Archive for the Controversy Category

A Few Good Links

Posted in Art of Photography, Artistic Development, Controversy, Inspirations, Marketing with tags , , , , , , on November 20, 2010 by Darwin

Below are some links that got me thinking and a couple just for fun!

I always tell people to shoot from the heart.  If you are shooting to please others, to get an easy iconic trophy, or to to get kudos for your ego then your art is shallow. To make more meaningful work, you need to shoot for yourself. You should make images that move you and reach deep into your soul and you should care little what others think. You need to shoot to please your heart. Along this line I really enjoyed one of Guy Tal’s recent excellent essays entitled The Futile Pursuit of Happiness.


©Darwin Wiggett

Check out the video in this link – – friggin awesome! If you are not blown away by the time lapse work you see in this video, then you must be dead!

Speaking of videos, if you want a laugh check out Charlie Borland’s Hiring a Cheap Photographer or read Zack Arias’ blog post on Top Ten Ways to Become a Professional Photographer.

And finally I leave you with Shooting Strangers

Weekly Photo – September 10

Posted in Controversy, TCBlog, Weekly Photo with tags , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2010 by Darwin

©Darwin Wiggett

This photo was taken from the top of Goldensides in Tombstone Territorial Park in the Yukon. That’s Samantha on the rock pile in the foreground. Grand views in a big land but it almost cost both of  us our lives. Long story… and one of poor decisions (on my part) but we survived and learned a valuable lesson. Nature is not something to be taken lightly. Every time I see this photo I am reminded of how thin life hangs on the edge. Click on the photo for a larger view.

Great New Book – Will of the Land

Posted in Books about Photography, Controversy, Ethics, TCBlog with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2010 by Darwin

Below is a video trailer for a great new book by Alberta wildlife photographer Peter Dettling. I’ll let the trailer tease you with what the book is all about. All I can say is I was lucky enough to see an advanced draft and the photos are incredible for the unique moments they capture (some samples are shown in the video). And the message of the book is controversial. A sure-fire read. Get it when it comes out!

Another Canadian Geographic Rights Grabbing Photo Contest

Posted in Controversy, Ethics, Magazines, Rants, Sad News with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2010 by Darwin

Canadian Geographic magazine hosts numerous photo contents per year through their popular Canadian Geographic Photo Club. The club is a really good idea and the photo contests have great themes and some nice prizes but by entering these competitions your are at minimum giving away your photos to be used by Canadian Geographic magazine in any way it sees fit. That might seem acceptable or the price ‘you pay for winning’ but this right grabs applies to any image entered! Also Canadian Geo partners with ‘sponsors’ for each contest and these partners also get to use your photos however they want. For example, in their Canadian Wildlife Photography of the Year Contest they partner with the Canadian Museum of Nature and in their Heritage Treasures of Parks Canada Photography Contest they pair up with Parks Canada. In their latest contest The Canadian Geographic Annual Contest (26th edition) they team up with the Forest Products Association of Canada (The Voice of Canada’s Wood, Pulp and Paper Products). This quote below is from the contest page and clearly lays out what rights you are giving away:

Canadian Geographic and the Forest Products Association of Canada (in regard exclusively to the “Framing the Forest” category) reserve the non-exclusive right to publish any entry and/or use any entry in its promotional material during or after the Contest without further compensation to the entrants. For FPAC, promotional material shall include without limitation any print or electronic advertising or marketing material such as posters, online images, newspaper ads, television ads, e-mails and social media content. FPAC further reserves the non-exclusive right to publish and publicly display without further compensation to the entrants any or all winning photos as part of a promotional publicity tour of the photos at a date and for a period of time to be determined by FPAC in its sole discretion.

With regard to any photo submitted to the Contest, you, or the owner of copyright in the photograph, retain all copyright. By uploading or submitting any photo to the Contest, you grant (or warrant that the owner of such materials expressly grants) Canadian Geographic Enterprises and FPAC and its affiliates and licensors a world-wide, perpetual, royalty-free, irrevocable and non-exclusive right and license to use, copy, adapt, transmit, communicate, publicly display and perform, distribute and create compilations and derivative works or merchandise from any such submitted photograph to promote the Canadian Geographic Photo Club, its photo contests or FPAC in general.

Why would anyone willingly enter this competition where you essentially grant a royalty free license to Canadian Geo, FPAC and ‘affliates’ (whoever those may be)? And yet there are hundreds of entries from photographers.

There are several possibilities.

