Taking Away the Magic

Today, Petapixel featured a story concerning the somewhat muted controversy about National Geographic choosing an image of a tiger taken in a zoo for the winner of the “Nature” category.

In the Twitterverse and elsewhere, opinions have ranged from white-hot fury, to an understanding of why the image was chosen.

Bravo to the winner for honestly including all of the details of the capture.  I’m going to be upfront and say that while I think the photo itself is truly outstanding, I think choosing it as the winner of the Nature category is dead wrong.  Why?

First, there needs to be a distinction between a photograph of wildlife in its natural element versus a photograph of animals in captivity.  The story is important.  If the story ceases being important and we choose to not distinguish what is happening in the wilderness versus what is happening in a game farm or zoo, then we have taken all of the magic out of nature and landscape photography as a whole.

This may sound ridiculous to some, but when I look at an outstanding wildlife image and see that it was captured under controlled conditions in a zoo, it takes the impact away from me almost immediately.  While it still remains a great photograph, it doesn’t rise to what it would have been had it been captured under natural conditions.

In my opinion, the intangible experience of the capture absolutely matters in the final product.


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