Why we are Leave No Trace Photographers
Leave No Trace Aware Photographers
A while ago we officially became the Leave No Trace Aware Photographers. We would like to talk about that a little bit more into details as it touches some values that are very important to us, as human beings and as photographers. There were many reasons we decided to do this. Feeling deeply connected with nature thus wanting to treat it respectfully whenever and however possible, we were sure we can learn something new about that and put it into practice immediately. And most of all – we can kindly spread awareness and share our passion for preserving our planet.
Whether we are aware of it or not – our lives heavily depend on the fate of mother Earth. Major changes in human lifestyle, especially in the past few centuries, have pushed us away from a conscious and caring relationship with it. If we can achieve that even a few people will stop, reconsider and decide to make a few small steps in the right direction, we will be happy. Do you fell a little bit of love for nature, too? Keep reading.
What exactly is Leave no Trace?
Leave no trace (LNT) is a set of guidelines for outdoors ethics set in place by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. According to their information, 9 out of 10 people in the outdoors are uninformed about their impact. It’s important we change that so we can protect and enjoy our world responsibly for many generations to come.
The Leave No Trace 7 Principles are:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors
© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org. To read more about all the principles in details, check their website here.
What has (our) photography got to do with it?
Growing up surrounded by nature has had a big impact on our relationship with it. As photographers who love to shoot in nature, we started getting very much aware how public lands are our “natural studio”. And the responsibility is on us. We are the ones who bring our clients to nature and it is important that we do it in a responsible and respectful way. Because we do want to preserve all these amazing outdoor places so that they can remain beautiful as we know them.
The sad part is – humans are the biggest threats to nature, to the very place that gives us home and all the resources we need for living. Simply by not caring at all. If we are careless today, there might be a different tomorrow and we certainly don’t want that.
The threat is real
- Beautiful spots may become closed due to damage caused during photoshoots (tossing confetti, going off trail, especially in national parks, leaving trash behind, etc.). This is already starting to happen across the world. You may think this is unrealistic in Slovenia as we were so used to having the places in nature just for ourselves but with the tourism industry hitting new records each year (Foreign tourist arrivals reached over 4.7 million in 2019, up from just 2 million in 2010* – almost 150% growth in 9 years!), the chance of this happening it is getting very real. People coming to the national parks and mountains uninformed and unprepared, carelessly walking off-trails, stomping on the delicate alpine plants, choosing inappropriate places for camping and leaving trash everywhere – all this is already happening.
- The spots we’ve enjoyed since childhood and enjoyed taking photos at might become so damaged that they won’t even look the same anymore.
The good news is – there’s a lot we can do about it. All of us. We’d like to share a little bit more about some of the specific guidelines we’ve decided to commit to when working outdoors as photographers. But this of course also applies anytime we step outdoors, even when we simply go for a trip. Also if you decide to ever book as as a client – you will know what we wish to stay true to.
Creating and sharing images that are ethical to recreate
Social media is pushing us to create something new and unique everyday. To take photos at amazing spots where nobody has done it before. Just to show how special we are and to attract new likes, engagements and followers. Of course there’s nothing wrong with being creative and innovative. But if you do it without considering the potential impact and consequences for the environment, it can eventually lead into disaster.
You can often feel tempted to go completely off trail in a national park (or any other place in nature with fragile soil or plants that cannot renew or regrow easily) to get a good shot. To choose a spot that is otherwise not accessible to public/tourists. Or even to use a drone in areas where you shouldn’t. Just to create a stunning image that will get many likes. But imagine what will happen when thousands of other people see it and want to have their photos taken at the exact same spot, without the consideration for leaving no trace. That’s why it is important for us to only create and share images that are ethical to recreate.
Leaving what we find in a natural environment, exactly as it is
It is one thing to practice mindful foraging (understanding the plant’s role in the ecosystem, how rare it is, how long it will take to recover … we recommend reading a great, more detailed article about it here). But it is a different thing to simply pick a protected flower or two just because we like them and we feel that one or two flowers less mean no difference (imagine what happens when a thousand of people in row think in the same way).
If we are visiting an area that we are not familiar with, it is important to do “a homework” and seek out knowledge before. “Knowing before we take” is so important. There are some plants, especially in national parks areas (but also outside of them) that are endangered and we are absolutely not to touch them. Any area deserves to be left as undisturbed as possible, for the next person to enjoy.
Avoiding altering the area
Nature is the most beautiful exactly as it is so we wish to avoid altering an area too much. Especially when it comes to wedding ceremonies in nature, away from the urban areas. If any arches or decorations are used, we should do it with the utmost respect for the place and the principles of leaving no trace behind. Just keep it simple. You chose the most amazing backdrop (nature itself) so you really don’t need to add much, if anything at all.
Leaving no waste behind
Besides the obvious trash like plastic, empty cans etc., there are also some less obvious things that we need to be consider. Tossing confetti in national parks, mountains or remote natural areas is something we strongly advise not to. It is practically impossible to collect them all afterwards. Even natural dried petals, if we toss them in the mountains, are something that doesn’t belong there as these flowers are not native to the location.
Smoke bombs – even though they don’t leave actual physical trace behind, they are a potential fire hazard and their content might be toxic for people and animals. We did use them a few times in the past (yup, we are just humans and we make mistakes) but as we said – this path is about educating ourselves and improving our steps in any way we can.
We are all humans and we all make mistakes. But the most important thing we can do is to commit ourselves to do as much as we can to leave no visible trace behind in the nature. If we step together and join our efforts, we can continually ensure we will all have access to those beautiful places. For many years to come.
It’s not about being perfect or shaming other people. It is about hundreds and thousands of people taking care and trying to do our best to keep the places in nature to remain as intact as possible.