Respectful Nature Photography


The Digital Eye is my column in What’s Up Yukon. This article was published October 27, 2011.

Taking your digital camera along for a trek in the tundra or through the woods allows you to capture all the wonders and visions that being outdoors can offer.

Yukon has some of the most pristine wilderness area anywhere on Earth. However taking advantage of the opportunity to visit it carries some responsibilities.

You are responsible to preserve the unspoiled nature that the boreal forest and watersheds offer. Be a good steward of the wilderness so it’s not ruined for those that follow you.

The arctic tundra is a sensitive biosphere that took millenniums to create and may take decades to recover from even minor damage.

Be attentive; watch where you tread as you make your way over its gentle surface and delicate flora. You will find tiny plants, flowers and succulents beneath you if you look closely.

Do your best to stay on existing trails and paths so as to not cause injury and if you are using a motorized vehicle, like an ATV, it is imperative that you not leave existing routes.

When travelling through the region in a group walk single file rather than spreading out over the area in order to minimize damage.

A bonus to this is that it will also help to allow you to either include people in your photos – or not – as you wish.

Do not remove anything. Take photos of those things you like about the space you are in and leave them so the next voyageur will be able to enjoy them as well.

Although it is preferred to not change anything, sometimes it seems prudent to move or adjust some object in a scene.

If you decide it is really necessary, have someone gently hold the offending branch, or whatever, out of the way so it can be carefully replaced exactly where it was without doing damage.

Avoid moving rocks, stumps or downed trees and logs as they are home to a multitude of organisms and life-forms that require them just the way they are.

Never litter.

Leave no suggestion of your visit to the tundra or woods. |Carry everything out that you bring in, leaving only your boot prints; nothing that could interfere with the environment.

Always respect any fences or signs you come across.

These could be the boundary of private property or might indicate a particularly sensitive area for either wildlife or habitat.

If it is private property, you may ask the owner for permission to enter before trespassing.

As a matter of safety, be aware of any signs of wildlife. You are a guest in their home and, as such, ought to respect their need for privacy and safety.

Don’t do things that may frighten them or try to get their attention by causing a disturbance. Yelling, throwing stones or provoking them in some other manner is uncalled for.

Above all, do not feed them or leave food behind.

As you traverse the wilds, make sure you are making enough noise that you will not stumble across wildlife unexpectedly. Surprise may result in attack.

Carry bear spray with you at all times when in the backwoods and practise how to use it.

Bear spray has an expiry date stamped on the can. Once that date has passed, it is possible that the potency of the product may be lessened or the propellant may not be effective.

Some argue that an expiry date is simply a ploy to sell more product, but you don’t want to find out they are wrong about that if circumstances require you to use this possible life-saver.

Digital photography is a great way to share your images and occasion as little damage to the environment as is humanly possible.

Putting photos online is the greenest possible way to share your experience and vision.

Use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable. Your end cost is minimal and they reduce the amount of waste ending up in the landfill.

Thank you for your consideration when creating your digital photography. Your efforts will help maintain the environment and preserve the scene you visited for others who follow.

Email questions to me or post them in the comments section below.

Happy shooting and remember to leave the environment as you found it.


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One Response to Respectful Nature Photography

  1. Hi Norm – I’m a hiker/backpacker myself and completely understand & appreciate these guidelines.

    It’s also in these treks & excursions that I’m able to capture some of my favorite images. A bulky SLR and a couple lenses might weigh my pack down quite a bit but I think it’s worth it! Though sometimes I re-think that at the end of the day depending how my legs feel! 🙂 But when I get to my computer and look at the images – it was always worth it.

    Thanks for posting!


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