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Progress? Part One
Well, it’s time to plan your next photographic adventure. So you ask yourself, where do I want to spend the limited amount of time I have for my Nature Photography?

This friends, is the question that keeps getting harder and harder to answer.

I set out to one of my old “Honey Holes” a little rookery about 15 minutes from my home. Convenient and productive was the best way to describe this little rookery. Unfortunately when I arrived, I found it fenced off with no trespassing signs. A new Harley Davidson dealership bought the land and was building a showroom there. Dang! Another location gone.

Look around, the signs of progress are everywhere. It seems as if there is no limit to the construction of new homes, roads, schools and golf courses.

The politicians bask in the glow of the “job well done” they receive from their constituents. And why wouldn’t their constituents be happy? They have created new jobs, new schools and just look at the revenue being collected as property and business taxes.

The public for the most part is uninformed about much of the real impact, so called “progress” has on our remaining natural places.

But to be fair, “progress” does have many real, albeit short term benefits. So to suggest all “progress” must stop is unfair and unrealistic. On the other hand uncontrolled “progress” can be devastating to the remaining natural places and the wildlife that resides there. “Progress” and urban sprawl not only reduces wildlife habitat, it also fragments it as well.

Habitat loss is easy to understand, habitat fragmentation is a little tougher to grasp. Fragmentation is the result of large habitats being cut into smaller parcels, with no means for the wildlife to move freely from one area to another. Roads, buildings and other obstructions prevent wildlife from moving outside that small area, held captive, almost as if they where caged. As seasons change, (particularly in a state like Florida where there are two seasons, drought and flood) wildlife need to move to other areas with better forage, another reason wildlife need to move is the availability of fresh genetic material. An excellent example is the Florida Panther; the gene pool has been so greatly reduced by habitat loss and fragmentation that all Florida Panthers have a kink in their tail. This is the obvious visible result of the inbreeding, the other results of inbreeding are less visibly noticeable but unfortunately much more serious.

Many species are extremely hardy and can adapt to new “habitats”, like the retention pond behind Wal-Mart or the ditch along the road where the marsh used to be.

Others species are not as adaptive and given enough pressure even the hardest / most adaptive will fail to survive.

As Nature photographers we must be concerned about the impact all of this so called “progress” has on the well being of our subjects, but there is a selfish concern as well. In the future, where will we find the subjects we love and love to photograph? Will we be forced to shoot only in the remaining National and State Parks? Or is there something we can do to raise the public’s awareness level about the results of uncontrolled development?

As a Master Naturalist, much of my training has been on how to help the public and government officials for that matter, to understand how uncontrolled growth negatively effect wildlife and other natural resources. If you have programs similar to this in your area, I highly recommend it.
Training is an invaluable aid in helping you communicate the importance of your message, as well as enable ling you to communicate it to a wider audience.

As a photographer, much of my work is trying to express in photographs the beauty of our remaining wild places.

For the most part, people a preoccupied with the everyday hustle and bustle of life.
And in order to get from one place to another in this fast paced world, most people will choose to travel the fastest routes available.

You can be sure that it is quit impossible to see the beauty of the remaining wild and natural places when traveling at 70mph on an Interstate Highway. And that is exactly how most of the public see the world. How can anyone attach value to an area, making it worth saving, when it is seen as just a blur?

Take for example a swamp or marsh, set along side the Interstate. People go speeding past these wetlands, and as far as they are concerned it is just a breeding place for snakes, mosquitoes and other undesirables. The fact that wetlands filter drinking water, recharge the aquifer, buffer against floods and provide valuable habitat for countless species is lost on the public due to misinformation and the fast pace that most people live their lives.

Lets’ say I photograph a Rosette Spoonbill, Snowy Egret, Redheaded Woodpecker or any one of a number of different beautiful species that reside in these wetlands. And if I do it well, if I do it beautifully, then perhaps the public and governmental officials will see the hidden beauty of these wild places. Beauty is most often perceived as having value. And of course something of value is worth saving. Our photography can have a positive impact on stemming the tide of habitat reduction and fragmentation.

But just taking a beautiful photograph is not enough. For the public to realize the value of the remaining wild places, they must see the beautiful landscapes and wildlife images taken in these wild places.

This means, slideshows for the family and friends. It also means contacting groups like Audubon or other environmentally conscious clubs or groups. Camera clubs, schools, newspapers and regional magazines, just to name a few, are all effective ways to get your images seen and your message out. No need to be shy, this is an important message. If not you, than who?

Armed with education and beautiful images we can and will make an impact on stemming the tide on uncontrolled “progress”. How can I be so sure? Simple, I have seen this approach in action and successfully so. Saving our wild and natural places, saving the subjects we love and love to photograph is worth the effort. But not just for ourselves, but for generations to come as well.

Stay tuned for my article on Mitigation and Restoration projects and how they affect nature and nature photographers.

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Nature photography, wildlife photography of Florida's natural places