Eco Travel: guide to beginners & photographers

World travel is now easier to undertake than ever before. The transport infrastructure throughout the developed world is more sophisticated than it has ever been and many vacationers, without a second thought, regularly embark upon long-distance travel. The cost of such travel has also been reduced over the last few years, with budget airlines offering lower prices even to the more exotic and popular destinations. However, it looks increasingly likely that this trend will not last forever; rising fuel prices hang like the sword of Damocles over the global travel industry. This state of affairs should make us all more careful about how we choose to travel. What can we as individuals do to help? Eco travel is a good place to start. This latest trend in vacations has a dual purpose: not restricting enjoyment but undertaking eco-friendly activities whenever possible.

For the first-time eco-traveler, the concept can be a bit daunting, but the idea of eco-travel is not to sleep in tents or to hike everywhere. Some luxurious hotels are recognizing the eco-friendly movement and are implementing more sustainable practices. Zambia and Malawi are leading the African charge in sustainability, focusing on conservation measures that also support the local economy.

How can photographers help? The sharing of images and thereby the spreading of knowledge is one way to help the planet. By illustrating to others the realities of a destination, travelers can help to increase awareness, encouraging the protection of endangered sites and species. You don’t need a fancy camera with a bag full of expensive lenses to take memorable and striking photographs. Even with an average point-and-shoot camera, you can take photos you will be proud to share.

While traveling, don’t just look, observe. As an example, visitors to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm’s Rookery during nesting season between March and May may spot egrets, tri-colored Herons, and wood storks. A special photo pass allows visitors early-morning access, helping to ensure better photo opportunities. Below the walkways, alligators swim lazily, offering a double opportunity for striking photographs.

Alaska also offers numerous opportunities for photographers to capture threatened landscapes and wildlife. A professional photography tour guide can offer advice on lenses, filters and aperture settings, making a photo-safari a far more memorable and less frustrating experience, especially for beginners. The Northern Lights are a popular theme, but since it’s nearly impossible to capture the same image twice, photos of the Lights are always unique, making them an ideal subject.

Nature photos aren’t the only option for eco-travelers, however. Photographs of the people you meet while traveling help to preserve the memories and build international connections. It’s wise to understand ethical photography before setting out. Whether you’re strolling through downtown Oaxaca during the famed Dia de los Muertos festival, or observing an Easter procession in Greece, the people are often the most interesting part of any scene.

Unless you’re attending a public festival where people expect to be photographed, it’s always best to ask permission before taking photos of individuals. After all, you wouldn’t like a foreigner coming up and snapping a photo of you to post on their personal website. The rule of thumb for ethical photography is to treat others as you would like to be treated. It may be tempting to snap photos of poor or run-down areas to emphasize the need for social justice. If you’re going to do so, however, it’s only fair to photograph a wider view of everyday life, to show the good and happy parts of life in the area, as well as the difficult ones. Take care with your camera, and build bridges as you create memories.