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05-09-2019, 06:38 AM - 6 Likes   #1
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Environmental protection and landscape photography

Ladies and gentlemen, I just published a new blog article about something I deeply care about and that I have been thinking about for a long time now. As landscape photographers, we love the environment: however, we also contribute in no small part to its destruction. In the blog article below you can find my thoughts about this conundrum and about what we could do to start helping instead:

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY | Vieri Bottazzini Photographer

Looking forward to your thoughts, ideas and opinions on this. Best regards,

Vieri

05-09-2019, 07:37 AM   #2
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I've started to not geotag or even give very specific locations of my photos. It's amazing, you get a huge number of queries about photo locations when you do this. I'd recommend others do the same!
05-09-2019, 07:38 AM - 1 Like   #3
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One chain of logic suggests that almost all of us should stop taking landscape photographs:
  1. The cost (and environmental impact) of taking another new landscape photo will always be high (travel carbon footprint, physical footprints, disturbed wildlife, etc.),
  2. In contrast, the cost (and environmental impact) of making a copy of a landscape photo is essentially zero.
  3. As soon as the internet has decent shots of a given scene covering the seasons, times of day, and selected weather conditions, then no additional photos are worth the environmental damage.
  4. Therefore, it seems that the most ethical solution is to relish copies of photos of others and not travel at all to any place you have every seen on the internet.

However!...... Unless people -- many people -- see these places for themselves and see the impact of people on the landscape, they are unlikely to want to protect them from development for agriculture, factories, roadways, housing, mines, dams, etc. The more places that people go, the more places will be protected. The damage done by photographers pales in comparison to the damage done by bulldozers.

Besides, the more scenic locations that get geotagged, the thinner the crowds at each location. If every day, landscape photographers provide ten new "must see" locations (in addition to all the thousands of previous "must see" locations), the numbers of photographers visiting each location will drop and the damage will be spread more lightly across all these locations.
05-09-2019, 08:46 AM - 9 Likes   #4
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There are two trains fo thought.

Exposure causes other photographers to come and ruin the environment. The flaws in this logic is that photographers don't necessarily ruin the environments they go to. If something becomes so famous that a lot of people go there, turn it into a park, manage it with good trails and clearly defined off limit areas. The problem is not with photographers per se, it's with poor management for parks systems in managing their natural resources.

The second is, if people don't know about places, they won't fight to save them. From that perspective the more photographs the better. The more people know about a place the easier it is to get their names on a petition.

To me this is not a photographic issue. I have many times gone to government consultations and made presentations or submitted suggestions or objections. The way you save places is to champion parks creation and public awareness. Keeping photographers away is the last thing you want to do. When CPAWs (the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society) wanted to high light their campaign to save caribou, they took some very famous Canadians to the Slate Island, the second most southern caribou habitat in Canada, and shot video of the experience. As a result I went with my friends creating this page,
the Slate Islands
And my continued involvement in saving caribou habitat in other areas.
The Ogoki Forest

So from my perspective, landscape photographers don't per se help or damage the environment, but they can help preserve it. Mind you if your one of those socially conscienceless people who can go to beautiful place, take you beautiful pictures, litter the landscape, cut foliage, and start forest fires, then you your presence is negative thing.

If you're one of the ones that uses your images to educate and advocate, then photography is great tool.



If you know anything about the Slates it's that it costs a lot to get there. You need pretty good canoeing skills to get around and there is very limited accommodation, and it's a wilderness park, so there's never going to be a time when sleeping on the ground in a tent isn't going to be your best option. People who have been there will be the ones in the future who make sure it remains that way. The people who fight for this endangered species (Woodland Caribou) are those who have spent time with them, or those who appreciate the images. The average Joe doesn't know what a Woodland caribou is or what their problems are.

