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Earth Day is upon us. In large and small ways, every one of us can and should help clean up the planet, and reduce our carbon footprint. As photographers, we have a powerful weapon: Our cameras. We can use photography to capture and share the planet's fragile beauty, and to shed light on polluters. Here are 10 things you can do to have a more positive environmental impact.
First, an earth-friendly mini buying guide:
1. Switch to rechargeable batteries
If you are shooting with a digital camera, you most likely already are using a rechargeable battery. But what about your flash? If you are using standard Alkaline AA's (standard on most shoe-mount flashes), switch to Nickel Metal hydride rechargeables, such as the 4 pack made by Ansmann or, if you go through a lot of batteries, consider Lenmar's 10-pack of 2500 mAH AA's (photo right). Visit the Rechargeable Batteries department at Adorama to see them all. A good recharger such as the Ansmann Energy 16 can charge up to 12 AA batteries at once, and the Lenmar 8 Station LRPRO78 can handle 8 at a time. With the high cost of batteries these days, you will quickly recoup the cost of rechargeable batteries and rechargers after just a few recharges while reducing toxic waste from the ecosystem.
2. Use solar power to recharge your batteries
Take it a step further: When you recharge your batteries by plugging a charger into a wall, you are most likely drawing energy from non-renewable sources. It's easier than ever to harness the power of the sun using solar-powered portable chargers, such as the KIWI U-Powered Solar & USB portable charger (above) for low-wattage uses or the Goal Zero Switch 8 for multiple batteries. While it's not always practical to use a solar charger, it's environmentally friendly to use them whenever you can. There are dozens of solar-powered battery chargers available at Adorama.
3. Replace incandescent and fluorescent lights with LEDs
While CFC bulbs are an improvement over incandescents for continuous light sources because they last longer and therefore reduce waste, they contain mercury, which can harm the environment if the bulbs aren't disposed of properly. Some home improvement stores, such as Ikea, offer a free take-back program. Consider switching your continuous light source to LED bulbs. While they are pricier, they last much longer and don't have the environmental risks that CFCs carry. Consider the just-announced Westcott Skylux 1000W LED light (above) for a high-end continuous light source, or the Frezzi Dimmer Mini-Fill, both of which are available at Adorama. For a less pricey alternative, you can replace existing CFCs with LED bulbs such as the Adorama LED Bulb with 96 E27 Standard Base or the Flashpoint dimmable LED light. See all LED bulbs available at Adorama.
4. Buy a camera bag made of recycled material
Did you know that Mountainsmith makes a line of recyclable daypacks for photographers? The four-bag lineup, ranging in price from $80 to $189, is designed to pack anything from simple enthusiast gear to a full pro setup, and is made with 100% recycled PET ReDura. Check out the Mountainsmith Parallax Pro Recycled Backountry Daypack, the Mountainsmith Spectrum Recycled Camera Specific Daypack (it holds computers, too), Mountainsmith Borealis AT, and the MILC-friendly Mountainsmith Quantum. When you're ready to replace your photo backpack, go green!
Next, here are several activites you can do for Earth Day
5. Spend a day observing nature
For some, the best tribute to the beauty and fragility of the planet we share is to simply observe. Spend the day hiking through a county or national park, use a spotting scope or Binoculars to observe birds or wildlife, and of course, take pictures. Do not disturb the natural beauty, and don't leave any wrappers, plastic bottles or other waste behind!
6. Document pollution with your camera
For others, documenting areas that require a cleanup and outing polluters is a very appropriate Earth Day activity. Be sure your exposure is accurate and focus is on target so anyone who sees the results will clearly see the problem. Be sure to include a wide view that indicates the location, and if your camera has a Geotagging function, be sure to use it. Then, share it on social networks follow these instructions to upload geotagged images to Google Maps. Then, notify the appropriate authorities. Illustrative photo above © anactor/iStockphoto.com
7. Participate in this year's official Earth Day photographic project
Help build a global mosaic: Take a portrait/self-portrait holding up a sign that says "The Face of Climate Change" and submit it to www.earthday.org http://www.earthday.org/2013/about.html. Their statement: "Climate change can seem like a remote problem for our leaders, but the fact is that it's already impacting real people, animals, and beloved places. These Faces of Climate Change are multiplying every day. Fortunately, other Faces of Climate Change are multiplying too: those stepping up to do something about it. Together, we'll personalize the massive challenge climate change presents by telling the world these stories through images shown at thousands of Earth Day events around the world."
8. Get involved with—and photograph—a cleanup
Many towns have environmental committees that run cleanups of public lands. This can be anything from removing litter from public parks to fixing walking paths, maintaining nature reserves and so forth. Get involved, and bring your camera! These groups, which may be affilliated with Scouts, 4H Clubs, or local religious institutions, would welcome volunteers, especially those who are willing to share good quality photos and raise awareness about their activities. Take pictures of the event and share them. This may encourage others to join in. Above: A Girl Scout troop helps clear a nature preserve in central New Jersey and prepare it for visitors. Photo by Mason Resnick
9. Document the effects of climate change in your area
Many believe that pollution and mass deforestation of rainforest is causing worldwide climate change, which is bringing on more extreme weather. Whether you've been hit by unusually severe storms, drought, or floods, go out on Earth Day and photograph how it has affected your area. It could be damage from Hurricane Sandy (see above, shot a few blocks from the author's home in New Jersey, two days after Sandy hit; photo by Mason Resnick), parched crops, rivers that are now trickles. Share your images online to make more people aware of how climate change is affecting life at the local level.
10. Take a photo of the planet's beauty and share it
Go out on April 22—Earth Day—and take a photo of the planet's beauty. It can be a magnificent sunrise or sunset, a forest scene, budding spring leaves on trees, animals in the wild. It can be something as small as an insect, or as large as the Grand Canyon. Anything goes. Share them on your favorite social network—or ours! Also be sure to check out Adorama's Go Green Pinterest board. Illustrative photo by Mason Resnick.
Your turn: What are you doing to celebrate, commemorate, or participate in Earth Day? What can the photo industry (manufacturers, retailers, photographers) do to become more earth-friendly? Add your suggestions in the comments, below.