Shortly after arriving at the bluebell woods for my recent photoshoot, and having undertaken an initial look around and taken some test shots, I was approached by a dog walker. We exchanged greetings and began talking about the area; she knew the woods very well and remembered the years when the blue carpet extended much further than it does today.
Conversation turned to visitors to the woods. I was saddened when the woman told me of one of her recent walks in the woods, when she had witnessed a photographer managing a shoot with a group of children. Leading the group between the trees, the photographer had proceeded to set up a shot in the middle of the bluebells. Seated among the flowers, smiling towards the camera (which itself was perched on a tripod among the bluebells), the children were destroying the same blooms which others were there to appreciate. The youngsters had simply followed the direction of the photographer, but what a bad example he had set them, of a complete lack of respect for the natural environment.
The woman I was talking to asked after the nature of my photography. She was concerned that I might have taken offence at her story, thinking that she was lecturing me on how I should treat the flowers. I reassured her that absolutely not, I was very sorry that a fellow photographer had shown such disregard for the bluebells and I appreciated her sharing the story with me.
I told the woman about the League of Landscape Photographers, a self-identified international group of photographers, who share values in relation to respecting the people and environment around them.
Having been brought up to be curious about, and respectful of, nature, I believe strongly that we should all care deeply about our environment. As a member of the League, I include a statement of ethics on my educational services website.
My overriding aim is to leave no trace. No indication that I was ever in position to take a photograph. This goes far beyond the obvious markers, such as leaving litter behind me, or closing gates. It goes beyond not marching across flowers to get the images which I seek. I don’t alter scenes which I shoot. I don’t ‘bait’ wildlife to come to me. I would never dream of slowing the movements of insects and other small creatures by freezing or spraying them.
There are ways to maximise the chances of getting natural pictures, such as rising early to catch insects as they wake and warm into the day. Or taking the camera out after a heavy rain shower, again, to catch insects as they emerge from their shelter among the leaves and other foliage.
The behaviour I photograph, and the landscape scenes, are all natural. Sometimes I have to wait several hours to get the shot that I want, and in that time I watch and learn more about the miraculous life around us. As I leave, I look around one final time before heading on my way, leaving no trace.