Truth in Photography

January 5, 2010 4 Comments by Michael Mauro


Sometimes, something strikes you as too good to be true and this was one of those instances.  Looking at the photo in question at the time of it’s winning, I questioned if the story was as reported.  Now, I know.  Read this article and judge for yourself.

Throughout my career, I’ve made it a point to only photograph creatures in the wild, i.e. non-captives.  Anyone can go to a wildlife farm and get a good photo of a wolf or mountain lion . . . but it is quite a feat to capture an image of one in the wild.  I took this photo of a mountain lion several years ago.  One of the clues indicating it is a non-captive mountain lion, is it’s weight.  Captive animals are generally hand fed and tend to be overweight rather than lean, having a ready food supply and a limited area in which to exercise over their wild counterparts.  Do you think there really are overweight mountain lions out in the wild?  I have seen 7 mountain lions in their native habitats over the years and I can honestly say I have never seen a fat one. In addition, if this were a captive subject that I had control over or the opportunity to get multiple shots of, I would have never shot this image with a stick going right through the middle of the frame.  But it was the only shot I had, and it was truly a once in a lifetime shot, of indeed, a non-captive, wild animal.

If you are going to shoot captive animals, let the viewers know it’s a captive animal or situation.  Truth not only in advertising, but in photography as well, speaks to integrity.

Wild Mountain Lion

Photographed in the Wild


  • Misty Dawn says:

    I’m loving this post! You see, I’m a member of many ‘photography’ forum groups. But, what I’ve discovered is, they expect every shot to be staged or at least look like it was. They don’t want tags in farm animals’ ears… they tell you to not photograph that wild animal when it has grass (or in your case, a stick) in front of it. Seriously?!?! When I photograph a wild animal, I am thankful for the opportunity and I take what I can get… you don’t get to ask the animal to please move a little bit to the right. When a nature photographer, you don’t STAGE your photos – you shoot NATURE, just as you see it. You take what you can get. And, in my opinion, if you try to Photoshop different elements out of the photo, you are taking away from it, because that’s NOT nature. Just my opinon.

  • I remember seeing this shot posted when the results were initially announced thinking, “this seems so surreal”. I’ve recently came across info on photo traps and seen some absolutely amazing images from them. Still, knowing more about the natural history of the subject, I am not surprised the museum is now questioning the submission. It seems that 2009 has been a year of deception in photo submissions – first news of the National Wildlife Refuge competition and a winning photo being manipulated and the photographer not wanting to submit the original, rumor of entries in my local state competition being disqualified due to over manipulation, and now this info!

    I hope that the increased interest and participation in digital photography will not lead to more cutthroat antics of participants in competitions.

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