Okay, you opened this up. Awesome! You are already a great person willing to learn more. Now we know it’s not fun to think about responsibility while we are out and about adventuring and taking awesome pictures, but believe me, it feels good to keep nature natural. Not only for the wildlife, but for other individuals looking to have their own wonderful experiences out there. We don’t like walking along and seeing beer bottles, cans, and other trash littered along the trails, and we do our best to make sure we at least do not contribute to it. We’ll be covering a few things to think about while you are out on a trail to help keep our parks, forests, and beaches clean and beautiful.
There are seven core principles when it comes to Leave No Trace:
- Plan Ahead & Prepare
- Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more detailed reading on the 7 principles, check it out here: https://lnt.org/why/7-principles/
PLAN AHEAD & PREPARE
Preparing for an adventure elopement, engagement, or an adventure session in the wilderness can require a different mindset, especially when it comes to leaving no trace. Preparation is huge when it comes to adventure sessions, especially when it is an all day or multiple day trip. The wilderness can be eye-opening and beautiful, but we may overlook our own impacts if we don’t think and prepare before we’re out there. Best part of planning ahead, it makes your day smoother and with less stress; just with the side effect of also leaving no trace.
Several questions you might want to ask yourself before going out for a hike in the mountains or along the beach:
- Do I have the right gear for the adventure? (Layers for the cold breezes, hiking shoes, etc)
- Would a lack of this gear increase my impact on the environment? (More tempted to take shortcuts)
- Are there any closures of trails, parks, or roads that could affect your plans?
- Does this change where you want to go?
- Do you need a permit for photos, travel, parking, etc? (State and National parks will require one most, if not all of the time)
- Do they allow permit purchase on-site or require advanced purchase?
- What are the busy days & times of the location?
- Is the trail pet friendly? (If you want to bring your best friend)
- If yes, prepare for packing out your pet’s waste as well!
- Are there any fire bans currently?
- Do you have trail maps downloaded on a device (or if off-trail do you have a topographical map and compass AND know how to read them)?
- Does the location have cell service?
- If not, a satellite phone may not be a bad plan
- Are there any animals to expect along the trail and what part of the day are they most active?
- Many animals like bears are active during specific seasons and evening/night. Know what animals are present and be prepared to deal with different behaviors.
- Do you have enough food & water?
- Are you prepared to pack out EVERYTHING you bring in?
Preparing appropriately for your special day, or an adventure session can allow you to feel much more at peace and minimize your potential impact on the environment.
TRAVEL ON DURABLE SURFACES
We’re not going to say that you have to stay on the trail at all times. But there are a few things to note when you go off-trail (if the location allows you to). The key thing is to look for solid ground to step on; gravel, rocks, and packed down soil can provide minimum impact, where stepping on foliage just a few times can start to affect the plants. And that can cause changes in the soil, water, eating/travel habits of animals in the area, and much more. There is actually a word for it and it’s called environmental unity. Think of it like the butterfly effect, but for nature.
A few things to keep in mind when travelling are:
- Walk along the same path to minimize any impact you may have
- Try to stick to rocks, gravel, packed dirt, and snow when possible (but don’t sacrifice your safety)
- If necessary to walk on vegetation or foliage, aim for durable vegetation (like dry grass) or sparse vegetation that is easier to avoid
- If a location or trail is closed for restoration or repairs, respect the closure — there are plenty of options in the surrounding area usually
- Learn about the environment and watch where you step — stepping in a pond in a forest might be okay, but should be avoided in desert scenarios due to organisms being highly dependent on the small amount of water in the area.
