Zero Footprints: Photographers exploring climate-change issues.
Take a step out your front door and take in your surroundings. Maybe you have a rural, secluded vista filled with mountains or sweeping plains. Maybe skyscrapers and high rises jut out of the earth every which way you look. Or maybe it’s just a quiet, tree-lined suburban home with a well-manicured yard.
Now imagine spending the next five years creating photos from where you stand. Only from where you stand. Then put together an incredible photo book to critical acclaim all while making a major statement about protecting our environment. Over the course of five years, f-stop Ambassadors Morag Paterson and Ted Leeming made this seemingly implausible concept into reality with their project and subsequent photo book, Zero Footprint, filled with images created at their home while leaving exactly zero carbon footprint.
August 2011 — This is one of the few photos that Ted and Morag took in the summer months. It shows a good deal of foliage on the trees.
Dream big, live small. Morag and Ted met while living in the same village in Scotland. Both were passionate about issues surrounding environmental protection and conservation as well as photography. Ted had been working in the renewable energy industry for 25 years before Ted re-established himself as a landscape photographer. In fact the renewable energy business he started with a friend in the 1990’s now manages 27% of the wind farms in the UK. Morag had been living self-sufficiently for seven years before meeting Ted, including growing all her own vegetables and running a handmade soap business.
In 2004 Ted and Morag began a landscape photography business together with fighting climate change at its core. They wanted to show more than just the effect climate change was having on the environment around them, but also to show how climate change reaches everyone.
Truly practicing what they preach, they’ve since built a zero-carbon footprint home in Castle Douglas, Scotland, by building it using all-natural materials, including unique fixtures like sheep wool for the insulation and recycled Scottish timber for the doors. They also installed a wind turbine on a hill near their home to provide electricity. They’ve even reforested 11 acres of land around their home with some 3,000 to 4,000 trees to help offset the effects their travel will take on the environment.
Zero Footprint. Morag and Ted conceived Zero Footprint in 2009, imagining creating a collection of images that were impactful, dynamic, and deeply meaningful to their cause while leaving exactly zero carbon footprint. The Zero Footprint project is ongoing and highlights the world and terrain right outside Morag and Ted’s front door. Each and every photo in Zero Footprint was taken from outside their low-carbon home. Using a variety of directions and focal ranges, they documented the ever-changing landscape from a single point, showcasing the flow of weather and changing seasons, the shift of colors and times of day, and the contrast of light and shadow. The first five years of this inspiring project is featured in their book, Zero Footprint.
As they explored the ranges of their photography styles, the project took on a less traditional style of landscape photography due to the focal ranges they had to employ to keep images fresh and not redundant. To add depth and variation to the images captured, Morag and Ted used mainly telephoto lenses for the project, which is unusual for landscape photography, where you can navigate your way to scenic locations to capture dynamic foregrounds and scenery easily.
December 2009 — The end of the autumn colors and the beginning of winter appearing.
Making meaning from nothing. They want their photography to create a positive story about a topic we so often speak so negatively about. Climate change is real and is affecting our environment in potentially catastrophic ways, but they note that we often fail to show the positive changes we’re all taking to find a solution to the issue and want their photography to present all the good we’re doing to encourage others to participate in protecting the world we all share.
With that message comes an authenticity in their composition. Though they certainly sought to capture images that were pleasing and aesthetically lovely, they allowed the truth of their surroundings to survive intact through publishing. They left pylons, power lines, and damaged trees untouched, but also included the positive like replanted trees in their various stages of growth — an encouraging sign of meaningful change.
The changing environment also served to mirror two changing people. Over the five-year period, their aesthetic and photographic style also evolved. From more traditional landscape imagery at the outset of the project, the pair began to embrace a more impressionist style of photography, employing abstract exploration of brushstrokes of light and textures that encourages viewers to bask in images, contemplating our environments and our place and impact within them.
January 2014 — The trees act as a story of environmental change. We can see many of them are destroyed. It symbolizes how things change with time.
Publishing projects — making differences. Ted and Morag now use SmugMug as a home to showcase their photographic projects that are both inspiring and thought-provoking to their audiences. The SmugMug platform allows their photographs to be shown in the flow that they were taken. The Zero Footprint project takes us on a journey through the various seasons and shows us just how fragile our landscapes are.
Ted and Morag’s dedication to their projects has captured the minds of many across the world and makes them worthy partners of SmugMug, f-stop, Canon, Paramo, and Ocean Capture.
It’s not about the photos. Morag and Ted are resolute in their goal for this project. Refusal to acknowledge humanity’s role in climate change is irrelevant. Morag said, “Whether it’s down to humans or not, the climate is changing; and I would still live the way we live because it’s about protecting biodiversity and trying to avoid stripping the earth of its natural resources.”
November 2014 — The series takes on a darker, somewhat monochromatic feel now. We see the man-made elements present in this photograph.
They both want to encourage people to engage in photographing their local landscape and observe the changes. Real change can occur and real awareness can spread when the average population begins to engage in, understand, and appreciate their local surroundings. Believing that there’s an element of therapy in their photography that leads to a mindfulness about how they live and move throughout their environments, they also want people to put down their cameras now and again to be present and interact with this world we all call home.
Morag said, “There is a movement to engage in local landscapes — be more mindful and observant and look to see how climate change is symptomatic of how we live and how society works.”
January 2014 — The low winter light casts shadows over the landscape.
Find out more. You can view all of Ted and Morag’s inspiring projects and purchase their wonderful prints on their SmugMug website here.
Mar 8, 2018 · 3 min read