Landscape photographers throughout history have been influential in bringing positive attention to natural wonders, particularly in the America West.
Nature First - An Alliance for Responsible Nature Photography - December 2019
Carleton E. Watkins is not an easily recognizable name for his work in landscape photography, but his breathtaking photos of Yosemite persuaded many politicians of the day to consider preserving its scenic and historical values. One such politician that was influenced by Watkin’s photographs was Abraham Lincoln. During his term in office, he began the process of preserving Yosemite, which eventually became a National Park in 1890. Throughout history many other nature photographers contributed to the protection of wild places. Ansel Adams is probably the most well known landscape photographer in the twentieth century. His powerful images inspired a whole generation and still does today. He was a life-long advocate for environmental conservation and was instrumental in helping expand the National Park system.
Although Adams and Watkins inspired protection of large swaths of public land, the downside was the increased visitation to wild places that had been unknown. This trend continues today and has significantly escalated due to social media and many other factors.
Unfortunately, it is apparent this increased visitation to our National Parks and other public lands is having an alarming negative impact. The large number of visitors to our National Parks have overwhelmed infrastructure, facilities, trails, and backcountry locations.
One of the key factors for the increasing damage to public lands is a widespread lack of outdoor ethics. I personally have witnessed the trampling of sensitive areas, ignoring regulations, disturbing wildlife, and incredibly rude behavior. Unfortunately, many photographers who lack knowledge of environmental stewardship principles, also contribute to the demise of wild places.
The Nature First Principles initative are targeted at landscape photographers but they certainly apply to everyone who visit public lands.
These principles will guide all photographers and recreationalists to follow minimal impact practices.
1. Prioritize the well-being of nature over photography.
2. Educate yourself about the places you photograph.
3. Reflect on the possible impact of your actions.
4. Use discretion if sharing locations.
5. Know and follow rules and regulations.
6. Always follow Leave No Trace principles and strive to leave places better than you found them.
7. Actively promote and educate others about these principles