  • Some people must not read the rules closely and so miss out on the fact that they are granting worldwide royalty free rights to the photos they enter.
  • Some photographers are naive about their rights and the rights they are giving away and have no clue what the rules are asking them to give up
  • Some photographers don’t care. They are thrilled to have their photos published by anyone for any use just for the thrill of seeing their work online or in print.
  • Other photographers are entering strategically. They shoot a lot of material and so are willing to give up an image or two for the chance at winning a prize.

I raise this contest as an example of how many photo competitions are actually just ‘excuses’ to make money (where entry fees are charged) or to get free images for advertising and editorial uses. If you enter photo contests, please read the rules carefully. Are you willing to give up what is asked? Only you can decide. If you want a great site listing some crappy and some good contests to enter go to Photo Attorney (this is also a great legal resource site for photographers)!  Also see my previous rant about Canadian Geographic. And if you want to see what my ‘rules’ are for the photo contests I run on this blog go here

Bat Photography Workshop

Posted in Controversy, Ethics, Photography Gear, Techniques, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , on May 25, 2010 by Darwin

Scott Linstead, one of Outdoor Photography Canada’s columnists, has a unique Bat and Owl Photography workshop coming up in shortly (June 3rd – 9th, 2010). If you want to get unique photo like the one below then this might be the workshop for you.

©Scott Linstead

Be aware that there is some controversy in using flash in wildlife photography, there are those who are pro flash and those who are against it. So… I suggest researching things a bit to see if flash photography of nocturnal birds and mammals is something you want to participate in.

Here is Scott’s take:

1) For aesthetic purposes as well as ethical concerns, the flashes that I use for bats and owls at night are never pointing in the line of site of the subject — they are always lit from the sides, above and from behind.  This makes a huge difference from an intuitive POV, since we all know how different the experience of looking right at a flash versus looking away from the flash (or simply the experience of driving at night).  Subjects lit head-on also look quite flat and shadowless.

2) I have never experienced a bat or owl being killed, injured or even disoriented by flash.  (BTW, bats do use their site in addition to echolocation in order to navigate)  I know of screech owl that have flown through night time flash set-ups literally thousands of times and returned the following season to once again participate in the photography.

Some Good Links to Check Out

Posted in Articles about Photography, Controversy, Ethics, Inspirations, Techniques with tags , on March 27, 2010 by Darwin

Pro Imaging – Support for Professional Image Creators – Great website with a couple of campaigns that need our support. One of the campaigns is a Bill of Rights for creating fairness in photo competitions. There is a list of photo competitions that are fair to participants and a much longer list of contests that are unfair. Before entering a competion check this list, and if you see a contest that should be on the unfair list send the Pro Imaging folks a note. BTW if you have not read my concerns about the new Canadian Geographic Photo Contest I suggest you take a moment especially if you are considering entering the competition. Thanks to John for bringing this great site to my attention

Crazy New Voodoo Magic in Photoshop CS5 – CS5 release will be announced April 12 but for now you can see why you will want to upgrade for the Content Aware Fill feature alone!

Alternative Technique for Digital Orton – Lots of folks love digital Ortons, here is another workflow

Here is Samantha’s answer to the following question: What is a day in the life of a professional nature photographer like?  Is it difficult being a woman in a seemingly male-dominated field?

And of course I always like to check on on of my favorite writers on photography, Guy Tal. if you don’t read his blog, I suggest you do, always worthwhile.

All for now,


Canadian Geographic Magazine Photo Contest Rights Grab?

Posted in Controversy, Ethics, Magazines, Rants, Sad News with tags , , , , , , on March 7, 2010 by Darwin

Canadian Geographic Magazine and Parks Canada have organized a photo contest entitled: Heritage Treasures of Parks Canada Photography Contest with three categories: Nature in Parks Canada, National Historic Sites, and Visitors at Parks Canada. The grand prize is a $3000 VIA Rail gift card and a Discovery National Pass to Canadian National Parks and Heritage Sites. The deadline is October 29, 2010.

The two paragraphs below are directly cut and pasted from Canadian Geographic’s Rules and Regulations page for this contest:


Winners of the grand prize, the top three prizes in each category and a special mention in the “Nature in Parks Canada” category will have their photo and name published in a future edition of Canadian Geographic, on the Canadian Geographic Photo Club Web site ( and on the Parks Canada Web site ( The participant who wins the special mention for the International Year of Biodiversity in 2010 in the “Nature in Parks Canada” category will also have his or her photo and name published on Canada’s official Web site for the International Year of Biodiversity. Canadian Geographic and the Parks Canada Agency reserve the non-exclusive right to publish any entry and/or use any entry in promotional material. The participant is responsible for releasing copyright to the photo, and this copyright release must be available if the photo wins. All photos will be credited to the author’s name.

