Throughout history, photographers were among the types of artists who used their craft to preserve spaces, to help them achieve levels of protection. From Ansel Adams to Jim Brandenburg, they used photography to highlight beauty, show what could be lost if certain poor decisions were made. For others, like Elliot Porter, they showed what was going to be lost because of a decision already made.
In modern times, however, two things have changed the role and impact of photographers on natural spaces: digital photography and social media. These two factors have impacted the photographer-nature relationship in a variety of ways, from increasing pressure and competition to compelling others to replicate photos. This has now taken us to a place where photographers are helping to "love to death" some places, misrepresent information in captions, or even deceive about what is a "real" image (failing to disclose composite images).
For my own artistic reasons, I more often strive to capture images that are unique and my own. For financial reasons, I also will capture images of places that people can recognize. No matter what I am photographing and why, there are certain key principles I apply when photographing nature. This page is dedicated to those principles.
As a member of the North American Nature Photography Association, I vow to follow their several published ethical principles. I encourage everyone to read each one, and, if a photographer, to follow them:
I am also a member of Nature First, an organization that recognizes that visitors in general and photographers particularly are causing "tangible, extensive, and progressively worsening negative impacts on nature." In recognition of this impact, Nature First has developed a set of principles and invited photographers to join them in promoting those principles. They are similar to some of the NANPA principles above, but more expansive:
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.
You can read about these principles in more detail on the Nature First website.