Should Wildlife Filmmakers Share Information?

Its wings almost dry from the morning dew, a dragonfly takes flight

I was watching a nature and wildlife photography show the other day. Two nature photographers were going back to a place where there were some fantastic flowers growing tall against a blue sky.

When they reached the location all the flowers had been cut off. One photographer said they were most likely cut off by another nature and wildlife photographer so that no one else could get the shot.

I sat there watching this scene unfold and my jaw literally dropped. The more I read looked into this, the more I realized that this is happening more and more. As photography stock rates continue to drop, it has become a cutthroat business for some.

I’m sure it happens in the nature and wildlife filmmaking business too but we are a much smaller niche. I’ve never run across another wildlife filmmaker while out at my local nature center. But I have encountered a few nature photographers while out filming at the nature center.

So this show started me thinking. Should I be sharing information with others I meet when I’m out filming?

Quite often when I’m out in the field filming nature I meet people that are curious about what I am shooting. Most of the time they are just out to enjoy nature. Sometimes though I meet a few people who want to learn more about nature photography and filmmaking and they stick around a little longer asking questions. Now, I don’t mind people asking me questions. If I can share my love of nature and wildlife with someone else, that’s just one more person who might stand up to protect it.

A goldfinch sitting on its nest. Would you share its location?

One of the questions I often get asked is what camera I’m using and what is the best video camera for filming wildlife. But the question I get asked the most is “Where can I find…” The … could be just about any subject. In the past I’d offer up everything I knew about where they could find the subject they were searching for.

I’ve always believed in cooperation instead of competition. If someone wants to know something I’ll try to give them the best answer I can. But have I ever put any of those subjects in danger by sharing this information with someone who doesn’t have similar field ethics as me?

I contemplated that while I sat with a dew covered dragonfly waiting for it to warm in the morning sun and take its first flight of the day.
I had scouted this area in the past and knew it was a likely location for filming dew covered dragonflies. They’re very vulnerable at this time as they are not mobile at all. It would be easy to knock down the grasses surrounding them and expose them to birds looking for an easy early breakfast.

But would the photographer or filmmaker I encountered on the trail be as concerned with the dragonflies welfare as I was?

Would you reveal the location of this monarch chrysalis to another filmmaker?

Then there’s the sense of discovery on finding something on your own. Does it water down the thrill of finding a goldfinch nest if you already know where it is?

I often get calls and emails from people telling me where I can film certain subjects. These are people that know me well and know my field ethics. I think though that knowing that I’m going to film a Pileated woodpecker nest isn’t the same thrill as discovering it on my own. So should we take away the thrill of discovery by giving someone a map of everything they can find along the trail?

I put up a poll on my Facebook page to see where some of my fellow filmmakers stand on the subject. It was evenly split between sharing and not sharing information.

So I want to ask you. What do you think? If you met someone along a trail with a video camera would you share all that you had discovered along the trail or would you leave it for them to discover on their own?

I really do what to know what you think. Please leave a comment below or shoot me an email. Please share this post with your fellow filmmakers. I’d love to hear what everyone thinks.

By | 2016-11-06T09:39:04+00:00 October 9th, 2012|Categories: Filmmaking Naturally News|0 Comments

About the Author:

Award-winning filmmaker Kevin J Railsback has traveled as far as Africa to test HD cameras for Panasonic. His stunning nature and wildlife footage has appeared in productions on National Geographic, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel as well as in commercials for such corporate giants as AT&T.

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