Copyright Notice

With respect to any photo entered in this contest, you, or the copyright holder for these photos, retain the copyright. By uploading or entering a photo in the contest, you grant (or certify that the photo’s copyright holder expressly grants) Canadian Geographic Enterprises, the Parks Canada Agency and its affiliated groups a world-wide, royalty-free, irrevocable and non-exclusive right and license to use, copy, adapt, transmit, communicate, publish, publicly display and distribute, as well as create and distribute compilations and derivative works or merchandise from any such submitted photos to promote the contest or any resulting public display. You further grant the Parks Canada Agency the right to archive the submitted photos and to use them as part of educational or business activities. You represent and warrant that you have the right to grant the license set out above.

Here is my perspective and opinion about the rules and regulations:

First, the issue of copyright is totally unclear. In paragraph one, we have Canadian Geographic telling us that “The participant is responsible for releasing copyright to the photo, and this copyright release must be available if the photo wins”. I read this as meaning that Canadian Geographic expects participants and especially winners will hand over their copyright to Canadian Geographic. But then in paragraph two, Canadian Geographic tells us; “With respect to any photo entered in this contest, you, or the copyright holder for these photos, retain the copyright”. Which one is it? Does the photographer retain copyright or not? Or is it only the contest winners who give up copyright? At the very least I think Canadian Geographic should rewrite the rules so we clearly know who retains copyright.

The issue of who owns copyright is huge. I am not a lawyer, but in my 25 years as a photographer, if I gave up copyright, I gave up ownership of my photo. While Canadian Geographic may credit you with taking the photo, the rules do not seem to require this in all the uses they may make of your photo. And, in my experience, if you transfer copyright they can do whatever they want with your photo without your permission. Technically, you no longer have any rights to the photo. You can’t sell it, print it, display it etc. without first getting permission from Canadian Geographic. Giving up copyright to your photos is like handing over your kids for adoption. Are the prizes worth giving up copyright? Only you can decide. For me, I would not enter this contest if I had to give up copyright.

Secondly, this line in paragraph two really worries me: “By uploading or entering a photo in the contest, you grant (or certify that the photo’s copyright holder expressly grants) Canadian Geographic Enterprises, the Parks Canada Agency and its affiliated groups a world-wide, royalty-free, irrevocable and non-exclusive right and license to use, copy, adapt, transmit, communicate, publish, publicly display and distribute, as well as create and distribute compilations and derivative works or merchandise from any such submitted photos to promote the contest or any resulting public display.” So even if the photographer still holds the copyright, simply by entering the competition Canadian Geographic, Parks Canada and affiliated groups (who knows how many) essentially have license to do what they wish with your photos. It might seem that such promotion is only in regard to the photo contest but when I see the word merchandise I get nervous. Does this mean Canadian Geographic can make a t-shirt with your photo and sell that t-shirt to promote future photo contests? If so, you will not see a dime of the proceeds. Maybe this was not Canadian Geographic’s intent but they still have the rights if they wanted to go this route.

If granting a royalty-free right to promote the contest does not worry you, then this line might make you pause: “You further grant the Parks Canada Agency the right to archive the submitted photos and to use them as part of educational or business activities.” To me this means Parks Canada can use your images in any way they want from educational slide shows and web information to actually using your photos in advertisements without any recompense or credit to the photographer. They can even license your photos for a fee to anyone without you ever getting a residual royalty. You might as well just put your photo entries on a disc and hand them over to Parks Canada to use as they wish because, in my experience, by entering the Canadian Geographic contest that is what you are effectively doing.

So… if you plan to enter this contest, be aware of what you may be giving up. I would also suggest anyone who is not happy with the terms of the competition or the clarity of the rules should write to Canadian Geographic with their concerns. More and more I see photo contests essentially taking all rights from the photographers and often entrants naively still enter because they don’t read or understand the rules. Part of the problem in this case is that the rights you are giving up are not clearly spelled out. Go here to email Canadian Geographic your concerns.

For an example of more a photographer friendly competition check out Nature’s Best Magazine’s Rules and Guidelines.

For another example of a rights grab contest see Bob Krist’s entry here

The End of Stock Photography?

Posted in Articles about Photography, Controversy, Marketing, Sad News, Stock Photography with tags , , , , on March 6, 2010 by Darwin

Check out this interview with Jim Pickerell at John Lund’s excellent blog on Stock Photography. Bookmark John’s Blog or subscribe, it is an amazing source of information for those of us involved in stock photography. Hmmm… the end of Stock as a photographic career?? Damn! I am headed the the Golden Arches to see if they need french fry salter.

Thanks to Keith Douglas for the heads up on John Lund’s blog.

