THE OPS MANIFESTO

WHAT IS IT?

The OPS Manifesto is a declaration of our core values that guide everything we do as outdoor photographers.  Whether at the beginner level or a seasoned photographer, these are the values we share.

WHY?

Because we love the natural world, and if we’re being honest – we need it, too.  And it’s shrinking every day around the globe.  The real question is: why not?  As outdoor photographers, we are in a unique position to help protect wild places through responsible practices so that we can ensure that our favorite photographic subjects will be here for generations to come.  

Are you in?  

Click on the OPS Manifesto below to download your own copy. 

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What does this all mean?

Put nature first, even if it means missing the shot.

It’s soooo tempting to think, “just this once”, or, “I’m the only one here, it won’t matter”, or, “if I could just get a little closer”, and be overcome by the thrill of nailing the shot.  But each footprint in the dirt, each tripod leg in the wildflowers, each animal we expose to our presence has been impacted in some way by our actions.  We need to re-prioritize what’s most important – getting the shot or protecting nature?  When in doubt – it’s simple to remember – just put nature first.

Respect all species and ecosystems.

It’s easy to focus on the big picture – the massive mountain ridge, the spray of the waterfall, the storm clouds billowing above – and lose sight of the delicate species of plants, insects, and animals that exist in the ecosystems we explore for these images.  Remember to respect them as well, and be mindful of what actions you take that might be disruptive or destructive.

Be kind to others. Lead by example.

It should go without saying, but just be nice and patient – even if someone is blocking your shot.  Your kindness will make someone’s day, and it will probably make you feel better too.  If you see someone being irresponsible, speak up.  Stand up for nature.

Remember we are part of nature not separate from it.

All too often, we talk about nature or the wilderness as this “other” thing, this magical place that few know about firsthand.  In reality, we ARE nature.  We are carbon-based beings that evolved with all other living creatures on this biodiverse planet.  Although it’s sometimes unrecognizable in modern society, our lives depend upon the well being of the natural world.  By realizing we are part of nature, we are more likely to protect it out of self-preservation rather than of good will alone.  Sounds like a win-win.

Know before we go. Leave no trace. Pack it in, pack it out.

It’s a best practice to research where you are going and what you plan to photograph before you go.  Helpful information would include where to camp, whether permits are required, what camera gear you can bring, what weather and terrain to expect, what sort of behavior to anticipate from wild animals (such as breeding seasons, migration patterns, etc.), and so forth.  

These concepts are also a nod to the Leave No Trace Seven Principles (© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org), which we highly encourage everyone to follow.  This includes disposing of all waste properly, even the things that you might consider compostable, like apple cores, banana peels, and other biodegradable items.  By packing out everything you bring in, you help ensure that wildlife keep the diets they are meant to have and to prevent potentially invasive species (like plants and microbes) from entering an area.

Know our limits. Plan for the unexpected.

Before heading out, it’s good practice to be honest with oneself about knowledge gaps and physical limitations.  Do you have all the appropriate equipment for travel and gear to keep you safe from the elements?  How about maps, guidebooks, or safety equipment?  What will you do if you get lost or hurt?  It’s good to think and plan ahead.  S***t happens to the best of us.  Be willing to turn back if the going gets tough.

Advocate for untouched landscapes, dark night skies, and keeping wildlife wild.

This is really the heart of the OPS Manifesto.  As outdoor photographers we need to advocate for the outdoors – for nature, for wildlife, for the connection to natural elements that bring us to a place of peace and wonderment.  

Imagine a world where: 

  • there were no more dark skies due to excessive light pollution
  • wide open scapes of land were taken over by massive developments 
  • more precious water ways were redirected or dammed
  • mountains were leveled or mined instead of protected
  • wildlife have had to adapt their natural behaviors to accommodate human impact  

For many of us, these are not the images we strive to produce unless we are trying to raise awareness around conservation.  We are outdoor photographers because we love being in nature.  Let’s make sure our actions protect it.

Produce images with integrity and authenticity.

Basically, this means keeping it real.  Composing an image without meddling with the scene to improve the shot.  Upholding the values of this Manifesto, even when no one is looking.  Being honest about how you created an image.  It also means not baiting animals or causing any stress to animals or plant life in order to get the shot. 

Explore the outdoors rather than sit in front of a screen.

Did you know that the average American spends over 11 hours a day in front of a screen?  Obviously, one reason for spending such a huge chunk of our day in a two dimensional world is because we depend so much on technology for our daily activities of work, school, and communication.  But, it’s SO EASY to get lost in our tech, and by attempting to connect more, we are actually disconnecting more and more from nature.  

It’s no surprise that spending time in nature helps reduce stress, depression, anxiety, and boosts our immune systems.  In fact, more and more studies have demonstrated measurable health benefits of spending time outside in green spaces.  

It’s time to tip the balance back to recreating more in nature.  GET OUTSIDE and encourage others to put down their devices, too.

Protect what's left like our lives depend on it.

Because – well, frankly – they do. 

We are part of the biodiverse ecosystem of Earth.  In order for this ecosystem to exist in perpetuity (ie, in a sustainable way), a balance needs to be reached between our consumption of resources and the replenishment of those resources.

Unless we figure out how to populate other planets, we need natural resources to survive just as much as the natural resources need us to help protect them from depletion.  Outdoor photographers can help protect what’s left by embracing and practicing this Manifesto.  

We hope you’ll join us in making a positive difference!

GRAB YOUR COPY OF THE OPS MANIFESTO!

The OPS Manifesto was inspired by:

League of Landscape Photographers