An honor to participate! Mark has been invited to lead the outdoor photography segment of this year’s week long Maine Youth Wilderness Leadership Program sponsored by The Friends of Baxter State Park. Prior to attending the program in Baxter State Park the nine high school students were asked to complete an assignment which included reading the North American Nature Photography Association’s Principals of Ethical Field Practices and then answer the following question: “What is the most important sentence and why?” Here are a few of the responses:
“The most important sentence in this position statement is this sentence: “One must always exercise good individual judgment”. This is true because in all actions towards nature, including photography, personal judgment allows you to follow your own instincts and create a safe and stable environment for the wildlife and others around you. By doing this, you are further helping the safety and success of the surroundings, wildlife, and photographer. This also allows for greater ease and self-confidence in both the photographer and subject!”
“Many people unknowingly endanger themselves and animals: This statement, although in the Individual section of the principles, can also be applied to the Environmental and Social sections. A lot of people are ignorant about what lives in the wilderness and, therefore, don’t know what actions are acceptable in a human-nature relationship. Having knowledge of subject and place (i.e. animals and their habitats) and being aware of the rules and laws in specific areas will allow someone to be more responsible and safe overall. As animals and plants don’t have the ability to research the patterns of human beings, it is our ethical responsibility to obtain this knowledge about the wildlife (because we have the resources to do so). By learning all about wildlife before we explore it and being conscious and aware when among nature, it allows us to act as “good role model[s], both as…photographer[s] and…citizen[s].”
“Most Important sentence: Treat the wildlife, plants and places as if you were their guests. Why: Although there were a number of sentences in this statement from the North American Nature Photography Association that proved to be very insightful, I thought that this particular one instilled a very important ideal for anyone who wishes to enjoy the abundant wildlife. When enjoying the wildlife it is of utmost importance to remain respectful to living and nonliving things. Too many times do people enter the wilderness without any knowledge of subject and place. It is then that disturbances are made that have the potential to alter the life of far too many organisms. I felt that the sentence that I chose was a reminder of how all people should feel when entering the wilderness. It is important to be aware that humans, for the most part, are visitors in life away from urban areas. Because people are simply guests they must do research and become informed when entering a place in which they are less familiar with.”
“I believe that the first statement, knowledge of subject and place, is the most important in nature photography. This section deals directly with the health and safety of the subjects you are photographing, wild animals. Practicing this principle is the most effective in preserving the natural environment for photography and prevents any damage to the ecosystem. While the other principles also help achieve this goal, I believe having proper knowledge of how to conduct oneself in the wilderness is most effective and therefore most important.”
“I found the most important sentence in the article to be: “In the absence of management authority, use good judgment.” I believe ‘use good judgement’ is one of the most important phrases to think upon when you interact with the wild. Written/posted rules and laws are great, and important to follow, but they don’t exist everywhere in nature. Before you do something/go somewhere, you need to assess the situation by yourself, and figure out if it really is a good idea. Always err on the side of caution, and respect the animals, plants, and ecosystems.”
We think the answers provided by the program participants were very insightful and thoughtful. In fact, we think it will be our pleasure to run into these young leaders while photographing in Baxter State Park. If we had to choose just one sentence as the most important Mark and I would choose “Treat the wildlife, plants and places as if you were their guests.” There are an increasing number of us photographing wildlife every day and far too often we forget that we are in someone else’s home. Limiting the cumulative effects of our presence should always be our goal.