In those cases where flash causes temporary visual impairment, it's  
not only the case that the bird is disturbed (as it would be by a  
range of other activities in the park); the bird's ability to act with  
its typical effectiveness in response to the disturbance is  
diminished.   This suggests to me that some restrictions on the use of  
flash in the bird garden would be appropriate, such as a time-of-day  
restriction that would take into account natural light levels.

An additional comment:  I do wish Olivero and Cohen had included  
citations, as I would like to know how they reached their conclusions.

Sherry McCowan
Saint Louis, Missouri

On May 21, 2010, at 9:19 PM, David Becher wrote:

> I think that this somewhat misses the point.  No one is suggesting,  
> that I am aware, that flash photography permanently injures the  
> birds.  If it did, it would presumably also be dangerous to humans  
> and this whole discussion would be moot.
> It can disturb them and make them vulnerable.  I have no strong  
> objection to the proper use of flash in photographing birds.   
> However, in a limited area like the Gaddy bubbler with four or five  
> photographers shooting as fast as they can, the effect is rather  
> like a bad disco.  I know I found it disconcerting and I was  
> standing behind the photographers.  I can only imagine what it was  
> like for the birds.
> I am not asking that photographers give up using flash, I am asking  
> that they show reasonable restraint in this as in other things such  
> as stalking and flushing birds, damaging habitat, interfering with  
> nests etc.  The same restraint that I would ask of birders.
> All that said, I have to say that as an person who takes and  
> appreciates pictures of birds, I find that in my opinion most  
> pictures taken with flash are inferior.  They tend to look washed  
> out and bland to me.  Also any view of eye color is lost.  This is  
> an important feature in many birds.
> Yes flash can fill in the dark areas, and that is exactly the  
> problem.  The pictures look like they were shot in an aviary.  In  
> natural light when looking at a bird there are shaded areas and the  
> plumage of birds is adapted to that fact.  That is why the vast  
> majority of species are dark above and light below.  The use of fill  
> flash distorts the natural light and makes the birds look as if they  
> were photographed under artificial conditions.  I realize that this  
> a personal esthetic view nevertheless I think that you will find  
> that most really good bird photographers are very sparing in their  
> use of artificial light.
> David Becher
> Saint Louis
> > Date: Fri, 21 May 2010 20:13:49 -0500
> > From: [log in to unmask]
> > Subject: Re: Scientific article on the use of flash for bird  
> photography
> > To: [log in to unmask]
> >
> > I was also sent this link privately. The quote says it all, but  
> you left out the
> > part that carries more merit to this discussion...and makes the  
> point clear.
> > Flash used as THE MAIN source of light can produce problems with  
> vision. For
> > those familiar with photography and the basic principles of how to  
> use their
> > is almost a sure bet that the photographers that begain  
> this debate
> > at Gaddy Bird Garden were not using Flash as their main source of  
> light.
> >
> > There is a HUGE difference in using flash for the main light vs.  
> what 99.99% of
> > all photographers do with flash, and that is FILL FLASH. The very  
> in-depth
> > article goes on to state the following, which is more accurate in  
> that, only
> > rare instances or night shooting would require using flash as the  
> main source
> > of light. That part of the article, which contains the entire  
> quote, not just
> > that part about possible vision damage, is as follows:
> >
> > In summary, to produce phototoxic retinopathy, or permanent  
> damage, a
> > focused intense light must be held in one location on the retina  
> for a time
> > several magnitudes greater than the duration of a camera flash.  
> Fill-flash is
> > not likely to have any effect on visual systems; flash as main  
> light in dim light
> > conditions may produce a temporary reduction in vision but not  
> permanent
> > damage. Flash on nocturnal subjects during nighttime should be  
> used sparingly
> > due to brief impairment of vision.
> >
> > Flash does not cause permanent damage to the eyes of animals or  
> people,
> > even at close range. The eye is developed to handle bright light,  
> such as the
> > sun. This is the reason the rod cells "turn off" in bright light.  
> Flash is diffused
> > light when it reaches the subject. Only very highly focused light,  
> like looking
> > at the sun through your telephoto, or laser application, would be  
> expected to
> > cause permanent retinal damage.
> >
> > Hypothetically, if scientific information indicated that flash  
> photography, under
> > normal use, produced permanent retinal damage, it would trigger  
> additional
> > rules and regulations. Flash would not be allowed in making human  
> portraits,
> > strobe units would be banned from theatres and dance halls,  
> children would
> > not be allowed to handle cameras and flash units and their  
> instruction manuals
> > would carry warning labels.
> >
> > Cell phone and radio towers, feral animals, air and water pollution,
> > automobiles, and habitat reduction may be issues of much greater  
> importance
> > confronting bird and animal subjects than any temporary vision  
> changes
> > associated with the use of flash in dim or dark light. By limiting  
> our nighttime
> > use of flash and using fill-flash primarily to enhance ambient  
> light photography,
> > we hope to produce images of animal and bird subjects that will  
> increase
> > public awareness and appreciation of nature subjects. By calling  
> attention to
> > the importance of maintaining a diverse population of birds and  
> animals on this
> > planet, we may ultimately be able to improve the survival and  
> quality of life of
> > the subjects photographed."
> >
> > Due note the emphasis on fill flash for wildlife photography. Huge  
> difference.
> > I would also add to this last paragraph items that have been  
> mentioned before
> > on disturbances at the bubbler: Constant foot traffic, joggers,  
> pets, BIKE
> > riders (yes, seen it myself), following of birds around the garden  
> area. Those
> > items occur in far greater numbers than when photographers are  
> there with
> > flash.
> >
> > To end my thoughts on this matter it boils down to this simple  
> thought. I
> > believe it would not serve anyones interests (birds/humans) to ban  
> the use of
> > Flash in the bubbler if these other items are allowed to continue.  
> They present
> > a far greater disruption to the birds due to their constant  
> occurance, where
> > as the flash photographry there is very limited. Nothing wrong  
> with open
> > discussion and we can all agree to disagree.
> >
> > Jason G. Harrison
> > Troy, Lincoln County, Mo.

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