Working as both a professional photographer and photography guide in Rocky Mountain National has great rewards. I get to spend much of my time out in the natural and wilderness areas of Rocky Mountain National Park hiking, photographing and most importantly, showing other photographers and visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park, the pristine beauty of this 400 square mile protected land.
Thankfully, for people such as John Muir and Enos Mills we have this place no known as Rocky Mountain National Park accessible and preserved for my generation and future generations. The foresight of those who have preserved these natural areas has now been passed on to future generations and it is now our stewardship to continue to protect, preserve and educate others on the importance of wilderness and wild places. I’ve been photographing Rocky Mountain National Park since 1998.
In that time I have seen tremendous changes not only to Rocky Mountain National Park, but to all the National Park and natural areas I visit. In that time, Rocky has gone from about 3 million visitors a year to nearly 5 million visitors a year. Most of those visitors come to Rocky in a 7 month period, so the increase in visitation is readily apparent throughout the park.
As a photographer and guide, I struggle with my impact and my businesses impact on a place I greatly love. In recent years I have made an attempt to educate my photography tour clients on Leave No Trace principles, impact to sensitive locations and leaving things better than you find them. I make every attempt to visit locations in the park at times when impact will be minimized. For the most part, most of my clients are as aware and concerned with their impact on wild places as I am. I find it just as important to help clients understand the importance of Leave No Trace principles as it is to help them along their photographic journey.
The Leave No Trace orginization has done a great job to help educate visitors on the proper protocols to adhere to when visiting sensitive wilderness and wild areas. With that said, a group of photographers here in Colorado have decide to take it a step further and come up with additional principles for photographers to be mindful of when out in the places we not only photograph, but love.
My friends Scott Bacon and Erik Stensland enlisted the help of a handful of other photographers here in Colorado and they created both the Nature First Organization as well as the 7 principles of Nature First.
These 7 principles the Nature First group created came through long discussions and meetings. They are designed not to scold photographers or prevent from photographers from going to the places they love, but instead to remind photographers to be mindful when out in wild places as well as to help educate others who may not be aware of their impact on sensitive areas.
Moving forward with both my photography, as well as guiding photographers in RMNP, I will be adhering to both Leave No Trace guidelines as well as the 7 principles Nature First has created.
To be perfectly clear, I strongly believe these public lands were designed to be cherished and visited by all. They act as places that refresh and renew the soul. It’s important that we continue to use and access these gifts our predecessors had the foresight to protect for future generations.
At this stage, It’s become vitally important that we not love them to death or create situations where access is limited or restricted. Thats not the answer, but it will always be the easiest solution when our impact overwhelms both the land and those responsible for protecting the land. Nature First helps to not only educate fellow landscape photographers, but more importantly, keeps us from becoming the problem when visiting places we love.
Edward Abbey once wrote the following about protecting wilderness, “A man could be a lover and defender of the wilderness without ever in his lifetime leaving the boundaries of asphalt, powerlines, and right-angled surfaces. We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to set foot in it.” Abbey’s word as important today as when he wrote them over sixty years ago.
Nature First has done a great job bringing this to the forefront of the landscape and wildlife photography community. I strongly recommend you visit the Nature First website to not only educate yourself on the seven principles, but also become a member.
THE NATURE FIRST 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