More Good Than Harm

Scuba Diving | Dive Training Magazine

In order to get this shot of a bigfin squid while on a night dive in Puerto Galera in the Philippines, my dive buddy and I managed to maneuver the squid using her dive light. Instead of facing me when I shined my light on it, the squid you see here, faced away. At first I was unable to compose a compelling frame. A minute or so later my buddy shined her light on the squid and the squid remained still. I moved so that my buddy and I were on opposite sides of the squid. Then I turned my light off. The cooperative squid faced away from the light and directly toward me. Time to shoot!

Instead of discussing more about the photographic techniques that allowed me to create this image, I am going to dance straight into the minefield of mentioning the ethics of manipulating animals.

I will readily share that I was proud of my quick thinking the night I captured the accompanying photograph. But how would things have changed if the bigfin squid had been a tiny pompom crab or a leaf scorpionfish that I turned around with a pointer or other sticklike object?

In terms of the etiquette, what is the difference between turning an animal around by using a light versus putting a pointer in front of a desired subject and causing it to move? I see a difference if I poke an animal with a pointer, or snap off a piece of coral to clear the path between my desired subject and my lens. But what if I just place the pointer? What if I wave the pointer? What about using bait? Is there a line, and if so, where is it? And who is to say?

I’m not here to tell you what is right or wrong. So what should you do? I cannot make that decision for you. But I will borrow a bioethical principle all healthcare professionals are taught in school. It’s a bit of Latin, primum nil nocere, which means, “first, do no harm.”

First, do no harm.

Foremost in my mind is the thought that I want to be very respectful of wildlife and wild places. That is far more important than any photograph I create or fail to capture.

Story and photo by Marty Snyderman
This article was originally printed in the May/June 2017 issue of Dive Training.