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Photography and videography are amazing forces for good that help people to express their creativity, bring people together and are used to promote many fantastic products and services. However, despite this, photography and videography can have a negative impact on the environment and the natural world; in some cases, even putting fragile habitats and ecosystems at risk!
Tourism – Photography and Videography.
Like millions of Americans, my interest in travel in general and traveling to Europe in particular, was greatly influenced by Rick Steves and his travel videos and books. The huge boom in worldwide travel in the past two decades has had a negative impact on the environment. Tourism is an industry that has been evolving quickly in recent years to become more environmentally friendly; with ecotourism becoming increasingly popular as people realize that they have a responsibility to help to protect the planet, even while they are on vacation!
Photography and videography have been a major driver of tourism and with more people travelling overseas to some of the most beautiful and environmentally sensitive places on the planet this has led to more destruction of the habitats that attract the most tourists.
People who are away on vacation naturally want to make the most of the time that they are away. This can often lead them to go off the beaten track in the search of the best photo opportunities! As understandable as this is, it also leads to the damage being caused to the habitats in which the animals live.
If only one person did this then the impact would be very slight however, given that millions of tourists have the same idea each year the cumulative damage can be quite significant!
National Parks, and other sites that are regularly visited by tourists, often complain that people are ignoring park rules to get better photographs! This is often due to a lack of understanding on behalf of the tourists rather than a desire to damage the ecosystem. In most cases, once the tourists understand the situation they are much more respectful of the park rules and the environment in general.
As the tourist industry itself has become more aware of the importance of protecting the natural world many companies and resorts are setting aside funds to support local conservation groups. This means that the tourist industry can actually have a positive impact on the local environment; but each person must do what they can to be sensitive to the needs of the natural world around them.
Poaching and Photography.
It’s an unfortunate, and unintended, side effect of wildlife photography that the increasing popularity of the images can actually lead to an increase in the price of the poached or illegally hunted animals. Animals such as elephants, rhinos and sharks are all in danger of extinction as a result of illegal hunting and poachers. The profits for the poachers increase as people become more aware of the problems with the industry and the prices of the hunted trophies, such as elephant tusks and ivory, go up as regulations get stricter!
This is a tragic consequence of the growing international awareness as to the importance of protecting wildlife however the good news is that the poachers and illegal hunters are losing the fight against rules and regulations which outlaw the practice. The introduction of drones with cameras in National Parks and Safari lodges in Africa has helped to capture and arrest many poachers who are putting animals like elephants on the verge of extinction.
Photography and Videography Accessories Create Waste and Pollution.
High tech camera equipment contains a wide range of minerals and rare earth elements. The mining of these rare earth minerals is often extremely polluting and causes a great deal of damage to the natural world. Most of these mining operations occur in countries which have very poor environmental regulations and so the local ecosystems are degraded and the water, air and soil is consequently polluted.
Consumers of camera and videography equipment must try to ensure that the products they are buying come from sustainable sources and that the local miners and employees receive proper wages for their work. Due diligence also includes ensuring that the mining of rare earth minerals and the production of cameras, including the associated accessories, are all done in an environmentally friendly manner.
Photographers and videographers working in the wildlife niche often use camera traps to film the animals they are trying to capture. A ‘camera trap’ is a system which triggers the camera to start filming when the animal takes food from a baited trap.
This allows the wildlife photographer or videographer to get close up shots of the animals in their natural habitat but the problem is that it teaches the animals to seek food from humans or traps. This disrupts their natural habits and can lead to the animals coming into the nearby human settlements looking for more free food. When this happens with dangerous animals, such as tigers, lions or elephants, it can often lead to their death because they are shot to keep the people in the towns safe.
Photography and Videography Equipment is Under Used.
Many practitioners in both photography and videography own a lot of equipment and accessories which they rarely use! You may have 5 or 10 tripods and yet you only use one or two on a regular basis. Every item, particularly if it is made out of plastics, creates waste in the manufacturing process and depletes the world’s natural resources.
If you have equipment that you either under use or don’t need anymore it might be worth considering reselling it. When you resell pre used equipment it means that someone else doesn’t need to buy a new one! This will save them money but it also recycles the resources that have already been used to make the equipment and thus, in a small way, helps to reduce the load on the plant’s resources. It may not sound like much, but every little bit helps in the fight to create a sustainable world economy.
Many wildlife photographers work with flashes to capture images of animals at night. This can damage the eyes of the nocturnal animals who are photographed as well as causing them a great deal of stress!
Photographers who take flash photos of birds in their nests can often lead to the bird abandoning the nest and leaving its young to die! In almost all cases the photographers do not mean to do this and so better education as to how to interact with wildlife in nature is essential to reduce this problem.
Digital Vs Analog Cameras- Which is Better For The Environment?
In the old days there was no choice but to use analog cameras which meant that the development of the pictures used toxic chemicals and even the celluloid film manufacturing process created pollutants.
As our technology has improved and digital cameras have become more widely available to people at a lower cost while still performing extremely well; many of the problems associated with photography were drastically reduced!
A digital camera can produce images in a second without the need for developing the film and this has been a good step forward in terms of protecting the environment and reducing society’s overall levels of pollution.
Photography and the Environment.
As a general rule photography and videography are harmless pursuits and in most cases any major damage done to the environment is perpetrated by large companies and not individuals. Most people who work in wildlife photography love the natural world and the last thing they would want is to have a negative impact on the environment!
However, sometimes, in your rush to get the perfect picture or because you don’t have the relevant information you can inadvertently cause harm to the natural world or the wildlife that lives in it.
We All Need To Educate Ourselves To Reduce Our Impact on the Environment.
We all need to be careful when we are out in nature so that we don’t accidentally damage or disturb the habitats of the animals that live in the fragile ecosystems that make up our world.
On the positive front, as photography has gone more digital the chemical and manufacturing process is causing less damage to the environment, although, as individual photographers we need to ensure that we educate ourselves as to how to operate in the most sustainable way.
More work needs to be done as a world community to ensure that the mining of rare earth minerals, which are required to make digital cameras, is done in a sustainable way. However, as people become aware of the problems steps are being taken to improve the situation and reduce the negative impacts of photography and videography on the environment.
Have you thought about minimizing your photography and videography gear?