Sunday, August 17, 2014

Anthropomorphism Makes For Great Wildlife Photography

People, myself included often enjoy seeing pictures of wildlife that are photographed while displaying some kind of human-like characteristic.
Whether it’s a picture of a polar bear waving or praying or some other human-like behaviour. Scientists call this “anthropomorphism”. While an animal behaviour may look similar to something that a human might do, the thought processes of that animal are not the same as that of a human. The talk of anthropomorphic behaviour is a big no-no in the scientific community.

From my perspective as a wildlife photographer, I am always looking for anthropomorphic behaviours so people who look at my images will have something to relate to and may say “ah, how cute, look, she’s praying.” I believe it helps to create a respect for animals or at the very least a connection. The more respect that people have for animals; hopefully the less people will want to harm them intentionally or indirectly.
One of my favourite examples of anthropomorphism occurred while watching a brown bear family in Alaska. I watched this family for several hours a day over the span of five days.

A female brown bear had two cubs, a male and a female. The boy tormented his sister every chance he got. The little girl was pretty feisty and fought hard but was rarely the aggressor. In this image, the little girl finally had enough of her brother and decided to take refuge by cuddling up to her mother. It’s as if she knew that if her brother kept trying to pick a fight with her he would inevitably irritate mom. Hopefully mom would respond by giving him a bite or a good smack and a scolding. So what is a rambunctious boy to do? He sticks out his tongue at his sister behind his mother’s back.

Of course I’m sure the cub didn’t have this thought process at all, but that’s how I saw the events unfold from a human perspective. Growing up second youngest in a family of five siblings, I have either been the one being picked on or was the aggressor sticking out my tongue more times than I care to admit. I can hear the male brown bear cub saying “na na na na boo boo” to his sister as he continued to harass her. Was the male cub really sticking out his tongue at his sister with these intentions? Was the female cub really plotting to get her brother in trouble? Probably not. 
Although scientists don’t like anthropomorphism, it serves its purpose giving animals a much needed voice. It’s easy to point the finger at the big oil companies for the state of the environment. One day people may come to the conclusion that oil companies work to supply our demand. Getting upset with an oil company for drilling for oil is like an overweight person eating doughnuts every day then blaming the baker for his weight gain. 
Hopefully at some point people will begin to realize that everyone can conserve a little more and waste a little less. Each person’s actions have an impact on nature. Together our choices dictate how clean our environment will be.

All this talk about anthropomorphism leads me to one last question…
Does this fur make my butt look fat?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

2014 Polar Bear Safari Days 5-10

Polar Bear Blog Day 5
Today the temperature warmed up to 0 degrees. The cub came out again and all was good until we looked at our images. Across the board 20 photographers had blurry images. The cold of the snow hit the warmth of the air and it created a heat shimmer and all of our images were “soft”.  They may be acceptable for a photo album, but not even close to the tack sharp images that we are looking for. Thankfully in the evening the weather cooled down and the mother and cub came out for a few minutes to check us out. The light wasn’t great, but it was nice to see them interact for a couple minutes so we could get a few images for the portfolio.

My images polar bear cub images from this safari can be found on my wildlife photography website

Day 6
Today we had a blizzard. The bears didn’t come out of the den. For that matter we aren’t even sure that they are still there. It was in the -40’s with a really strong wind. Hopefully it will clear up for tomorrow.  Today I spent the entire day in the van. Even if the bears did come out, I wouldn't be able to get clear images through that blizzard anyway. The video however shows just how miserable it was today.

Day 7:
No bears today. The den we were photographing the bears at was completely blown over. As it turns out the bears had left before we got there on day five and we were staring at an empty den in the blizzard all day. Today we drove around and opted to come home early. There is a den to the south on Luvit lake but it is 8 miles away and will take 90 minutes to get to.
We’re going to check it out tomorrow. On a bright note, the northern lights were fantastic! I have been setting my alarm and waking up a couple times each evening to check them out and this was the best northern lights evening.

Day 8:
The lunch bus broke down so we all piled into three vans and headed out. We traveled an hour and forty minites to the den site on Luvit Lake. At the den the mom peeked her head out for a couple seconds twice and the cub peeked out for a few seconds three times as well. We are hoping there are at least twins in that den. We’ll see.

Day 9 and 10 consisted of pretty much the same thing. An hour and forty minute drive out to the den, an hour and forty minute back from the den and 8 hours of staring at a hole in the snow in between. On day 9 when we came back and noticed that there were no footprints in the snow I had a sinking feeling that we were going to have a couple unproductive days. I would suspect that the other photographers may spend a few more days just staring at a hole in the snow with the ocassional “peek-a-boo”. The good news for them is that the bears have a long way to travel from that den site, so they may be able to catch up with her again at some point after she leaves her den.
This is what a den opening looks like before the mom and cub(s)  come out.
We stared at this hole for three days. A few heads popped out, but that's it. In
the next day to a week a mother and cub(s) will come out of that hole and the
cub will see the outside world for the first time.

The day after we left the other photographers only saw a couple short peeks from the mom or cub. There still hasn't been word on how many cubs are in that den.

Partly due to the lack of polar bear sightings, I went out each evening to check on the northern lights. I had some success and they too are on my nature photography website.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Polar Bears 2014; Day Three and Four...

Day 3
We went back to the same den for the third day in a row. The cub is getting more courageous and coming out more often for longer periods of time. The mother only just peeked her head out for a few seconds again today. I checked out the aurora borealis last night and had some fun and some frustration so hopefully they will be out again tonight so I can try my luck again.
Praying for Aurora Borealis and Triplet Sightings

Day 4
Last night I went out photographing the northern lights for a couple hours. I am getting better at it, but the lights were pretty quiet, so I’ll try again tonight.

The bear viewing based on past years of twins and triplets wasn’t the greatest. After three days of photography we have only seen one cub and a couple quick 5 second peeks from the mom. Finally today near the end of the day the mother came out and we had mother and cub interaction. Although it doesn’t sound like much, it was fantastic! This is the first time I have seen a clean mother and cub coming out of an earth den. During the day the cub also had some interesting poses that were really cute, so all in all it was an amazing day. In the meantime, we have missed three sets of twins and one set of triplets slip by us. Sometimes by the time the trackers find the family tracks and catch up to them, they have already gone too far out of our range.

Well, I’ll try to get a little sleep for a couple hours before going out to check out the northern lights. There are some very dim lights right now and the sky is clear tonight so fingers crossed. Hopefully we’ll get some nice lights tonight.

To see more of my polar bear images visit my wildlife photography website My 2014 polar bear images will be up soon...

Friday, March 7, 2014

Polar Bear Moms and Cubs 2014; Day Two

Today we went back to the den with one cub. She popped out briefly in the morning for a few seconds only showing her eyes and head. At 3:08p.m., the same time as yesterday to the minute she came out of the den. She came out and went back in probably 15 times over the next hour. She was really cautious and would look over the bank of the den, then eventually built up the courage to venture out on top of the crest of the den temporarily, then ran back down as if to say “Oh, that was scary!”. Over the next hour, she developed more courage to venture out a litlte bit more for a little longer each time.

At midnight we went out to photograph the northern lights. They were quite nice! I’m looking forward to trying again though with the lessons I learned from my first northern lights try of the year.
For more images from my polar bear safari or others you can visit my wildlife photography website.