Photography and wildlife conservation – What use is a photograph?

June 7th, 2017

This year’s Biodiversity Photographer of the Year competition has now ended and we have received a huge amount of high quality photographs. Unfortunately only a few can win the prize, but there are other ways to put your photographs to use. We talk to top wildlife photographer, Kevin Murphy, to see how your photos can make an impact in the world of wildlife conservation.

Bumblebee – Kevin Murphy

Why use photographs?

Photographs can have a major influence in creating areas of wildlife protection, documenting a species or habitat, and educating people on wildlife and the environment. The successful use of photography to initiate wildlife conservation goes back to William Henry Jackson (1843-1942), whose geological survey images directly led to the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1871.

Photographers today still document large scale projects to further the goals of conservation organisations. A photograph can transmit an idea faster and more effectively than words.

Large red damselfly – Kevin Murphy

“Good quality photographs are essential in a conservation campaign to get the message across,” says Kevin. “My advice to amateur photographers is to keep documenting our wildlife and habitats and to send images to NGOs who will use these images to promote awareness.” It’s easier than it sounds too!

How can you make your photographs work for conservation?

One idea Kevin offers is to “work on particular projects – if there is a local nature reserve in your area, document the wildlife and the different habitats. Perhaps hold an exhibition and promote the area.”

If you provide a fully fledged project it can instantly be put to use. An example of this can be seen at Kevin’s local greenway, where his images have been used on information boards to inform people of the wildlife that surrounds them.

Birds of the Greenway, Westport Co. Mayo. Photographs by Kevin Murphy

You can think locally and concentrate on your own garden. “Gardens are important wildlife habitats” where hundreds of species can be found. From here you can submit your photographs to Biodiversity Ireland. This organisation keeps a record of every species and their concentration in Ireland, and relies on the public to build a complete picture of Ireland’s biodiversity. You can also submit them to the global database, Tree of Life Web Project, whose goal is to supply accurate information for every species on the planet.

Mayo County Council publication – Image by Kevin Murphy

Another important resource that Kevin highlights is your local Heritage Office. They produce publications on local wildlife and can always benefit from high quality images.

You can also “send images to NGOs who will use them to promote awareness.” For a list of national NGOs in Ireland you can check out our members list, or search for local environmental groups in your area.

Why photograph Wildlife? 

From the smallest insect to the largest mammal, there are hundreds of species out there, thousands if you include all the plant life in the country, so there is an awful lot out there that you can document! Wildlife photography takes patience, not a small amount of obsession and a bit of luck, but everyone who indulges in this hobby knows their patience will be rewarded when they get that one perfect shot.

“It is always great to see your images being used in a national or local campaign,” says Kevin. “Apart from the thrill of seeing your pictures in print you know that your images are helping to promote a very worthy cause!”

Kevin is an amateur photographer based in County Mayo. He regularly contributes images to NGOs such as the Irish Wildlife Trust, Birdwatch Ireland and Biodiversity Ireland. He has had a life long passion for nature and has been photographing wildlife since 2003. Have a look at some of Kevin’s images below, or visit his blog for more photographs and wildlife photography tips.

About the Author

Catherine O'Toole

Catherine is a contributor to the Green News. She has a BA in Photography from DIT and has a keen interest in conservation photography.

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