Allow me to start with a tale of two owls.
(Or jump straight to my gallery. I'd understand; I like wildlife photos, too.)
Several years ago, I was in an area known for Great Gray owls, driving slowly down desolate roads, scanning ahead for a silhouette on a stump. Most of the time, there was nothing -- not even other people -- so when I saw several cars on the side of the road and the unmistakable shapes of tripods beside them, I knew there must be an owl nearby. I pulled up slowly, got out, and walked quietly to a group of 3-4 photographers. One of them said there was indeed a Great Gray just inside the edge of the woods. I grabbed my gear, set up my tripod and camera, and watched.
After a few minutes, I noticed a woman with a bucket. She reached inside the bucket and then knelt down to the ground. At first I had no idea what she was doing; then I saw a small, white mouse run across the road. I had never seen anything like this, and honestly wasn't even aware this was a thing -- baiting owls (or animals of any kind) had never crossed my mind. To be confronted with it left me shocked, confused, and horrified. My mind raced with all the ways this was wrong. I knew I didn't want to get a shot like this. I knew I didn't want to be part of this. So, I grabbed my gear and I left. I ended the day without a shot.
Fast forward a few years. I was driving down a road near my house one afternoon and I turned the corner to see a gorgeous Great Gray sitting on a fence post. I pulled to the side of the road, slowly and quietly got out with my gear, and spent half an hour watching and photographing this incredible animal. Throughout that half hour, she didn't seem to be bothered by me and there was no evidence that I was affecting her behavior, but I decided to pack up and leave her be, just to be safe. She had given me more moments and photos than I could have hoped for. This is my favorite shot from that day.
I am equally proud of both of those shots -- the one I took and the one I didn't take.
I believe that it is a privilege to observe an animal, to share a tiny slice of their world with them, and to document them. But it is not our right to "get the shot." We have no right to disturb them, to interfere with their efforts to survive, to create negative consequences for them or their ecosystem -- just so we can snap our shutter and freeze the moment in pixels. No matter how much we might want it.
It's easy to get caught up in a moment and be driven by the desire to capture it, but 8 simple words provide a helpful reminder that getting the photo should never be the priority:
The shot is a privilege, not a right.
I keep that in mind every time I take my camera out, and I invite you to do the same.
Every shot is a privilege, and it's also a privilege to share my photos with you. I hope you enjoy exploring some moments that are so often hidden or overlooked and that you experience the same beauty and connection that I do.