My Locations Guides vs ethics

May 10, 2018  •  1 Comment

With all the misinformation and misunderstanding about my Location Guides that I started to offer recently, it is time to clear some things up as I cannot keep up with responding to everyone personally.

 

Short version:

I’m not selling my guides in the purpose of making money from disclosing a location. This kind of information is already shared, or should I say “over shared”, on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, eBird etc. by many, many others and a simple search can prove it! To my surprise, none of these people are getting the amount of “hate mail” as I do, even though they disclose the exact location with much more people than I will ever sell my guides to!

 

If you are planning on buying my guides simply to find out where exactly that location is, STOP! Do yourself a favor, save money and search online. Believe me, you will find it! If you end up finding it, please consider donating the saved money to local organizations that provide free care and assistance to injured birds like The Raptor Trust  and/or work on protecting wildlife, like Conserve Wildlife NJ  

 

As you will learn in near future, all my guides are on very popular locations. Some of them are popular since 1990’s!

 

I’m not selling the locations.

I’m selling guides on how to get the most out of that location with bird photography in mind. Something that photography workshops are already offering at these locations. My guides cannot substitute a workshop and if you can afford one, I highly recommend taking one.

 

The main reason I charge for my guides, is the time it took me to research that location. Believe me, at some locations, it took me several seasons to know how to photograph there to get the best shots. Sometimes, a small change like wrong wind direction or showing up at the wrong tide can make a huge difference in the action and quality of photographs. Cost of the guide covers also my time spent on preparing, writing guides and most importantly, large percentage of the money from these guides will be donated to the charity of my choice at the end of the year. 

 

And yes, I do disclose the location in my guides. As one can imagine, you cannot write a travel guide without disclosing the destination. You cannot run a photography workshop or birding meet up without disclosing the location.

 

You can see an example of the information I share in my guides, here: http://www.greggard.com/blog/2016/7/nickerson-beach-ny-guide

 

For those questioning my birding ethics, please read the long version to know more about me and my guides.

 

Contrary to the common believe, there are nests and roosting locations that are completely safe to share. Take the Barn Owl roosting site in NYC for example. After discovering it, almost every birder shares its location. Thousands upon thousands people visited this location. And guess what? Owl keeps coming back to the same spot despite all the crowds and noise in the park/city. Isn’t it amazing?

 

 

In return for reading the long version, I will share with you a link to a free app that you can use while traveling to find great landscape locations.

 

Long version:

I knew from the beginning that my idea of writing location guides will be met with opposition from local photographers, especially those that do not like to share any information with others. As it has been proven over the years, these locations that I’m writing guides on, are very popular and far away from being secret locations. Simple Google search can prove it. People are freely sharing these locations online and no one is being approached with such a negativity as I currently am. Most importantly, birds at those locations, are not affected by increased popularity. Contrary, many locations have a large following and often “self-policing” stops others from misbehaving/trespassing. More on that further down…

 

The main idea behind my Location Guides started when people kept contacting me on how exactly I’m getting the quality of shots at these locations. They knew already about these spots but they couldn’t get the quality of photographs even with similar camera gear that I have. For some, it can come as a surprise but the most expensive gear doesn’t guarantee the best results. Additionally, many people from other states, and even countries, were contacting me asking for more details about these locations. They knew already where they are but they didn’t know what is the best time of the year to visit them or if these locations are still active etc. At the beginning, I was replying to everyone separately, but as you can imagine, after a while, it was taking to much of my time. I’m a self taught photographer, and it took me long time to get to the level I’m currently at. At the time I started, there was not much information on the internet and non of the local photographers wanted to share the information with me. For that reason, I know how hard it can be for the beginners and I love to help them as much as I can. I'm also aware that there are many more people that are simply afraid to ask for help. These guides are for them! I started with writing free guides, like this one on Nickerson Beach: http://www.greggard.com/blog/2016/7/nickerson-beach-ny-guide but quickly I started to get the "hate mail" from local photographers. Even though this location is know to attract photographers since 1990's and every season there are at least 10 workshops being organized there and many camera clubs, some as big as +30 members, make a trip there every summer. But guess what, I've been blamed "to make this spot popular and no longer worth a visit" by some. Can you believe this?!? 

