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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Nature & Landscapes Talk 
Thread started 07 Sep 2014 (Sunday) 13:57
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What is your acceptable ‘damage’ to the environment to get a shot?

 
ejenner
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Sep 07, 2014 13:57 |  #1

Obviously this is an open ended question that depends on where you are etc, but what have you done in the past that you would or wouldn’t do again? I thought it might be interesting to start a thread discussing what you think is appropriate or not while taking landscape photos.

If the thread goes somewhere, I’d like to hope that it doesn’t turn into any personal attacks and that folks can feel that they can be honest about what they have done in the past to ‘get the shot’.

The reason I thought about this was that I was recently in Yellowstone in an area that is away from the main crowds and does not have boardwalks etc… I’m not going to say where because I don’t want to encourage people to go there if they don’t already know about it. But you can walk around and close to the thermal features at least semi-legally.

While doing this I’m very careful not to step on a feature, or even close enough to leave footprints that could take away from the visual enjoyment of the feature.
Anyway, I was taking this shot below which I thought I could do without any damage to the runoff channel, but ended up putting a foot wrong and leaving quite a foot-mark in it. Unexpectedly the tripod also left some small marks. I did some repair, but it was still pretty obvious. I felt pretty bad about it although I know from seeing where people have stepped off boardwalks that it will self-heal in a couple of months.

So I like the shot and might even print it. Was it worth doing some non-permanent damage to the runoff channel? Would I do it again? Honestly I don’t know but maybe not. Usually my ‘damage’ to the environment I’m shooting is limited to a bit of gardening – removing some tall (living) strands of grass and the like. In areas like this I do leave footprints too (it was quite wet at times), although like I said not close to the thermal features themselves.

Probably the other worst thing I have done is contributing to erosion on some steep slopes while hiking around looking for a shot.


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patrick ­ j
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Sep 08, 2014 11:21 |  #2

I was trying to think of any situation where I might damage something. Just about the only thing that occurred to me was walking on the crytobiotic soil in Arches. Even though it just seems like dirt to me, after seeing all the signs on it around the park I try to limit where I walk out there. I'll do it, but I try to be careful about minimizing my impact and I definitely don't walk around nearly as much as I would if that was really just dirt.

I have tried to clean up some wildflower shots, removing grass and some extraneous plants, but those things grow back anyway.


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Sep 09, 2014 06:59 |  #3

I think this blog post puts it better than I could: http://www.brucepercy.​co.uk …nservation-vs-acquisition (external link)


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ejenner
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Sep 09, 2014 21:41 |  #4

armis wrote in post #17143815 (external link)
I think this blog post puts it better than I could: http://www.brucepercy.​co.uk …nservation-vs-acquisition (external link)

Thanks for that. I agree. This remind me very much of the issues in wildlife photography, but I think it is a least talked about more in that realm.

Of course being in Yellowstone quite a bit I see all sorts of stuff. From 'photographers' going off the boardwalk and trampling delicate ground to people doing the same with iphones or not even doing it to get a photograph at all. Having returned year after year the thing that strikes me the most is actually just how resilient the environment there is - not that I'd use that as an excuse or put up with people doing such things. From all the stuff I've seen, it should be pretty much trashed my now.

But while they are what I would consider tourists, I agree with the tone of the blog. If 'we' are to consider ourselves photographers (we go to places specifically to take photos), then we aught to consider the impact to the environment.

Of course what constitutes 'impact' and being 'sensitive' to one person may not to another.


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Sep 09, 2014 23:15 as a reply to  @ ejenner's post |  #5

I don't think I've ever done anything of lasting significance. I've spent many days rambling in places like Rocky Mountain National Park, off trail, sometimes in tundra, and never had an issue with leaving any worse than a footprint in soft earth. I don't walk on tundra in heavily used areas, in the park or anywhere else in the Rockies. I only do this when I'm already well off the beaten path.

I did discuss my penchant for off trail hiking with a park ranger and was told that as long as it was done in places where others were unlikely to pick up the habit from me (i.e. he didn't want to end up with a visible trail because of multiple off trail hikers), and I didn't do any visible harm to the environment, then he didn't have a problem with it.

Even in areas where there was relatively heavy use, I would wait to jump off the trail until there was no one around to see me do it. Once I got a few yards back in the rocks and trees nobody was going to see me. I was always careful to leave no trace of my rambles for anyone to find.


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Sep 11, 2014 16:56 |  #6

I have no problem going off-trail, as long as I don't cause any damage. The only kind of damage I've done is pulling a weed that was in front of a mushroom I was photographing, and pulling a small (about 1 foot long) dead branch off a tree so I could shoot between two larger branches. But I would give up a great shot if it meant I would have to cause any real damage. I want the person who follows me to see all the wonder that I did.

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Tom ­ Reichner
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Sep 11, 2014 17:17 |  #7

In many "special" areas such as national parks and protected natural areas, I frequently see big game animals such as deer, mountain goats, bison, and elk stepping all over the landscape with their hard hooves. I see quite a bit of erosion resulting from the hooves of these wild animals. I typically won't do anything that would result in damage (or erosion) any more significant than what the herds of these large beasts do on an everyday basis.

It seems weird to me for someone to not walk somewhere for fear of "destroying the environment", only to see herds of large, sharp-hooved animals prancing around the very same area.


