Nature First

30 Apr
Nature First :: WA

Nature First :: WA


Last week, Jennifer Renwick and Sarah Marino (both spectacular landscape photographers and humans!) approached me with a new initiative they are working on called “Nature First”.

In some ways, landscape photography is a double edged sword.  I think most of us get into this field because we love nature and want to celebrate and share the beauty of the world with others, in the hopes that we might inspire them to embrace nature as we have.  However, with the evolution of social media, and the affordability of travel, it’s become easier than ever for people to visit locations they’ve seen beautiful photos of…and without proper education and restraint, things can quickly get out of hand.  For example, a few weeks back, California experienced a super bloom of poppies – one of the most prolific years they’ve had in quite some time.  People flocked to see the flowers, to disastrous effect.   Tens of thousands of people descended on Lake Elsinore, and the popular Walker Canyon had to be shut down, as they could not accommodate the volume of visitors.  And the tourists themselves lacked the caution necessary to preserve such fragile locations, often straying from paths, disturbing wildlife (at least one rattlesnake bite was reported) and trampling huge swaths of the very thing they’d come to see.

In a similar example, just this past week, Panther Falls in Oregon closed the route to the lower falls because someone fell trying to see it.  That location was made popular by landscape photographers, and now, access is being restricted.

I cannot say that in my time as a photographer, I have never been careless, thoughtless or broken a rule I didn’t agree with.  But over time, I’ve come to realize that if I am to be a good steward for this planet, then I need to place its needs over the desire for a pretty shot.  I cannot assume that simply because I did the rock walk around fragile alpine that someone else will.  I can’t assume that because I know to keep a massive distance between myself and wildlife, and have access to a large zoom lens that someone else will.  I need to be more thoughtful in what I do, and just as importantly (if not more) in what I share, and how I share it.  Do I use my photos as teachable moments?  Do I use caution when posting fragile locations?  Am I doing my best to protect our green spaces?

To that end, Nature First has come up with a list of guidelines specifically for landscape photographers, in conjunction with the Leave No Trace principles.


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


If you’re interested in learning more about the Nature First movement, or better yet, joining, you can read about it over at
Every single one of us has the ability to make a positive difference and use our voice for change.  What will you do with yours?

2 Responses to “Nature First”

  1. Pierre P. May 1, 2019 at 7:40 pm #

    Nice thoughtful article. I think the same also applies for mass tourism in urban areas. I do travel sometimes, and love posting photos of how beautiful a place is. Yet, I also come from a city that is becoming more and more popular each year as a holiday destination, and it saddens me to see that this also has some negative impacts : prices are rising, locals need to move to the suburbs, local life quality is lowering, authentic places are turned into some Disneyland resorts to “welcome the tourists”…

    On a more general level, we’re used to consuming everything : if I see a nice place on Instagram, I want to go there and take a picture myself, even though it’s been done before, even though I’ll need to take a plane twice just to go to one place on a weekend, even though some hidden wonders around me are crumbling down and nobody’s gonna do anything about it since they’re all absorbed by something far away. I sometimes wonder whether I really want to see those places, or whether I just go there to exist on Instagram. I think the truth is between both of these extremities. But another truth is also that such behaviour can only have negative impact in the long run for the planet, and even for ourselves. We are taught we should always move on, change, reinvent ourselves, be dissatisfied with what we have to seek what we could have elsewhere. I fear this will only make us miserable in the end.

    • seeingspotsphoto May 4, 2019 at 7:10 pm #

      I think you’re right, there is a spectrum, not just the two extremes. I certainly think people believe to some degree they need to be “seen” on social media, hence why they do some egregious things for a photo. However I also think there are people who genuinely travel so they can experience life, or a new culture, make memories, etc. You make a very good point though about us being conditioned to always want more and not be happy with what we have. The grass is always greener and all that. I hope we can, as a planet, find a happy medium between the extremes that allows for preservation of our sacred and green spaces as well!

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