 

What might be surprising to many local photographers and birders, and something that isn’t popular in our state yet, are the bird photography location guides across USA and other countries. Of course, more popular are bird photography workshops but not everyone can afford those nor can schedule such a trip year in advance. Myself included. I would love to go on some of these workshops but paying $500 for half a day or over $5000 for couple of days isn’t the way I like to spend my money. Yes, one can find bird information online but most of that information is written by birders for birders. Most of the books available in the bookstores are for birders, not bird photographers. What is the difference? For many birders seeing a bird only for a second, is good enough. For others, only hearing one is worth a trip. For photographers, this information and this kind go encounters are simply useless. I just came back from a trip to Arizona. Most of the information that I was able to find online on Arizona bird locations was based on information from birders. And yes, if my trip was about getting as many birds as I can get on my “life bird” list, even only by hearing one, I would be in heaven! There were so many new birds that I could hear! Unfortunately, getting a photo of one based on that information, was almost impossible. And this is where the location guides for bird photographers come into the play! These guides are written with photographers in mind. To help a photographer to get the best photograph, not just adding another bird to the list. 

As far as I am aware of, there are guides available to photograph birds in Florida, Arizona, California, Michigan, Ohio, Costa Rica, Ecuador, British Columbia/Canada and many, many other locations. And I’ve used some of them with a great success. With some, I was burnt as the well known bird photographer was/is selling guides on locations that are no longer active. Fortunately, I was still able to make out OK but I wonder what happens to the people that take his workshops at these locations… That’s a story for another post…

If you want to photograph Burrowing Owls in Florida, there is a location guide on that!

If you want to photograph songbirds in Ohio or Michigan, there is a location guide on that!

If you want to travel to Nome or Barrow Alaska to photograph nesting birds, you guessed it! There is a location guide on that! 

 

From my own experience, I know how helpful these guides/eBooks are, especially when visiting a particular location for the first and last time. The older I get, I come to the conclusion that I won’t be able to come back to the same location for the second time. And even if I do, there is no guarantee that that location will be still active. Therefore, I’m very thankful to those that share as much information as they can, either if it is free or for a small payment. I wish, I could afford a week long workshops to Alaska or Churchill but I have a better use for +$8000. Yes, this is how much some of the workshops cost there. If one offered a locations guide for $100, I would gladly pay for that information and plan my trip around my schedule not someone else’s.

 

 

Ethics

As for those questioning my birding ethics, especially regarding my latest Red-tailed Hawk nest location guide, let me present you with some examples that come to mind:

Some of so called "conservationist photographers", who are praised for their good ethics and often being given as an example to follow by many organizations, are benefiting from disclosing these locations by either writing articles for a compensation: https://wildplanetphotomagazine.com/2017/beach-birds-new-york/  or by conducting workshops at the nesting grounds like Barrow, Alaska: https://www.melissagroo.com/workshops

 

For few years, there had been a nest of Great Horned Owls that year after year was attracting more visitors. I bet that if I was to sell a guide on that location, I will be bombarded with the hate mail for the rest of my life even though some were conducting workshops there. In the first year of the popularity of that nest, one of the well-known birding ethic advocates in our area, was in disbelieve that people were sharing this nest’s location online. Something changed, as the next year he wrote and article disclosing the exact location of this nest in the local newspaper. That newspaper has a readership of over 70,000 people  and even more online. Don’t believe me? Here is an article from 2017, as the older links seem not to be active anymore: https://www.northjersey.com/story/life/2017/05/03/bird-watcher-springtime-comings-and-goings/308896001/ if you want more proof, simply google it… ( I just realized, the author "exposed" 3 nests in this article :O )

I don’t even want to imagine what would have happened if I shared this nest's location with so many people!