If you want to protect the environment participate with the Sierra Defence Fund or another such organization
https://www.arlis.org/docs/vol1/69415913/default_005.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecojustice_Canada
https://www.earthroots.org
https://www.cpaws.org

There are lots of people and organizations out there messing up the environment. They need to be counteracted. Sitting on your sofa isn't good enough. The idea that photographers refraining from going someplace is an expression of concern is almost laughable, to any who have been involved in the process of getting sensitive areas and critical habitat protected. It takes a heck of a lot more than that.


But overall, photography is neither here nor there in this debate. There are those who go out and experience nature and fight to preserve it. And those who go and take but don't give back. Same as people everywhere with just about everything.


Last edited by normhead; 05-09-2019 at 05:13 PM.
05-09-2019, 09:46 AM - 3 Likes   #5
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When I was an active adult Boy Scouts Leader and Adult Leader Trainer we understood the amount of pressure our organization puts on outdoor resources. At any time there are roughly 3,000,000 active members of the organization - 2MM aged 6-21 plus 1MM adults. By our internal estimate that equates to 20,000,000 person-nights tent camping annually. Some of that happens on our own properties but a very significant portion - between 35 and 45% - happens on public lands. Consequently we actively taught and practiced low impact, Leave No Trace camping and hiking. Reducing use of open fires was the single most important change, then no-Trail or narrow-trail hiking, then pack EVERYTHING out (on some lands we used boomers).

I have visited true wild country, yet even that country had been marked by humans, first by primitive nomadic hunter gathers, then by Voyageurs seeking to trade with them. Today, access to those wild lands - millions of acres of Canada that is completely unpopulated - is quite tightly controlled. The State issues permits for entry to only 900 humans per day who must travel only by foot and canoe.

I have traveled footpaths that have been in place for millennia but are just as they were centuries ago. I have seen unmarked pictographs thousands of years old. In two weeks of constant movement did not see another person, graffito or a single beer can. OTOH, on a different Trek on the less-regulated American side of the same land my group collected and packed out 90 Gallons of assorted trash left by boors who preceded us. The problem isn’t access, the problem is the ignorant slobs who have access.

There is a tolerable middle ground. We musn’t deny people the right to see with their own eyes so we must promote Leave No Trace practices to preserve wildness for future generations. We must be good stewards of the resource. That isn’t a ‘Liberal’ idea it is a Conservative idea. After all, conserve and Conservative share the same root word.

Last edited by monochrome; 05-09-2019 at 07:31 PM.
05-09-2019, 09:47 AM - 1 Like   #6
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I have driven for long distance to take few snaps. I have gone through the guilt of damage that my driving has caused. Agreed that me not driving will not correct everything that has gone wrong. But I just want to do my part whether it matters in picture is secondary.

This is somewhat related to artist and environment. Many fine-art artists (painters) use paper towel to wipe brushes in between the strokes. They can avoid that waste by using rags.
05-09-2019, 10:11 AM - 1 Like   #7
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Thank you for your answers - I am not sure everyone actually read the linked article before answering, though It seems to me that some of you you put words in my mouth that I never spoke, and I don't think there is much use in repeating myself here to say again things I already said in the article.

One thing, to photoptimist: while the number theory agrees with you on "Besides, the more scenic locations that get geotagged, the thinner the crowds at each location. If every day, landscape photographers provide ten new "must see" locations (in addition to all the thousands of previous "must see" locations), the numbers of photographers visiting each location will drop and the damage will be spread more lightly across all these locations.", unfortunately that has been proved wrong in practice so far - worth a try perhaps

Best regards,

Vieri
05-09-2019, 10:32 AM - 4 Likes   #8
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I believe landscape photographers have done far more good to the environment than harm. They have brought awareness to and motivated millions of others to protect it. Look what Ansel Adams did for the US National Park Service and how he (and others) jump started the modern conservation movement into high gear. The problem is not photographers, it is irresponsible people.

