I think your logic applies to the vast majority of both outfitters as well as photographers. That being said there are of course counterpoints to everything.
I think there is a small group of dedicated natural history photographers out there who of course make money off their photography but also aim to educate the public on our natural environs to keep the masses at least in a minimal way connected to these environs.
I often argue that zoos are a necessary evil to keep urban people in touch with wildlife as if we continue to lose touch with our wild environs we are only going to abuse it more and more.
Back to photography... an outing I did last fall to the Great Bear Rainforest was lead by an outfitter who was obviously also an environmentalist trying to bring light to the region. Both he and another outfitter up there have been involved in the struggle to protect this area from oil and logging corporations since the beginning. Even he acknowledged that the vast majority of people on his tours have no clue and just want the pics or experience. That being said 2 people from Germany 2 years ago were so impressed with the area they donated 1.5 million to the cause. The money was used to buy up all the trophy grizzly bear licenses out there and hopefully stop the hunt. Many more people make smaller donations as well after taking these tours. Then you have people like me who take back this information and try to present it to the public in my area to raise their awareness to this struggle but also try to link things to it like the fact that neither BC or Alberta have any type of endangered species act which only aggravates these types of areas even more. This individual spends a lot of time on his tours to educate his clients with the view that even if only a small percentage takes things to heart it is worth the effort.
Outfitters like him are unfortunately the exception however and not the norm. Most will push the envelop more and more to get thier clients closer and closer for that "WOW" moment their clients are after with little or no thought given to the stress put on the animal they are persuing. I see way more of the latter than I care to. The amazing thing is that if people, including outfitters, would spend more time studying the animals, and their behaviors, they encounter and would just slow down and let the moment happen instead of trying to create the moment they would see their success rate increase dramatically.
There is some good work being done out there but as you said these people are in the minority.
I guess for me it is a combination of the 2. I love nature and wildlife and want to experience as much of it as I can while I can. This is the selfish side. But I also spend a lot of time and effort trying to educate people on some of our more fragile ecosystems here in Canada. The website I just started is of course aimed towards photography and selling my images but by far the bigger part of it is the seminars section. It's what I do 2 to 3 times a week now on average and the seminars are very much aimed at sustainable use of these protected areas and bringing to light the issues these areas are dealing with on a daily basis. The most popular seminar by far is the one I do on living with and interactions with wildlife... kind of surprising considering where I live.
I really believe that if there wasn't that core group of natural history photographers, who for the most part are also activists as well, the state of our remaining wild areas would diminish even faster than they already are. BTW... most of these people are the most fascinating people I have ever met... both in their uniqueness as well as their knowledge.
LOL I got up this morning with the intent of writing a new article which will hopefully become an outline for a new seminar/workshop called "The changing tactics of wildlife photography" strictly because of my thought line yesterday when I wrote the above. It's kind of scary when you start looking into the future and the pressure that will be put on wildlife. You are right in saying most of the population wants instant results and gratification and I think you will see that hit a new extreme as the years go by. I think the days of sitting in blinds for days to capture shots may well come to an end in the near future for most mammal species. Wildlife photographers adapt hunting tactics quite successfully to photography and what I am seeing more and more are trail cams everywhere in areas where mammals are present. This of course is a hunting tactic but it is being applied by photographers more and more. It becomes very easy to let the trail cam do the work for a 2 week period and then retrieve the information to seek out patterns in animal movements.
Speaking of pressure on wildlife... We also need to take into account that photographers are only a small percentage of people who put pressure on wildlife. Scientists and researchers go much farther than most photographers. A story shared with me by a pro photographer and environmentalist last year was pretty revealing in this regard. She was invited along on an Orca research expedition last year in BC. They encountered a female Orca with a dead baby. The researchers were within meters of the mom as she was nudging the baby trying to revive it for several hours which according to my friend put stress on the mom. They then attempted several times to take the baby away from the mom with no success and with this stress out the mom more and more. Finally the mom got so stressed that the researchers, after much debate, decided to leave the situation alone. According to her dead baby Orcas are in high demand for study by researchers as they are so rare. My friend told me this was one of the most dreadful experiences she has ever been a part of in the wild.
We as photographers need to keep all of this in mind when we are photographing wildlife. We are not the only people stressing out these animals and this needs to be on our minds every time we encounter an animal and a decision needs to be made on how far to push the encounter.
I guess I should also add, if it is not already clear by now, that I of course am a wildlife photographer, an environmentalist, and an activist but I also enjoy fishing and even though I do not hunt any more I still enjoy a good meal consisting of any wild game whenever I can. With this in mind one of the hardest decissions I have ever had to make in regards to photography is if I want to accompany local inuits on a traditional Whale hunt. One side of my brain says killing a Whale goes against everything I believe in while the other side says this tradition goes back thousands of years with little effect on the species. It was not the native cultures who devistated the Whale populations. I was lucky enough to be invited along on one of these outings... I have decided to take them up on the trip as I'm sure it will be very educational and enlightening to say the least.
I feel a new article coming on
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Reflections On Canadian Wildlife