Why ‘Leave No Trace’?

landscape of the canadian rocky mountains from cascade ponds during the summer

As photographers, we often love to photograph in beautiful, scenic locations. As more and more photographers start up businesses, our footprint is becoming so much larger and this will in turn have a negative effect on the environment we love so much. So why ‘Leave No Trace’?

Leave No Trace Canada is a non-profit organization which aims to educate people on ways to leave less impact on our environment while still being able to enjoy it. It consists of a framework to guide people on how to make good decisions about leaving places as good as you found them, if not better.

The LNT framework isn’t rules or regulations- it’s a movement of ethics and guides to help us to be the best stewards to our outdoor spaces. It’s a way to educate anyone who spends time outdoors, whether you are hiking, biking, photographing or simply having a picnic.

landscape of the canadian rocky mountains from cascade ponds during the summer

Leave No Trace Canada’s mission statement is:

To promote and inspire responsible outdoor recreation through science-based education and partnerships throughout Canada.

The more that social media influences us as a society, the more people are posting images of these beautiful landscapes that are ‘IG worthy’, the more people are going to want to copy. It creates a huge domino effect. If we don’t have these ethics to follow, soon these locations will no longer be accessible and will damage the environment and the wildlife that calls it home.

bride walking towards her groom during their elopement at cascade ponds in banff

The 7 principles of Leave No Trace provide the framework for us to practise safety and minimize our social and ecological impacts on our outdoors.

1 – PLAN AHEAD AND PREPARE

– Knowing the rules, access rights, restrictions in effect, and specifics of the site.

– Preparing for bad weather, natural hazards and other emergencies.

– Planning trips during low-traffic periods.

– Exploring less frequented areas. Dividing large groups and go out in smaller groups of 4 to 6 people.

– Bringing an up-to-date map and compass to orient yourself and follow the right path.

– Repackaging food in reusable containers to minimize waste.

Leave No Trace Canada

2 – TRAVEL AND CAMP ON DURABLE SURFACES

– Travel and camp on existing trails and campsites.

– For off-trail travel, stay on durable surfaces: bare ground, rock, sand, dry grass, deep snow.

– Avoid altering a site to camp: a good site is found, not made.

– Protect shorelines by camping more than 60 m from lakes and streams.

In frequented areas:

– Use designated trails and campsites.

– Walk in single file down the middle of the trail, even if it is muddy or wet.

– Limit the camping area. Concentrate your activities on areas without vegetation.

In pristine, remote or isolated areas:

– Disperse its impact so as not to create new trails or campsites.

– Avoid damaging surfaces that have suffered little or no impact

Leave No Trace Canada

3. DISPOSE OF WASTE PROPERLY

– Bringing back what was brought. Separating waste from hazardous waste. Burning waste in a campfire is not an acceptable solution.

– Thoroughly inspecting picnic areas and campsites for trash, food scraps, cigarette butts and other micro-waste.

– Depositing human feces in a hole dug more than 60 m (or about 70 adult footsteps) from water sources, trails and campsites. Digging the sanitary hole in organic soil 15 to 20 cm deep and digging and camouflaging after each use.

– Packing-out the toilet paper or put it in the sanitary hole.

– Bathing and washing dishes more than 60 m away from waterways. Using a minimum amount of biodegradable soap.

– Spreading soiled water in large streams through vegetation.

– Filtering food debris through a sieve and placing it with the waste to be packed-out before spreading the dishwater.

Leave No Trace Canada

4. LEAVE WHAT YOU FIND

– Preserving heritage: avoid moving or destroying traditional, historical and cultural elements and sites.

– Leaving stones, plants and all other natural objects in their original place and condition.

– Avoid building structures, constructing furniture or digging trenches.

– Preventing the spread of exotic invasive species by removing mud and debris from shoes, clothing and equipment.

Leave No Trace Canada

5. MINIMIZE CAMPFIRE IMPACTS

– Campfires can cause lasting impacts: opting for cooking on a portable stove is a good solution.

– Placing barbecues, fire boxes and portable stoves on durable surfaces.

– Protecting soil and roots from burning.

– If open fires are allowed, using designated locations. Keeping fires small.

– If wood collection is allowed, burning only dead wood that is collected from the ground and can be broken up by hand.

– Allowing pieces of wood and embers to reduce to ash. Completely extinguishing fires and check that ashes are cool before leaving the area.

Leave No Trace Canada

6. RESPECT WILDLIFE

– Leaving the field clear for the animals and observing them from a distance.

– Moving away at the first sign of nervousness or change in behaviour.

– Refraining from feeding animals to avoid harming their health, altering their behaviour, or exposing them to predators or other hazards.

– Storing food, garbage and other odorous products in a bear-proof barrel, in facilities provided on site, or in car trunks.

– Avoid disturbing animals during sensitive breeding, nesting and calf rearing periods, or during winter.

– Keeping control of a pet or leave it safely at home. Picking up after our dog or burying it in a sanitary hole.

Leave No Trace Canada

7. BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHER VISITORS

– Acting with courtesy. On a narrow trail, give way to uphill hikers.

– Pulling over along the trail to give priority to people with mobility aids.

– Taking breaks on durable surfaces off the trail.

– Giving freedom for the sounds of nature to be heard. Avoid excessive noise. Wearing headphones if using electronic devices.

– Limiting the use of drones to areas where they are permitted and following the rules.

– On social networks, posting photos that demonstrate behaviour to better protect natural environments.

Leave No Trace Canada
close up of groom golding brides dress up as they walk across the rocky mountains

We must Leave No Trace so as not to spoil our beautiful, organic surroundings for other humans, wildlife and plants to enjoy.

Our Earth is so vulnerable and precious and we, as humans need to do all we can to protect it.

How can I utilize the Leave No Trace principles as a Photographer?

As a photographer, you probably already have a basic understanding of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to photographing outdoors. You’ll have experience with lighting and shadows. I would guess that you are already in some social media groups who frequently discuss what the do’s and dont’s are of photographing in certain locations.

LNT aims to provide you with information to further your skillset when working outdoors and to be able to build on your current knowledge in how to be sustainable in your business.

The more we try to protect the environment we photograph in, the longer that those areas will remain open and available for us to re-visit year after year.

It’s about doing what you can to minimize those individual and cumulative impacts.

As photographers you should always try to integrate and implement the Leave No Trace principles into your business. It shows your clients that you take the notion of protecting our environment seriously, and it also shows the national parks that you work in that you are a role model for others who may see you out on those trips.

There is so much more to it than the notion of just ‘don’t pick the wildflowers or don’t throw confetti’.

The more homework you do in the planning stage, the better prepared you will be and the better experience you and your clients will have when you’re there.

If you’d like me to tell the story of your wedding or elopement, get in touch! I’d love to chat with you.

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I'm Sam

sam photographer for wild ridge photo & film

The Person Behind The Lens

If you like unconventional, honest, friendly and real photos, I’m your person.

Sam Wildridge is a wedding photographer / filmmaker based in Wainwright, Alberta. Sam has been capturing weddings + families for 8 years and defines her style as "storytelling".

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