In recent years you have undoubtedly noticed changes at the places we love to photograph. There has been an influx of photographers who want to create their version of these beautiful places. It is great to see so many people getting out of the house to enjoy nature, but with this, we have also witnessed the destruction of the places we love.
Last year Jennifer and I began to work on a project with a group of like-minded photographers who wanted to put an end to this destruction. We all decided what was missing from this new generation of photographers was a set of guiding principles.
In the past, the nature photography world was a small, tight-knit community. You would typically go out with someone you know who would show you the ropes, and along the way teach you some principles to respect nature. With the advent of the internet, social media, and sharing of GPS coordinates this mentoring aspect has largely been lost. Now, it is far too easy to look up a location online, plug it into your GPS and find a delicate spot without learning anything about the area or how/why to protect it.
We see far too many people who have no respect for the natural environment because they have not been educated. They will do anything to ‘get the shot’. We see flowers and ferns trampled, new trails created, cryptobiotic soil smashed, trespassing, wildlife harassed, etc., etc.
It is time for a cultural shift in the nature photography community to respect nature above the photograph, and it starts right now with the advent of Nature First: The Alliance for Responsible Nature Photography, which promotes the following principles.
Nature First Principles
- Prioritize the well-being of nature over photography.
- Educate yourself about the places you photograph.
- Reflect on the possible impact of your actions.
- Use discretion if sharing locations.
- Know and follow rules and regulations.
- Always follow Leave No Trace principles and strive to leave places better than you found them.
- Actively promote and educate others about these principles
You can read more about the principles by visiting the Nature First website.
I know that most of you likely follow these principles already and we thank you for this. What we need from you is to share these ideas far and wide. Please take action by sharing these ideas online, with other photographer friends, try to get your camera club on board, maybe even give a presentation. If you see someone who is violating these principles try to have a positive discussion with them (if it’s safe) to see if you can change their behavior. All of us need to be ambassadors to create change within our communities. It is time to take action and instill values in our fellow photographers to protect the places we all love.
If you lead workshops or have a large following online it is especially important that you get the word out, you have the power to influence the masses and make this spread like wildfire.
Changes on NPN for Nature First
We have proudly partnered with Nature First to provide a platform to discuss the issues we are facing.
We have added a new category on NPN for discussions on the Nature First principles. The category will be an area to discuss the positive impacts we are having on people’s behaviors, what we can do to improve/extend the principles, how we can get more people involved, etc. We did not want these important discussions to be limited to just paying NPN members so we have created a new free membership tier so anyone that joins can post in this category, but they cannot post anywhere else or see the critique section.
Starting today, you will also notice the Nature First logo next to some users names on NPN; this is to proudly display that you are a member of Nature First and that you commit to follow and share these principles with others. If you would like to show your commitment to this effort, please visit this page and click ‘Join Group’ in the upper right, which will automatically add the logo, if it doesn’t show up after joining the group, please give it 24 hours to show up.
Through this process, we have also re-evaluated some areas of NPN that could be contributing to the problem. The Field Reports section, while not very active, as the site grows could lead to an influx of photographers at sensitive areas. Therefore, we are making this section of the site only visible to paying or lifetime members. To access this area members must also agree and abide by the Nature First principles, which you do by joining the Nature First group on NPN as mentioned earlier.
This is only the beginning for Nature First, and I’m sure you have a lot of ideas on how to extend it beyond what we have already created. If you have ideas, please post them in the Nature First category.