©Darwin Wiggett


Warning! Things You Need to Know About Photo Tours

Posted in Controversy, Ethics, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , on February 5, 2010 by Darwin

This post is  for those photographers who plan on leading their own photo tours.

(And for those planning to participate in a tour.)

Making money in nature photography is a difficult proposition. The competition is fierce and the prices paid for photos is low. There is a glut of great images out there yet there are very few photo buyers. One way that many hungry photographers (myself included) supplement their income is to organize and lead photo tours. Not only are tours fun, but they get you out shooting with like-minded people. It seems everyone has jumped on the Photo Tour bandwagon, from high-profile shooters who never used to lead tours, to the local guy who just picked up a camera a year ago.  It makes sense:  what could be easier than taking a bunch of people out to your favorite locations and showing them how you do things… and get paid to do it?

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Liability Issues

I’m no lawyer, and my comments here do not count of course as legal advice. But I would like to highlight some things to consider before you lead or take a photo tour.  First, once you take other people out in the capacity of a paid business venture, the issue of liability comes up. Do you have liability insurance for when you accidentally smack someone in the face with your tripod? What if someone falls off a cliff or slips on ice and breaks a leg? Nature is dangerous; do you have insurance to cover the eventuality of an injury? And do you have basic first aid training and a first aid kit with you at all times?

Another issue to think about are waivers.  Do you have a liability waiver form made up by a qualified lawyer? Do you get people to sign this form before your event? A document that you crafted at home may not cover you. You may need to pay a qualified person to help you craft a proper document.

Speaking of liability, if you carry paid participants in your vehicle and get in an accident, your insurance company will likely not cover you because personal insurance does not cover commercial activity. So if you want to taxi around participants, you’ll need commercial insurance on your vehicle. Things are starting to sound expensive eh? Still wanna do tours?


Most photographers lead tours to publicly owned land in the form of National, State, or Provincial Parks. These parks often require that you have a permit for any commercial enterprise. You can’t just take a group of people into a national park, have them pay you for the service without the need of a permit and payment to the parks administration of a fee of some sort. So do your homework and get the proper permits. Most parks will not give you a permit unless you can prove you have liability insurance.


If you want to shoot on private property you’ll need written permission or a consent form from the property owner. Do not take participants onto private property without landowner permission or your liability insurance will be voided. If you are taking participants to photograph old barns, or a funky old church and you want to be able to sell the photos from the shoot, then you will also need a property release form signed by the legal owner of the building. And if you photograph people on a photo tour, you better get permission first and even better get a model release for everyone you photograph. It is better to hire models specifically for your photo tour so you can get releases for payment. Also does your liability insurance cover paid talent?

Work Visas

If you are planning a photo tour to an exotic local, do you have all the proper documentation in place to do commercial activities in that country? Do you need a work visa? Do you have all permits and insurance to cover you? Foreign tours are especially tricky — you do not want to be booted out of the country in the middle of a tour simply because you neglected to properly set things up. I know of numerous foreign photographers who lead tours in the Canadian Rockies that do not have permits, work visas or insurance. They are a disaster waiting to happen.


You have to deliver something to participants beyond what they would get if they came on their own to a location. For instance, I get people to places they would not find on their own and I get people to the right places in the right light and offer help with instruction in the field as necessary. Other instructors offer formalized instruction. What are you offering? If this is just a way to get paid to shoot, then look for other avenues of revenue.

For those looking at joining a photo tour, ask important questions. Do you really want to go with someone who has shady business practices or is simply ignorant of the requirements needed for successful tours? If photo tour leaders cannot provide you with information about insurance, permits, permissions, releases and waivers, then steer clear!

©Darwin Wiggett - Rockies Spring Photo Tour

New House Rules

Posted in Controversy, Ethics, Rants with tags on January 28, 2010 by Darwin

In the past, I have approved every single comment that anyone put on this blog. The fact that people even stop by and visit here, let alone take the time to comment, is amazing and appreciated – thanks all! This policy of absolute freedom of expression was not a problem when the vast majority of visitors to this blog are polite, reasonable and constructive. However, after co-authoring a ‘controversial’ review on the Canon 7D, let’s just say that the civility of a vocal minority fell to an all-time low. Indeed, I don’t see the value of name-calling and flaming, it serves no-one. Constructive criticism is always welcomed though. 

From now on I am taking the lead of Samantha Chrysanthou and her blog in following the rules of Netiquette. No prima donna’s, name-callers, princesses, bullies, braggarts, or meanies need waste their time commenting here. Your comment will not be approved or if it sneaks by it will be promptly deleted. This is a blog community about sharing, growing and respect — if you can’t play nice, go find another sandbox. The other 99% of reasonable, mature people who visit here are always welcome!

Back to your regularly scheduled program.