The Journey Into Art: A Moment To Consider Our Impact On The Landscape

May 21, 2019

There are more and more of us on this planet. That means it is harder to find places of solitude and photos that show something new.

I have recently wandered the landscape of southeast Utah and paid particular attention to where I walked after being reminded of the delicacy of the soil. What in the world is "the delicacy of the soil"? Dirt is dirt, right? Walk on it, and it only leaves a footprint. Right?

Well, sometimes yes and sometimes no.

It is one thing to wander sand dunes where the impact of my presence is only the footsteps I left that would soon be covered by the winds. It is another thing to wander the desert landscape where one's footsteps leave a trail that may take years, if not decades, to restore.

I am thinking of a little-know entity called cryptobiotic soil.

(By Original uploaded by Nationalparks (Transferred by Nihonjoe) - Original uploaded on en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.5)

It is a common, yet rarely perceived, entity throughout the southwest US and many arid climates around the world. It looks simply like dark lumpy dirt. It is soil surprisingly filled with living organisms in the outer layer of the soil between trees and shrubs that provides a valuable biologic place in the environment. It takes a few years to hundreds of years to replace when disturbed by, say, an excited photographer looking for his/her next best shot.

Photographers in wilderness areas are starting to get a bad name due to the few, who seem to care more for their shots than their impact on the landscape. That impact affects most our world and also those who come behind them. More and more of us in the world means more and more of us making a negative impact.

Don't be that person or persons.

Practice the principles of Leave No Trace and adhere to the principles of Nature First.

Look where you step. Look where you walk. Look where your tripod legs land. Leave no trace...

I am not a believer of the notion that to be a good landscape photographer (or a good photographer of any discipline), one must take all the iconic images of the masters of the craft before, like the Yosemites, eastern Sierras, and Tetons of Ansel Adams. To me, that means the photographer is just being a copy-cat, not an original artist.

There are an infinite number of possible pictures to take without destroying the primary elements of your photography. You can leave the same scene for those who come behind you. We all like to think we were the first one to see a certain scene, even though a part of us knows it is unlikely that we are truly the first person to see that scene. The fantasy still provides fuel for creativity though.

The reality is that each day presents a new and unique opportunity. No one takes the same image as you even if they are standing beside you. So relax. Leave the beauty for others to enjoy without your impressions (and perhaps destruction) being left behind.

Muley Point evening

#naturefirst #leavenotrace