good 20-30 minutes!


The image above is my favourite and it alone made the trip worthwhile for me. That was just as well because I actually photographed little else and gave up due to the heat a couple of hours later! The following are the only other vaguely respectable images that I managed.

Tuesday 6 August 2013


For some reason I never see Mayflies at any of my regular local haunts so I was surprised to find this one at a nearby site in early June. It was on its own sitting in the grass with no sign of any other individuals in the vicinity.

Mayflies have an unusual life cycle and typically spend 2 years living in rivers, streams or lakes as a nymph. They then emerge in their adult form and often create mating swarms above the water. However, this adult stage is short-lived and typically only lasts for a day or two. As a result of this short life span, the adult Mayfly doesn't actually eat. Its sole purpose is reproduction!

I believe this individual is Ephemera danica, one of the UK's most common species of Mayfly.