05-09-2019, 10:37 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by DWS1 Quote
I believe landscape photographers have done far more good to the environment than harm. They have brought awareness to and motivated millions of others to protect it. Look what Ansel Adams did for the US National Park Service and how he (and others) jump started the modern conservation movement into high gear. The problem is not photographers, it is irresponsible people.
Ansel Adams was a hundred years ago. I believe that today's reality is a bit more complicated than your assessment, sadly. Have you read the article? If you had, you'd know that I deeply share your belief in the possibility of photographers doing good. Things, however, don't stop with you or me.

Best regards,

Vieri
05-09-2019, 10:39 AM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by DWS1 Quote
Ansel Adams did for the US National Park Service
And now people are loving the parks to death...It doesn't help that they are underfunded...
05-09-2019, 11:09 AM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
The second is, if people don't know about places, they won't fight to save them. From that perspective the more photographs the better. The more people know about a place the easier it is to get their names on a petition.
Norm - thanks for sharing your thoughts and the info on the Slate Islands. A few years back, I hopped in a Zodiac with some astronomy and geology friends to see the shatter cones and other evidence of meteor implacts. I was moved by the sheer beauty of the place. The wildness and isolation makes it a fascinating place that deserves our support and protection.

I'm reminded of a sign among the Redwoods along the California coast - Leave nothing but footprints - Take nothing but photographs.
05-09-2019, 11:35 AM - 4 Likes   #12
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Lots of good points. After years of subscribing to passive "leave no trace" practices, I now carry a repurposed polypropylene shopping bag in order to remove "trace" left by others. Folded like a paper tabletop football, the bag weighs almost nothing and can't be felt in a pocket. I think it's important to be proactive.
05-09-2019, 11:38 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by ProfessorBuzz Quote
Norm - thanks for sharing your thoughts and the info on the Slate Islands. A few years back, I hopped in a Zodiac with some astronomy and geology friends to see the shatter cones and other evidence of meteor implacts. I was moved by the sheer beauty of the place. The wildness and isolation makes it a fascinating place that deserves our support and protection.

I'm reminded of a sign among the Redwoods along the California coast - Leave nothing but footprints - Take nothing but photographs.
No problem, for me the most impressive thing was the beach across the bay from the main dock, there were orange pebbles on the beach, until you got to the lava flow. Then you had the smooth water worn black lava flow with bright orange pebbles imbedded in it. The shatter cones were impressive, but probably more to geology students. My feeling is it's an area anyone who wants to understand the geology of the earth should go. I know all the geology students from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay make the trip.

But then, you do have to go to Marathon, Ontario that has big paper mill the defies the logic of getting out in the bush for the fresh air. A least you can't smell it from the Slates.
05-09-2019, 11:40 AM   #14
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It's a busy work day for me, I only skimmed it so far. I would like to read it in full when I have more time.
05-09-2019, 11:48 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by The Madshutter Quote
I am not sure everyone actually read the linked article before answering
Unfortunatly your site is blocked at work by the proxy so I haven't been able to read it. I would assume that it focuses on the added draw that happens when someone takes great photo, it gets noticed, and then the general public overwhelms the area trying to either take their own or get the perfect selfie. In this case I've come to the conclusion that there are a fair amount of people who just don't care and are more than happy to foul things up. The best thing for this situation is to not let them know where it is and better education. Monochrome has the right idea here and as I am currently active in scouts as a leader and many years ago as a scout myself the leave no trace is the most basic thing and would do wonders if more people followed it. Some of the lack of caring is lack of education and maybe we need more of the old style Crying Indian PSAs

Among that group of people who don't care are the ones who are absolutely clueless and the ones who are actively destructive. These are the people you hear about who end up dying in the hot springs/mud pots at yellostone that are well off trails because they wanted to go for a dip or get gored/trampled by bison because they wanted to pet one. These are also the same people that the Dutch are having problems with that trample farmers' tulip fields as they attempt to get their perfect selfie. They will ignore all the signs, paths, fences, trash cans, etc and just do what ever they want because they can. I don't think anything will help with those people other than keeping locations unknown or letting nature finish them off.

If the premise was damage cause by simply going to and wandering about on proper trails, well I would have done that anyway with or without a camera so that doesn't make a difference in things.
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