There has been a lot of talk about how photographers affect the wellbeing of nature and local people all around the world. With growing numbers of photographers and with social media where we can share locations without consideration the impact is real. Responsible photography movement is becoming more and more widespread and the positive effects are already visible. With this article I want to focus how one can photograph landscapes and nature in Slovenia responsibly.
What are the most fragile environments in Slovenia?
Slovenia is a small country with only a few pockets of true wilderness left. Most of the area in Slovenia is a coexistence or even codependency of nature and man. Urbanised areas are relatively small. There are a few untouched primeval forests, some inaccessible parts of Triglav national park and Karstic caves that I would call wilderness. Some rivers and mountain lakes still have high natural value, most can be found in the Alps. There are a few places where photographers can make a negative impact.
Wild daffodils are a good example where photographers (myself included) have popularised the area. Nowadays I don’t even go the the classic location anymore. I rather go explore more remote places without too many people taking selfies for Instagram. This is a good example where I don’t share a location – for obvious reasons.
Photographers should be responsible towards local people and communities too. In Slovenia , there are many photo locations on private land, around farm fields and meadows. A good example is the photo of St Thomas church above. It is easy to photograph it from the side of the road but I keep seeing photographers venturing into the private meadow below. This is not a problem in winter when covered in snow or frost. Or if it is a single person doing it. But with such a popular location things become different.
Responsible photography in practice
Here are some practical tips on how to photograph in Slovenia responsibly. Of course these tips apply to many European countries. It is always a good advice to check for location specifics before your travel.
Give back to local community
Book your accommodation directly with the supplier and choose a family run pension or a tourist farm. In Slovenia these places are really of great quality, best value and the hospitality is way nicer than hotels. Same goes for places to eat and when buying souvenirs, activities etc.
Meadows and farm fields
When produce is growing or when grass is tall you should not venture into the fields and meadows. It is generally acceptable to do so in off season, when doing this would not harm the produce or the grass. I do not recommend climbing over the fences without asking. Hiking trails often go through private land and the land owner must allow the passage.
Slovenia is densely populated with forests. There are 14 primeval forests which are out of reach for human impact. There are many other parts of forest where one can photograph healthy ecosystem and beautiful specimen of trees. In Slovenia forest owners need to allow free public access. This effectively means that one can photograph in most forests in Slovenia regardless of who owns the place. These forests are usually exploited commercially for wood. Slovenians are also very keen on picking mushrooms, chestnuts and wild garlic.
Common sense still applies here, as photographers we should not do any unnecessary damage to the plants and wildlife of the forests.
Most of wine makers are okay with photographers stepping into the rows of vineyards to get a better angle. Needles to say – don’t pick the grapes no matter how inviting they are 🙂
The classic shot of the “Heart road” on the photo above can only be taken from a viewpoint located in the yard of a private farmhouse. The owners have built a view platform and a tip box. I hear about incidents regularly – the owners complain that photographers just walk in and out without compensating, saying hi, parking on their land. On the opposite side photographers complain how rude the owners are, yelling at people and complaining. I only have pleasant experience here. If I come in the afternoon, I first check in with the family or even order some food and drink. If I plan to come for sunrise, I let them know a day in advance.
Most of churches in Slovenia can be photographed inside. Note that many are locked and if you really desire to photograph you need to ask about the key keeper. Often the person in charge will ask what is the purpose of your photography. From my own experience it is universally acceptable if you photograph for your own needs. Make sure you do not disturb the service and be very discreet when people are praying. I usually prepare my camera and lenses before I go in (backpack zippers are incredibly loud) and set my camera to silent shooting mode.
Responsible photography applies to drones too. Slovenia has similar drone rules as many European countries. With 2021 new, simplified rules will come in practice which will allow visitors to fly freely in open category.
There are areas where I regularly see photographers ignoring the regulations, Ljubljana old town – this is an urbanised area where only licenced drone operators under strict rules can fly. Yet even the tourism portals and social media hubs freely share illegally made photos. Triglav national park – the whole park is no fly zone. Piran town (airport area)- another popular drone destination and for a good reason. Here it is possible to fly when the airport is not operating – one needs to check with them directly. Also be careful for seagulls – the archenemies of drones.
Responsible wildlife photography in Slovenia
One can find interesting wildlife photo opportunities in Slovenia too. The main attraction are definitely brown bears. It is incredibly hard to find them on your own in their natural setting. There is much easier way – brown bear photography hides. This way you will photograph bears responsibly, safely and give something back to local community.
These are a few Slovenia specific examples how to photograph responsibly. Of course this does not cover everything and most of the time the basic common sense applies just fine. Let me know if I forgot to include something and I will add it. Thank you.
My contribution to responsible photography
As a working landscape and nature photographer I am deeply involved in local communities in Slovenia and elsewhere where I run my business. My interest in responsible photography is twofold. First, nature is important to me and I want to preserve it for future generations. And second, my photo workshops depend on natural beauty and healthy local communities. This is why I partnered with Nature First and Responsible Travel. I am obligated to run my workshops following their principles and to educate my clients about the topic.
And very important to me, at PhotoHound we are committed to share locations responsibly and we have recently implemented a system where our community can tag spots in three ways and add warning if the place requires it. This is one step towards more thoughtful location sharing. Here too, Nature first awarded us as their Bronze partners on this mission.
As more and more people engage in photography and as travel gets easier and easier the nature and local communities are under more pressure than ever. Us photographers can be ambassadors of the environment and the world around us as we travel and photograph.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Have you noticed any good or bad examples recently? Have you photographed in Slovenia yet?