Landscape Photographers "Leave No Trace"

July 17, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! Hope everyone is healthy and safe. Photographers are tearing up the landscapes we love. With the growing popularity of photography and landscape photography, new photographers are going to the places we love to get their selfies, tearing up the landscape as they go. The popularity of social media, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and such are having people in hoards going to our national and state parks, and that's a good thing if they follow the simple rule to take only photos and leave only footprints. But many are wandering off of the beaten trail and leaving behind trash, and the sheer number of people can trample our beloved special places, all to get likes or followers on social media! There is a right way and a wrong way to do things when you're out in nature, and this blog will cover some of the basic principles of "Leave No Trace."

Leave No Trace has been around for years and isn't just a politically correct statement that is popular. I was taught this in Scouts 50 years ago. Outdoor enthusiasts have been practicing this for years, but with the onslaught of the internet, we have brought new people to the wilderness that haven't ever strayed from their local Starbucks. But now, because they saw a post on Instagram, they just had to have a selfie at Mesa Arch. According to the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, there are seven principles to Leave No Trace. They are: 

1. Plan ahead and prepare.

2. Travel on durable surfaces.

3. Dispose of waste properly.

4. Leave what you find.

5. Minimize campfire impacts.

6. Respect wildlife.

7. Be considerate of others.

Do all of these really relate to a day photography trip? Most of them do. We were given a great gift with the national parks and forests and the state parks and nature reserves. We need to be stewards of the land that was given to us so we can give it and its natural beauty to the ones that follow us in the future.  If we don't they could be gone forever, and our grandchildren and their grandchildren will never know the beauty of our great nation.  Forest rangers aren't there to pick up after us like we are at a hotel. That's not their job. It's yours and mine! So let's go through the principles from a photographer's perspective.

1. Plan and prepare ahead of time. If you're going to the wilderness, look for trail maps and find out the rules of the place you're going to. There may be special rules in the area to protect some species of plant or wildlife that you don't know about.  2. Travel on durable surfaces.  That means stay on the trail making the least amount of impact as possible to the environment. With the amount of people going into the wilderness areas now, this is especially  important.  We don't want to trample the area like a herd of elephants. This is a big one. 3. Dispose of waste properly!  I have been five miles off the beaten path in the middle of the Smokeys and found a gum wrapper! Haul all of your trash with you out of an area. If you eat a power bar, take the wrapper with you when you leave. I won't even get into what backpackers do when they have to use the bathroom in the wilderness. Just take your trash out, please.  4. Leave what you find. Don't take anything natural out of the park for a souvenir.  By doing so you're stealing the beauty from the park. Leave it for someone else. Don't take plants out of the parks. You could be spreading diseased plants and accidentally spread it to your house. Leave them, please. 5. Respect wildlife.  Give them plenty of space. Bears, elk, moose, snakes, and all kinds of critters need their space. Remember, you're in their house, so respect their house. Give them the distance they deserve and they will most likely leave you alone.  6. Be considerate of others. We all want to see the beauty of the forest or natural wildlife scene.  Don't ruin it for others by carving your initials into a tree for everyone to see. Nobody wants to see it. Remember, the place that you are in is fragile and must be cared for so others will enjoy it also.  7. And lastly I don't think there is any reason to talk about campfires, but if you do have one, follow all of the rules where you are at.  You don't want to start a forest fire.

Common sense is what's needed here. Do unto others and all of that. I know of a lot of famous photographers who do not give the location of where they got the great shots and scenes from just for the reason that the masses will come and destroy them. Nick Page, a pretty popular photographer, puts Mesa Arch on all of his photographs just so people won't go to where he photographed them. Not because he wants to keep the place for himself, but because he wants to protect them. I don't go to that extreme. However, if I'm at a tourist location, I'll give the name, say, the Wright Brothers Memorial. But if I'm not and I think that the place is fragile, I'll just put North Carolina for the location. Not that I'm popular and people are looking, but just in case someone wants to go to that place they will have to do the research to find it and maybe that will keep them from trashing it.

Well, that's pretty much it for this topic. Please take care of the land. There isn't any really being made at the moment, so we must take care of what we have. Until next week, keep shooting and get outside!



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