Several years ago after I started getting into nature photography I began to question why some feel that everything in nature is beautiful. They see a photo of a hawk ripping apart its prey and call it beautiful. Like this shot of a Merlin eating what appears to be a Pine Siskin. What again is beautiful here? Think about the moments before this photo. The Pine Siskin was probably feeding nearby and going about its day like every other day. Then, out of nowhere, a pair of razor sharp talons sinks into its body immediately creating a shock wave of pain through its nerve system. Then, while most likely still alive, it was carried off to this branch and slowly killed and eaten. This is beautiful?
Or how about this shot of an American Kestrel ripping and devouring a small rodent? Yes, the bird is beautiful but what is beautiful about what you’re witnessing here? Why are we inclined to call this beautiful?
Several years ago in the upper peninsula of Michigan near Copper Harbor I was photographing a dragonfly called a Black-shouldered Spinyleg. Dragonflies have some of the coolest names by the way and most of them are richly colored like this particular one. It was apparently resting on these fern leaves and remained idle long enough for me to get several photos of it.
Then, as I was finishing taking pictures of this one a second Black-shouldered Spinyleg swooped in and literally grabbed the one on the fern leaves and brought it to the ground and wrestled with it for several seconds.
This second dragonfly immediately carried the first one up to a nearby branch. What ensued after that was one of the most horrific and grotesque acts of nature I ever witnessed. I’ll spare you most of the details but after only a couple of minutes or so there was only one dragonfly left and wing parts of the “taken” one were slowly falling to the ground.
You see, I’m not sure calling all this beautiful is accurate. I think we lack an understanding here. Nature is wild, it’s vicious. It is a “me first” and “me only” existence. All wild creatures take what they want whenever they can. There are no laws, no ethics, no rules. Just existence. I think instead of calling it beautiful we should just be in awe of it all and leave it at that. And we should also be glad we are human . . .