As I travel further along in my photographic adventures, the moral and ethical rules of environmental protection have become important guidelines for me: take only pictures, leave only footprints. Pack it in...pack it out.
As a photographer who does her best work out in natural environments, be it wildlife, landscape, floral, or the odd human (some very odd humans, really...), it's important to me to capture a moment, rather than create one artificially. Much as I admire the art they create, I am not a conceptual photographer, I don't go out with a story in mind and create the scene. Instead, I find a scene that tells a story to me.
I won't bait animals to get wildlife shots, and I go to great lengths not to post the location of habitats, in order to protect the animals. I am happy to share information on places I’ve been to, and tell people what I’ve learned there, but I don’t post GPS info because People Pollution has become such a serious issue in these special areas. For instance, here in Ontario (out in Halton and Hamilton), the complete disregard for safety and the environment caused the closure of some of my favourite sites, the Cheltenham Badlands and Webster's Falls.
With respect for nature in mind, I also figure it’s not up to me to alter that nature by, for instance, breaking off a tree branch that gets in my way, or rearranging items to create that perfect shot. Instead, I move around until I find a composition that works to still tells the story. When that doesn’t happen, I move on until I find the story I can tell.
In my typically Canadian polite way, I do make sure I’m not getting in everyone else’s photograph or hogging the best views for the sake of the shot. In iconic places like Niagara Falls, where everyone has some form of camera on the go, I understand that for many, this is a once in a lifetime trip to see it, where for me it is my backyard. I can afford to be polite and let them enjoy it, knowing I can come back at a quieter time. But I beg those of you coming to see it: PLEASE respect what Mother Nature gives you for free. There are more than 30 million people a year who come through there; there are 33,000 people who live there. Do the math. And clean up after yourself.
I am very respectful of the sensitive areas that I visit. I'm grateful to the various countries (my own included) that maintain their national parks. Given all that, I therefore respect the signs that ask me not to venture into specific areas. I don't want to be one of "those" photographers who deliberately ignores safety rules for the sake of getting the shot. I have witnessed first-hand far too many examples of foolish behaviour (walking out on waterfalls, jumping fences, getting too close to wild animals), from people who think it is important to distribute it via social media.
If you'd like to learn more about ethical photography, I invite you to check out the League of Landscape Photographers (photography for good not evil). The LLP (whose logo can be seen at the top of this page) is the brainchild of two of Canada's excellent leaders in the photo field, Darwin Wiggett and Samantha Chrysanthou. They recently announced the creation of a formalized code of ethics for photographers to share and adapt for their own work. I am pleased to help spread the word about ethical photography, and hope more people will take their good thoughts into consideration.
Good shooting, everyone, and safe travels.