Nature First: Being a Responsible Photographer
Landscape photography has become an increasingly popular form of photo-taking, and it's not hard to see why. Landscapes feature some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the world; they can be majestic or serene, awe-inspiring or calming. However, landscape photography does have its drawbacks - namely that many photographers don't care about preserving nature as much as they should! This blog post will discuss how you can preserve nature by following principles from Nature First: The Alliance for Responsible Landscape Photography.
Why I love landscape photography
What could be better than spending the whole day outside doing what you love? Landscape photography has a special place in my heart because it allows me to be both an artist and a scientist. I love being outside, exploring new places and photographing them.
As a landscape photographer, I'm always looking for unique subjects that capture the viewer's attention, but I can't just rely on taking beautiful pictures of flowers or trees from the side of the road. I am also constantly drawn out into the wilder places of the world, photographing landscapes like rugged mountains or untouched scenerys that not many people have seen before. Landscape photography is an opportunity to create art that will hopefully last for generations to come!
I'm so pleased with how my photographs have been received by others - especially when I've photographed places where people can sense their connection with nature in a new way or feel inspired to explore more of the world.
I love photographing landscapes for many reasons, but it's also important to remember that there are some things I need to be mindful about in order to make sure my photographs represent nature responsibly. Landscape photography can mean different things to different people, but it's not just about capturing the beauty of a scene. It can also be an opportunity to make sure that we are preserving what we have and promoting sustainable practices when taking pictures in nature.
Who and what is Nature First
About 2 years ago I became aware of the organization Nature First through a Youtube video of the American landscape photographer David Johnston. I watched the video and was struck by how much of it resonated with me.
I had always loved wilderness photography as well as nature in general, but I never considered that there may be more to it than just capturing a beautiful scene on camera for myself or others to enjoy. Nature First focuses on people like me who like to be outdoors photographing beautifully landscapes and nature.
The goal of Nature First is that by fostering a respectful relationship with nature we can spread awareness about the importance of conservation efforts as well as how humans should approach being in wilderness areas.
Nature First also seeks to engage the community of nature and landscape photographers to help conserve the places we love to photograph. It's also about creating a dialogue about how we can all work together to protect the nature for future generations.
Even though the organization was founded by a few nature-loving individuals, it is probably safe to say that it is all of us who make up and are Nature First. We should!
My view on the good and bad of social media
The social media, nature and landscape photography. What problems can arise here? Landscape photographers have always been mindful of the natural beauty they're capturing on film, but now there is this intrinsic pressure to document everything and put it out into a digital world that can be destructive.
This leads to people being in nature without much thought for conservation or preservation. Landscapes become another backdrop against which we fashion our lives, presenting what should be something special as just an average part of many other experiences.
There's also this overemphasis on 'likes' - I don't think most people want their Instagram feed filled with pictures from others if they were not present when someone saw something really breathtaking that day (even though I do understand how tough it can get when you are trying to grow your follower count).
And so it leads to everyone going to the most popular places, let's call them Instagram hotspots, just to take another photo that looks like thousands of other pictures you see on the platform.
The good side of social media comes when those who share their photos are respectful about where they go, how they plan to take pictures there, etc. It's great knowing there are photographers out there who will not ruin these special locations and keep them as pristine as possible just because they know how important this is.
As a landscape photographer, how can I use social media to promote respectful interaction with nature? To do this, it is best to take the 7 principles of Nature First into account.
THE NATURE FIRST PRINCIPLES
1. Prioritize the well-being of nature over photography
Respect the Land. We have to remember that nature is full of diverse ecosystems and fragile habitats, which need our protection. Always ask yourself if it is really necessary to take a photo when you find out that it may disturb the wildlife or spoil a special place.
2. Educate yourself about the places you photograph
Take the time to learn more about the location you want to photograph so that you can make the right decision when it comes to taking photographs and respecting nature.
3. Reflect on the possible impact of your actions
Think about the potential impact of your actions. Even a single footprint on sensitive ground can have a negativ impact on the ecosystem. We need to protect what is left of our natural environment by minimizing disturbance, so that future generations can enjoy it. Become an informed and responsible nature photographer by learning more about where you want to take photographs.
4. Use discretion if sharing locations
With discretion in sharing exact locations, you can at least do your part to ensure that nature is left in peace. If you post locations publicly, others will surely follow. And the social media wave can already start rolling and soon even people who don't care so much about nature will follow. The more people visit, the less beauty is left. Landscape photography has a huge impact on our environment and it's important to be responsible in order to keep nature around for the rest of us.
5. Know and follow rules and regulations
Rules and regulations are basically a horror to me as an extremely freedom-loving person. But, these rules and regulations are not there for nothing because they protect the natural beauty of our environment. Landscape photography is a popular activity that is often done without regard for nature, with people trampling all over the place to get that perfect shot. Landscape photography can cause a lot of damage to the environment, including destroying native plants and as well as disturbing nesting animals.
6. Always follow Leave No Trace principles and strive to leave places better than you found them
Imagine you go outside into nature and every few meters there is trash lying around. Would you enjoy that? Probably not, is it?
Landscape photography can be a great experience, but it needs to be done responsibly. Landscape photographers are encouraged to leave no trace and take their trash and recyclables back to civilization. And yes, if you want to do it right then also take waste from others that you find back to civilization and dispose of it properly.
Live this approach and you will become a role model for many.
7. Actively promote and educate others about these principles
This is not about being know-it-all towards others. But it's a great thing if you teach all these principles to other people, whether they are landscape photographers or not. Learning and adhering to these principles will benefit us all.
Nature is beautiful, and it's something worth preserving. Landscape photography has become an increasingly popular form of photo-taking in recent years - but as this blog post discussed, many photographers don't care about nature enough to preserve it! Luckily there are some principles that can help you avoid damaging the landscape while still capturing stunning photographs. I hope these tips will inspire you to be a more responsible photographer when exploring your natural surroundings. Leave a comment below with your outdoor experiences so we can chat on our social media pages or follow me at @manumo_photography on Instagram for updates!
Have a wonderful day! Cheers, Manuel
Make sure you also visit the Nature First website for more information on this topic and the principles. You can also find their Instagram account here: @naturefirst_org
If you want you can watch the video of David Johnston about Nature First here: to the Youtube video
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