Why I don’t shoot the “whole plant”

iNaturalist is a funny place. It’s filled with people with all different levels of knowledge and skill, coming together to try and accomplish...something. But like all places where human beings collaborate, there’s bound to be some measure of miscommunication.

I’ve only been on iNat for 6 six years now. I’ve been shooting a long time, though, always looking to add new taxons to my life list. To be honest, I was a photographer before I was a naturalist. And I’m better at some things than others, as tends to be the case.

As a neurodivergent person, I find that I am prone toward communicating only that which I consider meaningful and necessary. For instance, when I am looking through observations to ID, many are blurry or lacking in detail. I would consider it a poor use of time to stop and comment on each of those observations to let the person know that I can’t ID their observation because the image is too blurry. Why?

Because people already know that their photo is blurry. They don’t need me to tell them. They might lack the skill or experience to take a better photo. Maybe they can’t afford better equipment. Or perhaps they were shooting something fast moving, elusive, or very far away. Regardless of the reason, me telling them that their photo is blurry accomplishes nothing. It just makes me seem arrogant or stuck up.

I shoot a lot of plants, mostly in Orange County. I am very familiar with our native flora. Only in the last year or so, however, did I began to receive comments about not shooting the "whole" plant. I find this peculiar for a few reasons. First, because it has involved some of the rudest comments I have ever received on this website. An apparently educated person actually wrote the words “useless unless you can see the whole plant” on one of my observations. I tend to interpret these comments as the person assuming I don't know that I was SUPPOSED to shoot the whole plant. Otherwise, I would have done it, right? Good thing they came along to set me straight.

Knowledge and skills are subjective. For instance, I can identify many brittle stars even if the photo only shows a ventral view. I can also ID many brittle stars even with just a shot of part of an arm. People who are used to shooting macro images are more inclined to recognize the fine details of an organism. A person who is used to seeing things from 2 or 3 feet away may only be able to recognize it in a photo that was also taken from 2 to 3 feet away.

That being said, there are a lot of reasons why I might not bother to shoot an entire plant. I might be out shooting lichen or insects and only have my macro camera on me. The lighting might not be right to get a clear image of the entire plant. Sometimes I don’t bother because I know there are no similar species found in that area. Ergo, nothing to be ruled out. And sometimes I just don’t care and have low expectations that I will get a species level ID. But it never fails that someone will leave a comment letting me know that it would have been BETTER if I had shown the WHOLE plant.

Is it actually better to have a picture of an entire plant? Sure, sometimes. But is it 100% necessary in all cases? No. Is it necessary or useful to comment on every observation that doesn’t include images of an entire plant? Definitely not. Am I going to keep posting observations of plants that don't include images of the "whole" plant?" Yeah, most likely. But from now on I will be including a link to this journal in the description.

Posted by juliabohemian juliabohemian, 25 January, 2023 03:31