National Geographic shouldn´t allow "prepared scenario" photos like this one to be displayed on their website. It is a beautiful picture and I was very impressed when I saw it at first, but when I read that the mouse was "placed in position to attract the owl" I was very dissapointed. Wildlife is about catching the natural moment, not about preparing it like that.
In my opinion, you kill wildlife photography when you set it up.
What a incredible shot ! This is why National Geographic has no equal when it comes to photography .
I hate seeing imagery of baited owls. We shouldn't encourage this type of imagery.
Besides being a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it's potentially quite physiologically damaging to the owls to be baited. "The mouse was placed in position to attract the owl." That usually means the owl came within the distance that a photographer predetermined, and threw the mouse out to. Sometimes they even put the mouse on fishing line and reel it back in, baiting the owl closer and closer.
Even if you're not worried about altering their behavior (encouraging them to stay in an area that may not support them on days that photographers don't shower them with gifts), there's still a problem with encouraging owls to associate people with food, and roads with food. How many of us have seen a dead owl on the roadway? We don't need to encourage them to hang out near roads and people. Then there's the random idiot who thinks it's cool to shoot birds like this. Why would we want to encourage owls or other wild animals to approach people?
If it hasn't already been done, perhaps Nat Geo should seriously consider an article on the ethics of wildlife baiting.
@Charlene Burge : Well stated.
No doubt a great shot but that mouse shaped hole to the left looks like someone dropped a mouse on the snow !! You can see the tail mark but I might be mistaken :)
I am not a good photographer but i find something unreal about the dimensions in this photo. Is this a product of different pictures that were later stitched up? Something does not add up. My opinion, but i could be wrong
I keep coming back to this shot, it is spectacular.
It does give a natural view and a REAL depiction of what actually happens in the wild. Although the mouse was placed in an obviously vulnerable position this IS how the Owl feeds.
Life feeds on life, without exception. To deny this is to deny the wildness of nature and above all reality.
That being said the photographer did misrepresent how the photo was captured. He gave the impression that it was a chance encounter; "...we were able to be in a position to see an owl that was hunting when a mouse came out..." when the mouse was obviously tossed out.
This is where the questionable ethics come in, if the photographer were to have fully disclosed the actual capture conditions rather than falsify them I would have had no problems at all with this shot.
There are many other areas where photographers pre-stage a shot, just because Walt Disney has been very successful in conditioning us to anthropomorphize cute fuzzy animals does not change the fact that they are but one link in the food chain.
I keep coming back to this photo; It’s riveting! I can clearly see the full body imprint of mouse ant tail, can also see tracks originating from the nose of the body imprint moving forward, then turning ninety degrees to the mouse’s right and heading toward the camera. Ask yourself how lucky is that for this shot. Ask yourself if the camera was unmanned, and used a wireless shutter release, how lucky or skilled is the composition. For me, the magic is in the print and in what emotions it invokes in me; the rest is just techy stuff.
There is so much that could have gone wrong with this photo, The mouse looks like it may have been thrown from a hide to the leftand looks like the camera may have been concealed in its’ own hide facing the mouse. If the mouse was thrown into frame and ended up facing away from the owls attack direction, then this took a great deal of skilled coordination IMO. But all guessing and unimportant opinions aside, Lets all give this photographer a resounding “well done” he deserves it.
I want to share a poem I wrote after painting a leopard using a photo for reference taken by a very talented Photo Safari Guide friend of mine. It addresses the anthropomorphic thingy.
OF PREDATOR AND PREY
It crept from the shadows into the crimson dawn, concealed by its spots, from an antelope fawn. It must succeed in an urgent course, borne not from malice and without remorse. The leopard must feed her cubs yet another day, in an epic cycle, of predator and prey.
© Richard C. Jones, 2012
Well said Anthony, I agree with all you wrote. You obviously are experienced in this field, and more, I like your empathy for a fellow artist. My favourite subjects to photograph and paint are wildlife and human anatomy. Sadly the subject of wildlife is losing popularity among the great unwashed, which in retrospect could be better for wildlife art. I think it will see a precipitate, or finer quality of wildlife photos and paintings by better informed artists and a similarly educated audience. This has to be a good thing.
