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We’re all influencers, thanks to our photos

Updated 28 mai 2021

Nature offers new delights, from one season to the next. Who can resist pulling out their phone to capture snapshot of a magical moment in a dreamy landscape? It's not uncommon these days to take a photo, even before actually enjoying the view. After all, isn’t it easy to share your joys of being in nature on social media?
 

Behind this idyllic image, however, lies a worrying reality. In fact, many of the most popular trails and sites are being threatened by the increasing use of these trails and by the lack of care given to them. Les Sentiers de l'Estrie, which links the peaks of the Appalachian Mountains, is the oldest long-distance hiking corridor in Quebec. “The subsequent loss of rights of way has meant that it can no longer be hiked in its integrity,” says Nadia Fredette, general manager of Les Sentiers de l’Estrie. “The inappropriate behaviour of some people has discouraged landowners from allowing hikers on their private land.

Today’s cellphones provide unlimited boundaries when it comes to photography, and social media has opened a world of endless possibilities. Nowadays, anyone can more or less be a photographer. Do your photos show a concern for preserving natural places and their beauty? This article offers a few guidelines to help you capture and share your images. These guidelines are based on Nature First’s 7 principles, which provide a framework for sustainable, low-impact photography.

Putting nature's well-being first and photography second

In nature, humans are the hosts of an environment with unique characteristics and a diversity of fragile ecosystems. Every precaution is good to ensure that your photographic quest does not come at the expense of the natural world. For example, the search for a good shot can never justify baiting wild animals, trying to coax them or imitating their cries to get them closer. Instead, be patient. Move smoothly, without rushing. In all cases, remember to prevent impacts that you can avoid and reduce effects that are unavoidable.

protection of fragile ecosystem

Learn about the places you photograph

Different natural environments require different practices to protect them. Before you visit a natural area, ask the people who manage the park for information. For example, do you know if you’re allowed to leave the trails to get closer to a point of interest to photograph? Do you know how to minimize the impact of your movements on the flora and in areas that are more vulnerable to trampling? Do you know the breeding periods and areas of wildlife to avoid getting too close? Do you know how to act around different animal species when you want to take their picture?

Think about the possible impact of your actions

Aerial views captured by drones reveal landscapes in a completely new way. When using a drone, filmmaker and adventure photographer Yan Kaczynski always asks for permission from the people on the ground before sending his drone to the sky. “I warn people that the noise and movement of a drone can be disturbing,” he says.

Amateur photographers who use drones for recreational purposes should only do so in areas where regulations allow. They should also handle them carefully and at a prescribed distance from other people and animals. This is to avoid exposing them to nuisance or risk of injury. Take the time to review the privacy guidelines for drone users issued by Transport Canada. Taking pictures should be of no consequence to others. Thinking twice before capturing or publishing an image should eliminate any risk of harming their experience.

impact of our photos

Use discretion when sharing sites

We now know that sharing locations has a significant impact on the number of people who show up to visit them. As soon as a place looks good in a photo, it attracts photographers and visitors in huge numbers. Many natural sites are affected by this influx of visitors. In other cases, such as on Les Sentiers de l’Estrie, the demand for parking spaces far exceeds capacity and regularly spills over onto nearby private property.

If you decide to share spaces, consider locations that are already well known or less likely to be damaged by increased traffic. Consider not posting photos of particularly sensitive species or habitats on social media. Even if they are not geotagged, your images may encourage photographers or visitors to visit or search for the locations they have recognized.

Think twice before geo-targeting photos

Know and follow all rules and regulations

Going off-trail and venturing into a restricted area to take the perfect photo can be tempting. Gathering the family for a photo around a campfire, despite the prohibition of lighting a fire outside of designated areas, can be just as tempting. It's easy to convince yourself that your actions are harmless if you think you're the only ones doing them or that you have the right to do so.

By informing yourself of the regulations in effect in the park you are visiting, you will better understand the threats that must be thwarted when protecting our natural environment. You will learn to respect the species and habitats of the fauna and flora that are subject to legal protection. By following the rules, you will also contribute to limiting the imposition of new access restrictions by the organizations that manage our parks.

Follow the seven Leave No Trace principles and leave the place better than you found it

Leave No Trace Canada promotes the 7 Leave No Trace principles for responsible outdoor ethics. The 7 Leave No Trace principles provide practices and techniques for reducing the impacts of outdoor activities. Check them out to learn how to better protect the soil, flora, fauna, water resources, and natural and cultural heritage in natural areas. As harmless as it may seem, the photo of your tent on a carpet of flowers or on the edge of a lake can have a cascading negative impact. Others will follow your lead, potentially contributing to shoreline erosion and destruction of critical wildlife habitat, or preventing vegetation from growing back in a trampled area. Not only do such actions leave a mark on the landscape and harm wildlife, but they force managers to restrict access to sites and undertake restoration.

Before you leave the places you've photographed, take the time to improve their appearance. You can pick up abandoned trash, return nature's objects - rocks, shells, logs - to their original locations, and put a layer of dead leaves, twigs, or pine needles on the ground to restore its natural appearance.

Promote and pass on the seven principles around you

Social media has transformed the way we connect with nature and how we appreciate its beauty. No matter the size of your audience, you are always in a position to pass on these principles to others. By sharing responsible photos of your outdoor experiences, you can inspire more people to better protect beautiful natural places.

I believe that outdoor enthusiasts should feel responsible for carrying the message and becoming positive leaders,” says Nadia Fredette. It's now or never for amateur photographers to adopt a sustainable and low-impact practice of photography in order to act as true influencers throughout Quebec.

 

Danielle Landry sees the popularity of nature and outdoor adventures as an opportunity to take care of Quebec's growing network of regional parks. Danielle founded De ville en forêt with the goal of enhancing Quebecers’ know-how and pride in the practice of responsible and sustainable outdoor activities. De ville en forêt is a partner of Leave No Trace Canada and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, and a member of Tourisme durable Québec.