In the Eye of the Beholder
Welcome to our photography issue! What better way to mark a new year than with a celebration, in this case honouring both our readers’ creativity and the beauty of our wilderness here in Canada. The photo contest is a favourite tradition of ours at the Canadian Wildlife Federation, and this year’s crop did not disappoint. With a record number of entries (nearly 4,000!) and some of the best shots we have received over the two decades we have been doing it, I am confident when I say it is our best ever. (At least until next year!) My congratulations to all entrants for the excellent photos and a special hurray as well to all the winners and those who received honourable mentions. My thanks must go also to the CWF staff who work so hard each year to organize this complex undertaking and who make it so much fun to be involved.
Nature photography has taken off in the last decade, for several reasons, not least because of the ubiquity of digital cameras, purpose-built or in phones. Like never before, cameras are everywhere. Equally important, I think, to the explosion in nature photography is that people are coming to value nature more these days. Environmental awareness is on the rise, as is the knowledge that we have to act now. Look at the numbers: Parks Canada announced a 7 per cent one-year jump in attendance in the summer of 2017, boosted perhaps by free passes as part of the Canada 150 celebrations, but also part of a longer term upward trend in visitor numbers. Further, a 2015 Statistics Canada report says 72 per cent of Canadians participate in outdoor activities. There’s no wonder there are so many great wilderness photos these days.
Of course, with that kind of popularity comes a greater need for awareness of our responsibilities when we are out enjoying nature. That’s why I am particularly proud to see an article in this special photo issue on how to be an ethical nature photographer. After all, it is incumbent upon all of us to show respect to nature in all its manifestations. That can mean a lot of different things: from leaving nothing behind but footprints, to giving wild animals the space they need and, of course, to avoid luring, baiting or otherwise manipulating wildlife for the sake of a photo. Naturally, these are guidelines for all of us in nature, not just the shutterbugs among us.
Since our founding in 1961, we at Canadian Wildlife Federation have worked to conserve Canada’s natural heritage. And again in this new year we will deliver programs (including a photo contest) that encourage people across Canada to experience the great outdoors, to discover the wonders of nature and to learn about the tremendous environmental challenges we must confront as individuals and as a community. In 2018, we will count on your ongoing support as we educate and inspire the public, challenge government and industry to do better, and continue to conduct and sponsor scientific research that helps us implement better conservation programs.