Mobile Phone Photography
and The Nature First Principles
Nature First is NOT just for professional photographers...
Today, it’s commonplace to see people with their mobile phones standing alongside professional/hobbyist photographers admiring a beautiful scene. The high-quality cameras built into modern smartphones allow everyone to enjoy nature photography.
This new capability entices everyone to record and enjoy where they visit and document the beauty around them. Unfortunately, combining this convenience with the instant gratification of uploading photos to social media, in contributing to the problems of increased impact on our natural areas. While it’s wonderful to see more and more people out enjoying the outdoors, anyone who uses a smartphone can learn how to be more responsible in nature and apply the Nature First Principles.
So, how do the Nature First Principles apply to smartphone photographers?
PRIORITIZE THE WELL-BEING OF NATURE OVER PHOTOGRAPHY.
Since smartphones don’t have quite the zoom capability that some professional lenses have, most users will have to walk to get closer to their subjects. Acts like this can lead to trampling delicate areas, such as tundra or mosses, to get a closer look. This includes animals too, as keeping a safe and appropriate distance from wildlife is very important. Be aware of your distances, and be respectful of the ground you walk on. Never put your need for a photo above the priority to protect wildlife and sensitive areas.
EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT THE PLACES YOU PHOTOGRAPH.
Being a smartphone user puts you in no different of a situation than a professional photographer. You should always read signs and educate yourself about the areas you’re visiting. This not only keeps you safe but also makes you aware of any places you should or should not walk. For example, walking out to get a photo in the sand dunes won’t cause damage, but walking across biological soil to get a picture will do severe damage to areas that have taken thousands of years to grow. Being educated will help you be more responsible in the areas you visit.
REFLECT ON THE POSSIBLE IMPACT OF YOUR ACTIONS.
A simple thing like walking out in a meadow of wildflowers to capture the scene seems innocent enough. But, if one person sees you doing it, then they will follow you, and more people will follow, and so on. So, before you grab that wildflower shot, reflect on your impact. Is there a trail already that will take you into the flowers instead of making your own? Instead of laying in the flowers for a photo, is there a spot where standing won’t affect the flowers around you? Taking the time to think before pressing the button makes you a more responsible smartphone photographer, and others around you might follow your lead.
USE DISCRETION IN SHARING LOCATIONS.
Discretion is especially essential for the smartphone photographer! It is so easy to share to social media after grabbing that beautiful photo, but you should think twice before tagging and sharing the location. Could sharing the location potentially cause more harm? Will crowds be inspired by your picture and flock to the same experience? Is this an area that can handle lots of people, such as a paved path or overlook? Or is it a narrow, dirt trail leading to a secluded meadow? Using discretion helps protect these places. Being thoughtful, doesn’t mean you’re an elitist; instead, it shows good, responsible judgment.
KNOW AND FOLLOW RULES AND REGULATIONS.
Educating yourself about the places you visit not only keeps you safe, but keeps you responsible. Don’t climb over fences or disobey closed areas or signs. These aren’t there to hinder your experience but to help restore natural areas and keep wildlife and yourself safe. Like principle three, leading by example shows others around you how to act and use your smartphone appropriately.
ALWAYS USE LEAVE NO TRACE PRINCIPLES AND STRIVE TO LEAVE PLACES BETTER THAN YOU FOUND THEM.
We can all practice leave no trace. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a smartphone or a professional camera. Don’t leave footprints where footprints shouldn’t be, pack out what you bring in, and leave places better by picking up trash around you, even if it’s not yours.
ACTIVELY PROMOTE AND EDUCATE OTHERS ABOUT THESE PRINCIPLES.
As a smartphone camera user, you can inspire others around you. If others see you acting responsibly, they are likely to follow suit. Smartphone cameras make up the majority of the crowd in our National Parks. If you can inspire and educate someone alongside you, and they pass that on to someone else, you might be responsible for educating more people than you realize!
Based on the article “Using Your Smartphone to Capture Nature’s Beauty? This Movement is for You, Too!” by Jennifer Renwick.
Photographs by Lars Gesing.