Leave No Trace Over Likes

Emily Noyd

We must refuse to sacrifice LNT for the sake of a photograph. Otherwise, what will become of these wild places we love exploring?

I love the early morning view out of my tent. I crave that first glimpse of amber light filtering through the trees or rising on the mountain top as I emerge from my cocoon. Evidenced by the abundance of ‘view from the tent’ shots online these days, I’m guessing others love it too. Please, keep ‘em coming for the mornings I head to the office instead of hitting the trail.

I play the Instagram game, I’ll admit it. I’ve been known to set up my tent strategically for a glimpse of REI’s name in the photo. Recently, as I’m scrolling for wanderlust inspiration, I see that a reputable outdoor company has shared a follower’s photo of their tent set against a breathtaking alpine lake. Wait… why is that tent pitched so close to the water? Why is it covering grass instead of rock? Far too often, photos that ignore Leave No Trace are being featured on social media. I feel strongly that we must reject the promotion of illegal camping and poor decision making for the sake of that hashtag-worthy shot.

If I see another tent crushing an alpine meadow, I might lose my marbles. Part of what makes instant-sharing of the outdoors so special is the construction of a common wilderness ethic. Members of the outdoor community see awe-inspiring photos online every day that drive our adventurous spirit. Unfortunately, the increased glorification of poor wilderness stewardship misses the entire point: go play outside, do it right, and encourage others to do the same. I suggest we start prioritizing Leave No Trace over likes. With the surge of people getting out there to backpack and hike, it’s our responsibility to share not only the cool photo, but the importance of respecting the resource. Realistic representations of the outdoors keep our community authentic and our favorite places preserved.

Sometimes the absurdity of outdoor photos online makes me giggle. You did not sleep on that exposed ledge! (Or at least I’m hoping you didn’t.) Other times, it’s straight up scary when I’ve been to that location and can tell you’ve climbed over a railing for the shot. In national parks, rangers constantly encounter visitors endangering themselves or camping out of bounds. Who can take the most unique Yosemite photograph, no matter the rules or risks? It seems to be an unofficial competition online. If we portray a photo as realistically attainable, our followers may go recreate it. It goes beyond Leave No Trace principles; it’s about being leaders in the outdoor community.

Now if I sound like a curmudgeon, it’s true: I am saturated with national park visitors who don’t follow LNT. I put out their illegal fires and sometimes pack out their literal crap. But not everyone has the pleasure of enduring my How to Poop in the Woods lecture. In fact, seeing a social media post may be the last impressionable moment for folks before planning their next trip. So let’s take up the torch of preserving these places for endless years to come and set the example with our photos. Nothing’s more beautiful (and more rewarding) than that.

#LeaveNoTraceOverLikes

Published: October 3, 2016

Emily Noyd

Wilderness ranger in Yosemite National Park. Raised by Washington mountains and Puget Sound islands. I live for sunrise, backcountry cooking, climbing, roadtrips, and coffee.

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.

Climbing in 18-Degree Weather to Shoot the Sunrise

Vantage, Washington

One of the things that I love about photography is how the quality of light can make or break a photo. When shooting outdoors it is those early hours in the morning that I love the most.

0 Saves

6 Reasons Why You Should Use a Telephoto Lens for Landscape Photography

When most people start out taking landscape photos, they think they need to get a wide angle lens in order to capture the whole landscape. When I bought my first DSLR, I was one of those people.

2 Saves

Our Hike to Angels Landing: Dangerous? Maybe. Amazing? Definitely.

Angels Landing, Utah

Three weeks before my sister turned 24 she texted me to ask if I wanted to go on a trip for her birthday. She wasn’t sure where she wanted to go but she knew she wanted to be outdoors.

3 Saves