Leave No Trace, a national outdoor stewardship organization that is best known for its 7 Principles, recently released new guidance related to sharing location information about natural and wild places on social media (you can see the full post here).
Based on my reading of this new guidance, three of the points are especially relevant to nature photographers:
- Be thoughtful about and consider the consequences of sharing location information (including hashtags) beyond a state or region if you share location information at all
- Be mindful of what your images portray (for example, if a photo – like the ubiquitous tent by lake theme - might encourage another person to do something that is in opposition of Leave No Trace principles, maybe you shouldn’t take or post the photo in the first place)
- Encourage and inspire good stewardship practices when sharing photographs on social media.
In a discussion about this topic on Facebook, our photography colleague Phill Monson made another important point. With the number of people visiting wild places, Leave No Trace is more of a place to start. In addition, Phill is advocating the framework of "Leave it better than you found it." Since the photography community has played a major role in increasing visitation and bringing along the associated impact on special places, I agree with Phill that we as individual photographers have a responsibility to play a more proactive role rather than the more neutral (but still incredibly important) role suggested by the Leave No Trace principles.
I have experienced a lot of sadness and guilt over my own decision to share sensitive location information in the past. I was completely naïve about how people would use the information I was sharing and that decision possibly led to some special places being damaged by photographers whose top concern was getting the shot. As the co-author of two location guides, I am still trying to figure all this out for myself but am overall happy to see Leave No Trace advocating these positions since the impact of sharing location information is obvious to anyone who has seen some places before social media and after social media.
If you have thoughts on this topic, I would be interested in hearing them… For example, does this kind of guidance from a major stewardship organization change your thinking about sharing location information with your photographs?