Nature first

Nature photography is becoming more and more popular. We see more and more people getting out in nature trying to capture the beauty of nature. A look on facebook or instagram shows a whole range of nature photos, some really good, some less. Generally, I think this is a good thing as it shows more people getting interested in nature. However, there is also a downside. People see great photos by professional photographers (or advanced amateurs) and want to make the same pictures. However, they don’t see all the effort that was put into the picture, the knowledge behind it. Not only the technical knowledge of shutterspeed, aperture and camera, but also knowledge of the subject and its environment. And lack of the latter can lead to disturbance.

Black-necked Grebe – By waiting patiently, the birds came swimming towards me, so I could take pictures without any disturbance

Nature First is an alliance of nature photographers that focusses on responsible nature photography. The mission of Nature Fist is the promotion of the protection and preservation of the world’s natural and wild places through inspiring, educating, and uniting everyone making photographs and videos in nature; empowering them to be ambassadors of the natural world. Their main focus is on educating photographers on how to take those pictures responsibly, without harming nature.

Siberian Jay – In northern latitudes, with only few people visiting, birds are often very tame, allowing you to come really close.

Nature First aims to achieve this mission with the following seven principles:

  1. Prioritize the well-being of nature over photography.
  2. Educate yourself about the places you photograph.
  3. Reflect on the possible impact of your actions.
  4. Use discretion if sharing locations.
  5. Know and follow rules and regulations.
  6. Always follow Leave No Trace principles and strive to leave places better than you found them.
  7. Actively promote and educate others about these principles
Visited by an Emperor Penguin – When you wait patiently and make yourself small, Emperor Penguins often get curious and start to approach you. Where we have to keep 30m distance from the birds, the birds themselves don’t have these rules (photo: Christophe Gouraud).

In my opinion initiatives like this are great as they increase the knowledge among photograhers, which will result in nicer pictures for them, but more importantly, in less disturbance. Yes, it’s nice to get good pictures, but not against all costs. That way, everybody can enjoy nature, either through photos or in the wild.

Emperor Penguin near the colony – Waiting patiently can give you pictures like this, without any disturbance.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.


  • I thoroughly appreciated this post, Arjen, the theme and the photos. As a wildlife enthusiast, I have seen disturbing scenes where people have been focused only on their photo and their own pursuits, and dismissed the number one rule of not disturbing the wildlife. I am sure, in your profession, you have seen it hundreds, maybe even thousands, of times. I’m delighted to know of Nature First and this noble and important effort. And these photos are exquisite, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jet. Yes, I’ve seen enough moments where people put their picture above the well being of the subject. It’s always good to inform people about the impact they have and help them reduce that impact.

      Liked by 1 person

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