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ejenner
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Sep 11, 2014 22:23 |  #8

Tom Reichner wrote in post #17148762 (external link)
In many "special" areas such as national parks and protected natural areas, I frequently see big game animals such as deer, mountain goats, bison, and elk stepping all over the landscape with their hard hooves. I see quite a bit of erosion resulting from the hooves of these wild animals. I typically won't do anything that would result in damage (or erosion) any more significant than what the herds of these large beasts do on an everyday basis.

It seems weird to me for someone to not walk somewhere for fear of "destroying the environment", only to see herds of large, sharp-hooved animals prancing around the very same area.

This is a good point and true for Yellowstone and somewhat in Arches/Canyonlands although there are certainly less animals there.

However, I would say that a large volume of people can quickly do more damage than a few animals passing though. But I do agree in those areas with large number of wild animals they generally do more 'damage'. In fact speaking of Yellowstone at some point they are going to have to start doing something about the bison. They are getting close to the maximum the ecosystem can support.

Still it is a good point because many of the runoffs such as the one I photographed at Yellowstone have bison prints in them. Of course having a bison print in the shot is not the same as a footprint, but the 'damage' is the same.

Also, there are places with few animals. The racetrack is one I can think of where recently several people walked across it while wet (not necessarily photographers). There was a bit of an uproar, but I wonder what it looks like now.


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Sep 12, 2014 19:37 as a reply to  @ ejenner's post |  #9

Great thread; very interesting insights posted thus far.

I guess I’m one of those tourist-photographers mentioned in the blog linked above. I do research the areas we (my wife and I) visit looking for the places that are of interest to the real photographers (hey, I’m just doing this for fun!). But I’m pretty conservative in terms of disturbing the environment. I keep to the trails for the most part. That certainly minimizes the impact, plus it is safer for me (remember, I’m just doing this for my own enjoyment). Of course hiking in the slickrock areas of southwest US provides some freedom as the sandstone is pretty resilient.

That said, I’ve have done a couple of things that were “off-trail” but had varying impacts. Like many folks, I have scrambled up the social trails to get the elevated view of Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone. Those hills are a mess with “trails” and while short they are tough and dangerous (a tourist was killed there earlier this year when a tree fell on him). I’m hopeful that the Parks Service will make formal trails to these view points, but that takes money. We’ve visited Yellowstone, and we climb the hills for the GPS view both trips. No regrets, but we probably won’t do it again, unless a formal trail is built.

In Arches (one of my favorite places), I climbed through the North Window and scrambled over to the vantage point to get the shot of Turret Arch through the North Window. The area that you walk through to get to that vantage point is posted as no entry (I think), but we went anyway as it is basically on rock and did not seem to cause any issues (no cryptobiotic soil). I’d have no problem doing that again, well, unless I learn something new about that area).

But in general, we stick to the trails and get the shots that we can get from those vantage points.

The other thing that we always try to obey are the rules regarding wildlife, primarily those pertaining to keeping the proper distance from the critters. You folks with the big lens have an advantage as you can get the beautiful shots from a distance. I can do alright with my SX50. But it amazes me about how many tourists will get way too close to the animals. We saw so many examples of this in Yellowstone and Grand Teton.


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Sep 14, 2014 14:30 |  #10

The animals are 'supposed' to be there. Any footprints they leave are just another part of the National Park.

Hoomans leaving footprints should be fed to the bears.... (Yea, I know that's not healthy for them, but an occasional public Bear Feed would go a long ways toward keeping the thundering herds of Wild Tourons in line. ;) )




  
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Tom ­ Reichner
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Sep 14, 2014 19:16 |  #11

Geonerd wrote in post #17153904 (external link)
Hoomans leaving footprints should be fed to the bears....

So, what has happened to that old adage: "Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures."


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Sep 15, 2014 08:39 |  #12

I think the old adage is correct. It is fine to leave footprints, just make sure those footprints are on the designated trails and certainly NOT in restricted areas as that goes to the safety of the environment as well as the tourists of all types. I always figured the saying meant "to come on in, look around, enjoy the views and the critters, just leave things the way you found them and don't muck it up for the rest of us." The old adage is just more succinct ;-)a


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Nov 02, 2014 02:27 |  #13

I try to leave everything as it was.
On the other hand, if you're the only person here in a while... nature will grow back.
I'd say determine case-by-case if the nature in an area is very delicate and likely to be damaged by your visit.


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Nov 02, 2014 10:13 |  #14

DoughnutPhoto wrote in post #17247021 (external link)
I try to leave everything as it was.
On the other hand, if you're the only person here in a while... nature will grow back.
I'd say determine case-by-case if the nature in an area is very delicate and likely to be damaged by your visit.

How do you know if you were the only person to have visited "here in a while"? And the time for nature to "grow back" is sometimes a long time, if ever.

Fair enough to assess case-by-case, but I would err to the side of caution.


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Nov 02, 2014 10:39 |  #15

If in fact people are concerned about this, how about consider;

- putting on a sweater, and turning down the heat in your house a few degrees.

- Swap that S.U.V. for a Honda Fit or similarly reasonable mode of transport.

- Just buy less stuff

- Try to eat more local food.

- Donate to The Nature Conservancy

- Shoot with/buy Canon equipment (really, it's true)

Sorry to come off as preachy, I am sure many of you already do what you can, but your impact on the environment is much more significant in your daily doings than it is in these specialized photographic conditions.



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What is your acceptable ‘damage’ to the environment to get a shot?
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