DISPOSE OF WASTE PROPERLY
Many of us hiking out there, or taking photos usually bring backpacks with us, and they’re not always fully packed. One thing to consider doing, is bringing a plastic bag to pack out your own waste. Whether that is energy bar wrappers, water bottles, or natural waste (yep, it’s toilet talk time). Please pack out your own trash, but when it comes to your natural waste you can probably get away with a cat hole (small 6-8 inch deep hole at least 200 feet from the nearest water source). There are specific tips and tricks to different environments, but you can find further reading on that on
If you end up doing anything that introduces non-natural elements on your elopement (or an adventure session) you may want to think about how to pack that out. Some people throw glitter or flower petals up and get caught in the photo as the glitter or petals dance down around them. This can be stunning, but leaving glitter on the ground, or flowers on the beach can look horrible and even be detrimental to the environment, even if they are biodegradable. I bet you can see when a wedding was done on a beach, even days or weeks ago; the flowers, rice, or other debris are still around and it can sour the mood or scene for other visitors. Now, you can still get this shot, but it just requires a small tweak to be an easy cleanup. Pack in a thin cloth to lay down on the ground to stand on. When you throw all the debris around, you still get that beautiful shot, but now the cleanup is to just wrap up the cloth and throw it in the backpack. If there is high wind involved, please avoid it entirely!
There are plenty of other alternatives for beautiful atmospheric shots. You can instead use bubbles or sparklers, both being easy cleanup. Another idea is to use atmosphere in a can (your photographer may know how to use it and have a can on hand) to get some truly crazy shots with light. That’s right, we have cool photo ideas in a blog about personal responsibility!
For those of you who pack out other individuals’ waste as well, we applaud you and the world needs more people like you!
LEAVE WHAT YOU FIND
Easy enough right? Trust us, we know it’s tempting to pick a few beautiful flowers or take home the perfect natural hiking stick, but it can have an effect on the rest of nature. Sure it’s not a huge impact if a few adventurers take a few flowers, but if everyone thinks this? There is enough of us out there, that if we all have that mindset, the trails would be empty of beauty.
If you see anything that you want to remember while out adventuring, just ask the photographer. Whether it is the stunning landscape, a collection of flowers, or a chipmunk chowing down on a snack; we will snap a photo for your memories. The photos of your big adventure don’t need to just be of you two!
MINIMIZE CAMPFIRE IMPACTS
How great is it to relax by a campfire in the evening or night for some awesome, intimate photos? We’re totally down to get those photos, but we do need to make sure to make the campfire responsibly, if we can. There are burn bans in place during specific seasons depending on the weather and we have to respect that. But don’t worry, there are plenty of other awesome evening and night shots to take. We are big astrophotographers and would love to get pictures of couples under the stars, or even under moonlight, depending on the night.
If you really want that campfire shot though, it would go back to our first principle of planning. This is something you will probably know beforehand so you should be good to make that campfire. Remember that when leaving a campfire, make sure it is completely out and spread the cold ashes of the fire. The best LNT campfire is the one that you can’t tell happened in the first place!
Wildlife can be beautiful to witness, but these animals are not your domesticated animals. Approaching wildlife can be dangerous for both you, and the wildlife in question. We’ve all seen the crazy stories coming out of Yellowstone and such with “warming up” a baby buffalo and taunting the wildlife. These are on the extreme ends of disrespecting wildlife, but it shows what some of the parks are dealing with in terms of wildlife respect.
We should also take care to make sure the animals do not get our food. Pack safely and know what animals to keep an eye out for in the area. Your snacks are a tasty treat for the wild, and we’re always looking out for keeping things locked away from the bears, but those chipmunks can be sneaky as well.
BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHER VISITORS
An upside to adventure elopements is that you are probably looking for something private, remote, or are aiming for a time of day with the least amount of people. Thus making it easier to be yourselves without worrying about disturbing others. Even hiking during off-hours or weekdays might not get you away from everyone and we need to respect their time in nature as well. Playing music too loudly would be a big one, so we need to be mindful of others in the serenity of nature and keep the music to a reasonable volume.
Also keep in mind hiking etiquette. Easiest way to remember is it’s like driving. Stay on the right unless passing, hike in single file, give a signal when your passing (“Hey there! Passing real quick”), and get out of the way of oncoming traffic (hikers coming up the hill — they’re putting the pedal to the metal while your drifting down). Sorry, not sorry for the terrible wordplay.
Now this doesn’t need to be just on you. LNT is a team effort. Ask for help from your guides and photographers. Feel free to ask questions to us, park rangers, and other resources. It shows effort and people are happy to share!
Call of the Mountains Photography is a family owned and operated business with Kuria and Daniel as the lead photographers and Melanie as our office manager. We are extremely creative elopement and wedding photographers who love to travel and really get to know our couples. Not to mention we are nerds, artists, and metal heads.