Nature First, Photography Second


Andrew Hertel, Mt. Langley, Nature Photography
The summit of Mt. Langley, my first 14'er. 

I've had a love of nature ever since I was little, I remember running around in the woods near where I grew up in Indiana. My grandparents had an old school pop-up camper that served as our base camp every summer at the local state park. My love of nature never left me, if anything it's only grown stronger as an adult. I've learned to love and appreciate the wonders that natural world brings. I've also learned as an adult how much physical and mental health benefits come from spending time in nature can have on me. When I started my photography journey several years ago, it really was just another excuse to spend more time out in the wild places I love and to visit places I've had on my to do list for a long time. From day one, it's always been about enjoying nature first and photography comes second. I've "missed" getting many good images because of my respect for the natural world. If getting a shot meant going into a sensitive area, trampling flowers or going around a "stay out" sign, I just don't need the shot that badly.

In early 2019 a friend of mine turned me on to Nature First, an alliance of photographers who put the well being of nature first. I quickly joined the cause and pledged to adhere to the Nature First Photography's 7 Principles. In March of 2020 I joined the Nature First team as a Community Advocate for the California regain, specifically Southern California.

The 7 Nature First Photography Principles are:
  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.
For me, these principles are easy and a no brainer. As a nature and landscape photographer I feel that I have a duty to be a good steward of the lands and make sure I do my part so others can enjoy them as I did.
I don't think people are purposely out to destroy places, I just don't think a lot of people even realize the impact they have on sensitive areas. For instance, I live in Southern California which has a lot of desert areas. The desert is extremely fragile, one person going off trail and creating fresh tracks in a deserts Cryptobiotic Crusts can take up to 10 years to return to normal. So What? Well the Cryptobiotic Crusts are very important to the overall health of a desert ecosystem. This is one reason why it's important to stay on designated trails. It's not because someone in an office somewhere wants to take your fun away, it's because they know way more about the ecosystems than we do and want to preserve and protect them.
Don't be this guy.
I'm not here to tell anyone how they should act but I do think it's up to all of us to try and leave our public lands in good shape so generations behind us get to experience them like we do. If there is a sign stating to stay out of an area, please respect the sign. No photo is really worth it. When I'm out photographing at a popular area, often times I see people so excited they don't even look where they are walking. The camera/phone becomes some sort of mind trap and they just walk all over flowers, off paths even get way to close to a cliffs edge. When out enjoying yourself and want to take a picture, just be mindful of where you are and how you're impacting the area.
Everyone has a different interpretation of what nature means to them. Some it's a far off mountain, some it's just a visit to the local park. Whatever nature means to you, I encourage you to get out and enjoy it as much as you can. There have been numerous studies done on the health benefits of nature, the sights, sounds and smells. I don't thank anyone is surprised by this. If anything, the Covid-19 home quarantine has reconfirmed with me just how much I'm connected to nature. I'm going a little crazy at the moment being home so much but I understand why we need to stay home.
See you out there (when it's safe to do so).
Andrew

Sligo and I taking a break during a long hike.


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