As outdoor recreation areas become more crowded, the adverse effects on the landscape become more evident. Landscape photographers can help set the example by practicing Nature First Principles while we are out in nature photographing these beautiful scenes.
Are you a landscape photographer? Are you familiar with the Nature First Principles? If not, you should be. As landscape photographers, we are in the public’s eye more than most. We can help set the example to help protect our natural environment through our actions.
In 2019, a group of nature photographers formed the Nature First organization and established a set of seven principles to prioritize the protection of nature. Practicing landscape photographers should familiarize themselves with these principles, lead by example, and help spread knowledge of these principles through their friends and workshops they might lead.
There are seven principles to the Nature First approach for your photography.
Prioritize Nature Over Photography
When approaching a photography scene, remember to prioritize nature over your photograph. This might mean not going into a sensitive area, even if the best angle for the photo is there. It might mean honoring a rule or regulation for the area you are photographing in. Whatever the situation, always prioritize the well-being of nature over getting the shot.
Learn About the Areas You Photograph
Take time to educate yourself about the areas you photograph in. Learning more about an area often gives you more insight as to why there are certain restrictions. From sensitive plants to cryptobiotic soil, there are often science-based reasons you should avoid hiking off-trail or disturbing certain areas of nature. Learning about these areas helps keep you safe and explain to others why the area is protected.
Think About the Impact of Your Actions
It is always good to pause and think about the impact of your actions. From the damage your actions may take to the example it may set for others, stop and take a moment to think about your impact on the environment around you. If your action could lead to harm — going off trail, climbing a fence, moving a rock — rethink your action and make a choice that does not cause the area potential harm.
Don’t Share Locations
Be very cautious if sharing locations and seriously consider not sharing locations. As landscape photographers, we like to go out and photograph amazing scenes. But, before you share the location, take a moment to think about the infrastructure around that location. Can it handle crowds of people, cars, foot traffic, etc.? If not, don’t share the location, as it can lead to an adverse impact on areas that are not ready for a high volume of visitors.
Follow the Rules
Part of being a responsible landscape photographer is knowing the rules of the areas you visit. This can range from hours of visitation, to acceptance of off-trail hiking, to whether flying a drone is permitted or not.
Take the time to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of an area you visit and follow those rules. They have likely been put in place to protect the area we want to photograph for future visitors. Don’t be the one breaking the rules, be the one setting the example.
Leave No Trace
Even with all of the above, leave no trace! When you leave a location, it should look like you were never there. Don’t leave trash, don’t leave markings, and don’t damage the area.
In fact, do better, and if you see trash out on the trail, pick it up and help leave an area better than you found it! As visitor numbers increase, I continue to see more and more trash left behind by the multitudes not practicing leave no trace principles. Lead by example.
Again, lead by example. Help educate the friends you go out practicing landscape photography with, and teach your workshop clients these Nature First Principles. As people who spend a significant amount of time outdoors, we have a unique opportunity to help guide others and teach these principles newer generations may have yet to learn.
I strive to practice Nature First principles on all of my outings. I even include key principles in my workshop informational emails leading up to my landscape photography workshops and during the course of a workshop.
If you want to learn more about the Nature First Principles, you can read about them on their website. I encourage all landscape photographers to practice the principles and be an example when outdoors practicing landscape photography.