I give an overview of Leave No Trace, explain why I'm a Leave No Trace Photographer, and go over how it will impact your elopement day experience.

Why I’m a Leave No Trace Photographer

And What that Means for Your Elopement

It’s important that any couple who work with me knows that I am a Leave No Trace Photographer and also has an idea of what this will mean in actual practice. So, first things first: what’s Leave No Trace (LNT)? In a nutshell, Leave No Trace (LNT) are guiding principles and ethics to help maintain and protect the wild places and wild life that call those places home.

The Seven Leave No Trace Principles

  1. Plan ahead and prepare. (have a plan. Be prepared for that plan, be prepared for that plan to not go… well, according to plan. Have water, have food, have a first aid kit, know the weather and difficulty level of your activity, have more than what you need, know where you’re going, have a permit. Be safe.) 
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces. (Travel on rocks, sand, dirt roads, washes, paths; any surface that will be unchanged by thousands of footsteps. Avoid crypto, alpine tundra, moss, lichen, alpine meadows, etc because these surfaces are super fragile and can hardly withstand one set of footprints, let alone hundreds.)
  3. Dispose of waste properly. (pack it out, people. Your trash, your poop, everything. Even biodegradable stuff like orange peels or an errant flower bloom. If something isn’t natively found in an environment it’s very important it doesn’t accidentally get left there.)   
  4. Leave what you find. (leave the rocks, plants, pine cones, etc where you found them. If the urge for a souvenir strikes, take a picture or buy a magnet from the gift shop 🙂 )
  5. Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire). (Only set fires in fire rings and only when it isn’t windy, save fireworks for the 4th. As of my writing this there are three wildfires devastating Arizona, two are from irresponsible people recreating in the outdoors. Not following this particular principle can have hugely devastating effects.)
  6. Respect wildlife.  (Don’t feed them, don’t touch them, give them lots and lots of space. For example, do not put your child on the back of a bison. They are wild animals (re: unpredictable). We don’t want to hurt them, we don’t want them to hurt us.)
  7. Be considerate of other visitors. (Basically, don’t be a jerk. Be aware of the space around you and the other humans in it.)


Here’s a really great resource for anyone wanting more in depth info on Leave No Trace. https://lnt.org

So why are these principles I care about and follow? I LOVE this totally bananas planet. I realize I, as well as my couples, are 100% benefiting from the beauty of this place (because I take photos and recreate in the outdoors) and it’s very important to me that I be a good steward and return the favor of mother nature being so rad, hence me being a Leave No Trace Photographer. 

These large boulders (above) can handle a little foot traffic 🙂

So what does this mean for you?

First and foremost, I do my best to follow these principles while on a shoot. I for sure make mistakes but in general, do my best and encourage the people I’m with to do the same. What does this look like in action? Here’s an example:

Cryptobiotic soil is this really amazing crust that holds the desert together and keeps the whole desert from blowing away. Sounds cool, right? I like the desert, you like the desert, neither of us want it to blow away. 

Here’s the thing though, crypto is SUPER fragile and takes a super super long time to grow. It is an actual living organism and when we step on it, we kill it. Not so cool. So! What this means is that before a shoot even begins, I educate my couples on what crypto is, what it looks like, and why its so important to not step on it. Then, when we get to the shoot location, we all go on a field trip together and take a look at some crypto in person. It’s honestly super cool! Once we’re all on the same page, we all know what it looks like now, we set off on our adventure, and we… just don’t step on the crypto. This means sticking to the trail (yes, even if there’s a really cool shot just over there off the trail next to that crypto, no one will ever know. Look. I know. I want that super awesome shot, too and it hurts my soul when I can’t grab it. But it hurts more to destroy a hundreds year old organism that’s literally holding one of the coolest places on earth together.) 

The alpine tundra (left) and Icelandic moss (right) are both very, very fragile and non-durable surfaces.

So! You can expect me to provide location specific education on durable vs non-durable surfaces prior to our shoot. I don’t expect you to know everything; I’m here to provide that info. So if you pop a bottle of champagne we gotta find that cork and pack it out. If we throw confetti, every piece of that confetti will have to be picked up (so… think very hard if you want that confetti, haha). If a bloom falls off your bouquet, I’ll pick it up and put it in my pack since most flowers aren’t native to our elopement destinations. 

I’m also a big fan of being prepared. We are hanging out in Mother Nature’s playground and she doesn’t care what the weather forecast is or what the plans are. Part of LNT is to plan ahead- which means we’ll have a plan for your elopement location as well as a plan for your backup location and your second backup location. I will have my Mary Poppins bag of Adventure Wedding Supplies (including such things like hairspray, bear spray, yaktrax, safety pins, gloves, blankets, tide to-go sticks, water, snacks, snacks, more snacks, a wine key, and the greatest of all inventions, hand/toe warmers). Your comfort and safety is my number one priority and we need to be very self reliant if we’re going to respecting the place we’re hanging out in.

What this also means, is that after your session I will not geotag the specific place we were at on social media or in the blog post. This is a tough concept and a tough call to make- I love these wild places and I want other folks to enjoy them, too. I don’t want to seem secretive or elitist or snobbish. AND. I have seen a lot of places be absolutely devastated by a sudden, or even gradual, increase of visitors. It’s heartbreaking to see the change at Horseshoe Bend or Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon which is actually fully closed to humans to allow the ecosystem to recover. And if I’m being super blunt and honest, I care more about protecting those places than I do about if I seem secretive on social media. 

What this boils down to is that as your adventure wedding and elopement photographer your experience is paramount, second only to safety. Your safety and the safety of all living things around you. That includes wild life, plants, and microscopic organisms like crypto. And I PROMISE we will still have a blast and a half while following Leave No Trace.

  1. Abbi Hearne says:

    Well you already know I love the heck out of this post Aimee!! I love that you explained how it affects your couples too — so great.

  2. I love this post!! So helpful and informative and IMPORTANT!

  3. sam says:

    This is just fantastic and super helpful! I wish more photographer’s and couples were aware of this principle and followed it. Thank you for sharing! (also love seeing all your work!)

  4. Traci says:

    Yes, yes, yes!! Love this post great information for anyone adventuring the outdoors wedding or not!

  5. Such an important part of the adventure to be educated in terms of LNTB!

  6. I’m so thankful that you described each principle so that your couples (and other photographers) can understand why Leave No Trace is so important!

  7. Lauren says:

    Oh I just love this! This is so important. Thank you so much for creating something so helpful!

  8. YES, such great information!!! thank you for sharing and educating!

  9. […] As in every outdoor location, park or no, it’s important to follow Leave No Trace principles so things like confetti, champagne corks, flower petals, etc, will all have to be packed […]

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