By Jennifer Renwick, Nature First Staff Writer
NATURE FIRST IS A GLOBAL MOVEMENT THAT WANTS TO BRING IN NATURE PHOTOGRAPHERS OF ALL STRIPES. AND THAT INCLUDES, SPECIFICALLY, ALL OF YOU WHO CAPTURE NATURE’S BEAUTY PRIMARILY THROUGH A SMARTPHONE CAMERA. READ ON TO SEE HOW NATURE FIRST AND OUR PRINCIPLES APPLY TO YOU — AND THEN GO TAKE THE PLEDGE TODAY!
The wilderness has enchanted human beings for hundreds of years. This admiration of our wildlands inspires others to explore and photograph the outdoors. Today, not only do you see professional/hobbyist photographers shooting a beautiful sunrise scene, but you also see photographers with their smartphone cameras lined up right alongside, enjoying the view and recording what they see. As technology evolves with smartphone cameras, so do the goals of the Nature First Movement.
Initially, the movement’s goal was to bring awareness to nature photographers. However, with the improved technology with phones, now, everyone who has a smartphone essentially has a camera and can enjoy photography. This new capability entices everyone to record and enjoy where they visit and document the beauty around them. Furthermore, combining this convenience with the instant gratification of uploading photos to social media, has helped contribute to some of the issues. While it’s a beautiful thing to see everyone out enjoying the outdoors, it has paved a path to some anxiety on how this can contribute a bit to the issues at hand.
One of the more prevalent feedback comments that the movement has seen is professional and amateur photographers alike pointing out that it’s not only themselves having an influence, but also the “Instagrammers,” or smartphone photographers, as well. While it’s easy to point fingers, especially with a topic so fueled by passionate individuals wanting to protect these unique places, it doesn’t contribute anything useful in the long run. Nature is for everyone, and instead of seeing it as an issue, we have a fantastic opportunity to educate and pass these principles onto a whole new generation with phones (cameras) in hand! So, how do these principles apply to our smartphone photographer comrades?
PRIORITIZE THE WELL-BEING OF NATURE OVER PHOTOGRAPHY.
While 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 means you’re 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 forth. 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 effect 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! With the ease of sharing to social media after grabbing that beautiful photo, maybe think before tagging and sharing the location. Will sharing the site potentially do more harm? Will others be inspired by your picture and want the same experience? Is it an area that can handle a lot of people, such as a paved path, or is it a dirt trail leading to a secluded meadow? Using discretion helps protect these places. It doesn’t mean you’re an elitist; instead, it shows good, responsible judgment.
TAKE THE PLEDGE, AND JOIN THE MOVEMENT TODAY. CLICK HERE.
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 cameraphone 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!
The Nature First Principles don’t discriminate, whether you use a professional camera or a smartphone. Instead of only professional/hobbyist photographers following these principles, we now have another whole group of enthusiastic individuals with the ability to join in and become ambassadors to our wild places. You don’t need to be the owner of a professional camera to care and be an ambassador to Nature. Anyone capturing images outdoors has the responsibility to be a good steward.
We welcome those photographing with their smartphones. The more ambassadors we can have on board, the better off our wilderness areas will be. Whether you’re shooting with a DSLR or your smartphone, we’re all in this together. Everyone has the right to enjoy Nature and what it has to offer. So, grab your smartphone and join us in protecting and keeping these places wild for future generations to enjoy!
Words by Jennifer Renwick. Photographs by Lars Gesing.