The comments about the poor cute mouse astound me. How many of us watch the Oasis channel and lions, hyenas, cheetahs, leopards and on and on, doing what they have evolved to do? We watch these programs and may feel some pathos for the cute baby gazelle fawn been pawed and directed back to the Cheetah’s hiding place of her cubs, so that they may be shown how to kill the fawn. It is simply anthropomorphic sentimentality. I can understand it, but can’t condone it. I feel very concerned with the disconnect from reality by such a huge section of the public.
I know I will get shot down for this but ...Why is this cruel if a set up? There is no animal torturing here- its an owl, owls eat mice. All the photographer did was offer the owl a free meal. Set up or not this is one tough image to get! I just hope the photographer got the shot the first time or this would be one very "stuffed" owl!! I do have a problem with the original misleading information by the photographer though. I also have a problem with National Geographic magazine getting these amazing shots from amateur photographers at no cost! People if you submit your once in a lifetime work to such a succesful magazine -get compensated! Love the magazine but let the paid pros do the work.
Wow, I have grey owls where I live and to get a picture of an owl hunting would more than likely be in low light or no light situations, it would have been a little more believable if it was a hawk, but my dog, Lillie, has to dig through the snow to find these tasty morsels, the picture is awesome though and does capture what does go on out there !!!
Well said, Selkie. Nat Geo certainly deserves credit for acknowledging the real circumstances surrounding the shot, but I agree that if not pulled from the site, there should at least be a stronger, more prominent statement about ethics and the cruelty of live baiting. The misrepresentation and then then the lying about it erode our trust in Nat Geo photographers.
I totally agree with "Selkie Solon"
How incredibly disappointing, National Geographic, that you would validate an image created through baiting. There are so many ethical issues surrounding the baiting of raptors with domestic mice, even beyond the inhumane aspect of using live bait for the frivolous purpose of a photograph. There's question about the potential pathogens carried by pet store mice and how they might affect the health of a wild owl. In these areas with Great Gray Owls, there is notorious abuse of baiting, luring owls close to people, cars and roads where they are habituated to their detriment. I would expect a much higher ethical standard from Nat Geo, and I feel this photograph should have been pulled after the revelation of baiting -- particularly since the photographer misrepresented the situation from the onset. Furthermore, for those of us out in the field frequently, it's quite easy to see the images that are live-baited and this one falls clearly into that category. Please set a good example for new and young wildlife photographers by insisting on the highest standards of ethical and humane field practice around wildlife. The best photographs are acquired through intensive field craft and patience. This photo, knowingly baited, is sending a very wrong message about wildlife and wildlife photography.
Thank you for all of your insightful comments. We've spoken with the photographer and the question of how this photograph was taken is addressed in the editor's note above.
Well I've been uncrowned as the most liked Photo of the Day for the Year with my sunset fire splash. Wicked Photo. Must have taken a great deal of patience.
Poor little mouse! I know the owl needs to eat and this is the way the world works but the mouse is so cute. At least we get to see it before it's mutilated. That would be a terrifying last image. Well done on the timing, it's a superb shot.
Forr people who claim this photo was staged, I am a amateur photographer who lives near Two Harbors. Look at the shadows, and understand that at times a full grown man is able to walk on crusty late season snow without leaving a trace. Spend some time in the north woods before you claim fraud. I'm not surprised that the mouse or vole did not leave any tracks.
This is not just a photo of the Day, this is a photo of the CENTURY!!!... so far the best photo I've ever seen.
@Tom Samuelson - I for one would like to know about the equipment used, exposure settings and how many shots were taken to secure this one. Fantastic work.
I live 50 miles from Two Harbors and have got many shots of the Owl influx, they are moving down from Canada in search of prey they can't get at or are not around. The picture has no mouse hole or tracks where it would have come from, in my 50 plus years of beating the brush I have never seen a mouse in the winter sitting out like this, they don't leave cover unless forced to. It is a great capture but not something you would see in the wild, nuff said, http://davidrjohnson.zenfolio.com/
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