When I'm out in the nature or the man-made cultural landscape with my camera, I see myself as a guest in these rooms. The hosts are the local flora and fauna as well as farmers, foresters, hunters, nature foundations, etc. So that I can take beautiful photos home with me in good conscience, there are a few basic rules that I have formulated for myself as follows:
#01 | STAY ON THE PATHS
I always stay on the given hiking and forest trails. Nature is a retreat for many different animal species, which can definitely distinguish whether one is on the usual promenades or invades their areas - stress and escape behavior are the consequences here.
Even (rare) flowers, mushrooms or other plants can be damaged by carelessly wandering off the beaten track. When approaching raised seats, I try to pay special attention to this and to behave as considerately as possible.
#02 | KEEP DISTANCE
Wild animals don't like it when you get too close to them. I let them go their way and try not to press or run behind them. Sometimes you are even rewarded with the curiosity of your counterpart and they approach each other by themselves. Stay calm, avoid hectic movements and everything will be fine.
#03 | DO NOT TOUCH
In principle, you should never touch wild animals, as there is always the risk of mutual contamination with bacteria, viruses or fungi (keyword "zoonoses"), no matter how trusting and fluffy they appear.
When touching young animals there is also the risk that their parents will no longer accept them due to the human / foreign smell!
#04 | DO NOT FEED
Feeding wild animals is never* a good idea: the risk of harming them with inappropriate food is too great. In addition, they can lose their fear of humans through feeding, which leads to further problems (moving into settlements, traffic accidents, etc.). In Germany the feeding of wild animals is regulated in the Federal Hunting Act and is the responsibility of hunters and foresters. According to this, it is strictly forbidden for walkers to feed wild animals, in Schleswig-Holstein (Northern Germany) fines of up to EUR 5,000 may be due for violations.
*The feeding of birds has to be considered separately from this, but there are a few things to consider! To do this again at another point, if necessary. And no matter how nice it is: Please do not feed waterfowl with bread! It causes the stomach to swell, contains too much salt or sugar and can lead to the formation of algae due to the increased nutrient input in the waters.
#05 | COMMUNICATION
If I want to enter certain areas or use raised hides, I always speak to the responsible hunters and foresters about my concerns beforehand.
First and foremost, for me this has something to do with respect for others - the most important principle for me when it comes to my photography. It is also about entering private property and / or areas that are being hunted. And nobody wants a hunting accident, either in front of or behind the trigger.
Once I have found suitable places to observe wild animals, I always think twice about who I share this information with in addition to the responsible hunters / foresters and prefer not to give detailed location information - for the benefit of the animals.
#06 | THE THING WITH THE DOGS
Dogs perceive wild animals from a great distance. If dogs run around without a leash, it can easily happen that they fall short of the escape distance of the wild
animals. As a rule, this leads to flight reactions, stress and unnecessary energy consumption - especially during the breeding and setting times and in winter with devastating consequences (brood
breakdown, decline / displacement of populations). This also applies to birds that breed on the ground, because they too are startled by dogs that are not on a leash and then leave their nest:
the eggs cool down / overheat, fall victim to nest predators or are destroyed by the dog itself - the brood is lost.
Running around freely can also be dangerous for the dog itself: In protected areas there are poisonous adders, which can be startled by dogs and defend themselves accordingly. The same applies to mother cows on pastures, which defend their young to the utmost, as well as wild boars. Badger and fox burrows can also be fatal for dogs that follow their hunting instinct or pure curiosity: If they get stuck or meet the residents, it can be the last adventure for the beloved four-legged friend.
Either way: According to the state forest law, the forests of Schleswig-Holstein (Nortehrn Germany) must be kept on a leash all year round - regardless of breed, gender, age and how well or badly a dog is trained.
Finally, one more thing that goes without saying: Please always collect the excrement and dispose of it correctly. If you really need good arguments for this: dog excrement can contain faecal germs or pathogens - neither good for wild animals, crops for crops on agricultural areas or careless photographers who lie in there ...
#07 | ENJOY THE SILENCE
Our modern world is already very loud and hectic, so I always try to switch off as much as possible when I'm out with the camera or binoculars: turn off the music, turn off my smartphone and put it in my backpack - just enjoy the tranquility of nature and take a deep breath.
As a bonus, there is plenty to discover: plants, mushrooms, footsteps and other legacies left by wild animals.
I usually always have a container or bag on my rucksack for the legacies of my fellow species (we're talking about rubbish here) so that I can take it with me and dispose of it at home or in public waste bins. Garbage does not belong in nature! And if you don't take it with you, nobody does.
- Nature Conservation Association Germany
- Federal Nature Conservation Act
- Publications from the state of Schleswig-Holstein
- Forest Act for the State of Schleswig-Holstein
- Hunting law for the state of Schleswig-Holstein