 

Another example is from this past Winter and the irruption of Snowy Owls here in NJ. Right as the very first Snowy Owls started to show up in New Jersey, many locations and many Facebook groups started to ban photographs of Snowy Owls. Mainly to “protect” these owls from photographers. One state park on the other hand, did the opposite. They advertised on Facebook and on their website ( https://www.friendsofibsp.org/breaking-news/guest-column-the-snowy-owl-winter-visitors/ ) that they have multiple Snowy Owls! WHAT?!? Not only that, they invited press ( link1 , link2 ) and even local TV stations ( link ) to promote these rare visitors. They shared this information with over 500,000 people. But if any of the photographers did that… one can only imagine what would have happened…

 

Those questioning my birding ethics, please explain to me how is that that NOT any one of you raised the voice about these actions?!? Huh?

 

I didn’t complain because I knew that nothing wrong could be done there. For those that knew the Wyckoff Great Horned Owl nest, know exactly how far it was from the viewing spot. This is the reason why people were freely sharing its location. And the more people were there, the more well behaving the crowd was. Same is true with the Snowy Owls. That park knew that there is no reason of hiding the fact that they have owls, as people will share it online anyway. And the more people they attract, the more people will be watching for any misbehavior aka self-policing.

 

How is that related to my Location Guide on the Red-taield Hawk nest? Very simple. The Red-tailed Hawk nest is located at the very similar distance, if not further away, that the Great Horned Owl nest. Not only that, there is no way of getting under that tree to “harass” these birds. Something that cannot be said about the Wyckoff nest (some tried and got caught). Also, take a look at the short video below. Most importantly listen and see for yourself how much noise there is all day long, on every weekday:

- Make sure to have the sound on! -

 

If these birds aren't bothered by guns constantly being fired there, do you really think that constantly increasing group of people watching their nest will have negative effect? Last year, I've been proven wrong at this location.  Hopefully you will change your mind as well...

 

Locations like these offer great opportunity to observe nesting birds in the wild without any disturbance. There is still a lot that can be learnt about birds and the more eyes on them the better. With someone always watching, there will be someone to help in case a chick falls out of the nest or report any misbehavior.

 

If you still insists that this Red-tailed Hawk nest should be left alone, maybe you should start advocating for the shooting range to be closed during the nesting season. Drones should be prohibited in the park as well in that time, don’t you think?

 

And here is the promised link - If you travel and have hard time finding shot worthy landscape spots, consider downloading this free app that has a large database of popular locations around the world: https://improvephotography.com/rgps/

 

Those that know me, know exactly that I will never share a location where birds are not comfortable with humans. Not only that. If I see that birds are not comfortable with my presence, I don’t even go there! I’m able to find other locations where birds don’t mind my presence and this is where I’m able to get the best photographs.  

 

I will end here for now, as I don’t want to take any more of your time. Thank you for reading all of this and I hope this gave you an idea what the real intent of my location guides is.

 

If you are still against my guides, than you are also against all the photography workshops at these locations. 

If that’s the case, you are also against the camera clubs and online meet ups that come to some of these locations, correct? 

In this case, you are also against all the birder group walks that to these places, correct? 

I can go on and on but it becomes clear that the problem may be actually with you and not all these groups… 

With all this anger towards so many people, maybe it is time for you to look for another hobby!!!

 

Have a great day everyone and please enjoy your next outing outdoors!

 

Have something to say? Leave a comment down below. Just keep in mind, that if you don’t use your real name or FB/Instagram handle, I won’t approve it. It is to easy for one person to leave multiple, hateful comments acting as there are many people leaving them. We all went through this kind of trolling/scams in the last election :) And please no expletives, I have few regular minor readers of my blog.


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Greg Gard
Thank you all for sending your positive feedback on this post. I do appreciate you taking your time and contacting me but I've decided to not post your comments as I'm afraid that the trolls will eventually go after you as well. Better to be safe than sorry...
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