Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints on Designated Trails by Sam Schipani of the Mojave Land Trust.
One of the greatest joys of exploring on two wheels is capturing special moments to share with your family and friends. We want your loyal Instagram followers to see your stunning snapshots of that earth-splitting desert sunset or that adorable desert tortoise, but we also want these special landscapes and habitats to stay the way they were before we rode into town.
There are a few things to keep in mind when striking out to take pictures in fragile ecosystems. Our friends at the Mojave Desert Land Trust are experts on how artists (yes, Instagram artists count, too!) can consciously engage with the desert. Their Reading the Landscape program, launched earlier this year, guides artists through the process of creating in a way that ensures the desert will provide inspiration for generations to come.
Here are MDLT’s tips for reducing your impact on the desert while still getting that perfect shot:
- Stay on designated roads and trails. Avoid loose sand and soil – especially if you’re setting up a tripod! Designated areas are always a safe bet.
- Take what you brought, including debris, chemicals, equipment, and liquids. Pack it in, pack it out!
- Leave what you find, including rocks, vegetation, animals, bones, and historical trash.
- Know who owns the land prior to your site visit, as well as how to access the land through legal routes and using an appropriate vehicle.
- Identify and avoid on-site cultural resources, historic debris, and wildlife burrows. For example: A desert tortoise burrow entrance looks like the letter “D” lying on its side.
- Respect the wildlife by giving them space. For close-up shots, make sure you have your zoom lens on hand.
- Review the rules and regulations of the land management agency specific to your project. Obtain a commercial permit, when appropriate. If you intend to create art within Joshua Tree National Park’s boundaries, determine if your project requires a Special Use Permit. Commercial filming or photography requires a filming permit, but permits are not required for news crews or visitors photographing for personal use. All permit applications can be emailed to JOTR_Special_Use@NPS.Gov
Use Instagram as an educational platform for other photographers! If you see a photo on Instagram that is less-than-respectful of our desert ecosystem, politely let the user know. Our citizen Desert Defenders in Joshua Tree have used Instagram as a tool to educate visitors to great effect.
With these tips, you will be able to reduce your impact on the desert – and share its beauty with all your family, friends, and followers! - Sam Schipani
When you follow these simple rules, you are protecting all these beautiful creatures and their home :)