On today’s show we have a really special guest. You may have followed them on Instagram, I’m sure most of you have, and you’ve seen their beautiful work at national parks with couples on cliffs and trails; they have some stunning work. On today’s show we have Abbi Hearne joining us of the Hearne’s Photography and we’re talking about a really important topic: Leave No Trace. We’re going to dive into it in the episode, so I won’t talk about it too much right now but let me just tell you that Abbi has a ton of really valuable information on this topic, and I’m so grateful she was able to come on the show and share all of her thoughts and advice on it. If you are interested in adventure wedding photography or if that’s something that you do, there are so many good reminders and valuable insights on Leave No Trace for you in this episode, so pay attention, take notes if you can. I’m so excited for you guys to listen to this episode. It’s so good! I could rave about it all day, but instead I’ll just let you start listening!
Joelle: Welcome to the show, Abbi! I’m so excited that you’re on here, like I was telling you just now, you have been super inspirational and informative with all of your posts on Instagram about Leave No Trace, and I’m really excited to dive into that, but before we get into the nitty gritty of it all, I would love for you to give a little background on who you are, where you’re from, and a short synopsis of how you got started with all of this.
Abbi: Awesome! Thank you so much for having me. My name is Abbi Hearne, and I’m married to Callen Hearne. We both live on the road. We’ve been living on the road for almost two and a half years now. I just calculated that our 1000th day on the road will be June 2nd, so that’s random and awesome.
Joelle: Congrats! That’s cool!
Abbi: We live in a giant truck, rig, camper thing, and we are adventure wedding photographers. We shoot weddings all over the western US. We spend a lot of time in Yosemite National Park and Moab, Utah. Those are kind of our main places, but we go all over Arizona, and we really like Wyoming and Washington, and last summer we went up to Alaska and really loved that, so we’re planning to go again this summer, but yeah, we joke that anywhere west of the Continental Divide is where you can find us. We’ve been loving it so far. It comes with its difficulties, but overall, it’s a pretty amazing lifestyle.
Joelle: Yeah, and you guys rock at it! How long did you say you’ve been doing this?
Abbi: We started in September 2016. That’s when our lease ended in Texas.
Joelle: Wow! It feels like it’s been so much longer. I guess it’s 2019 now, so it’s a little longer than that, but that’s so cool. I love seeing everything that you guys do. The biggest reason I wanted to have you on the podcast today is to talk about Leave No Trace. Like I was telling you earlier, I had never heard about Leave No Trace, had no idea it was a thing until about a year ago when I saw an article that you and Maddie Mae put together, and it just really opened my eyes to this whole new world of being so much more environmentally conscious about our public lands, and just being a good human in those areas and so I would love to hear more on the subject from you today, but first I guess we’ll just start with the basics. I’m sure a lot of people are listening who, like me, have no idea what the heck we’re talking about right now, so can you just give a small definition of what Leave No Trace is?
Abbi: Yeah, absolutely. So, Leave No Trace or often abbreviated LNT is basically guidelines for how to enjoy the outdoors, and have as minimal impact on them as you can. It’s on the premise that every human recreating in the outdoors, we’re having some level of impact. The natural places that we go to would probably be, best case scenario, that no humans ever go there and make fires and go to the restroom and do the things that humans do in places, but because we do, we have these guidelines. They’re not black and white. They’re not for sure this one is right, this one is wrong, but they are ideas to help you think of the impact you’re having, and then give advice on how to have minimal impact.
Joelle: Have you always been a pretty big advocate for Leave No Trace? Since you guys got started with this is that around the time when you started being more conscious about this, or has this always been engrained in you?
Abbi: I’m really glad you asked this question because we actually both grew up going outdoors with our families. I went to national parks on road trips and such, but we actually didn’t really know about Leave No Trace until just a few years ago, even after we started on our own going into national parks and doing our own adventures and road trips. I think really when we started learning about it, Callen worked at REI fora whilee, and I’m sure he heard about it then, but it was once I started seeing the impact people were having on the outdoors that I started doing this research, learning about it, and asking other people how we can have a minimal impact because I was seeing first hand these beautiful places that even in just two or three years were becoming more and more destroyed, and you could tell that a lot of people had gone there.
I can’t remember when REI launched their Opt Outside Campaign and they started shutting down on Black Fridays instead of staying open, and really when they did that, the outdoors and outdoor recreation just skyrocketed in the US. It was a really good thing, obviously. It’s amazing that people are going outside, and more people care about the outdoors, but it also kind of had a negative impact in the sense that it sent a lot of people into the outdoors without knowing how to have a minimal impact, and how to love and enjoy and respect the outdoors. They just go to national parks and assume they can do whatever they want and have no issues. I think I started doing my own research pretty late in my own outdoor enjoyment which I think should be encouraging for anyone listening that thinks, “I had no idea what this was.” There’s no way for you to for sure know it, you’re not forced to learn it before going into a national park, so I hope anyone listening that has never heard of it can start doing their own research and learn how to have a minimal impact and telling people around them.
Joelle: Absolutely. That’s awesome! So, I have a basic understanding now of LNT and I know that there are seven basic principles, is that right?
Joelle: Would you mind listing those and kind of walking us through each of them?
Abbi: Yeah, so the seven Leave No Trace principles are:
Abbi: Those are all of the principles, the seven original ones. There’s actually like social media guidelines as well.
Joelle: Oh really? Yes, please!
Abbi: Okay, yeah, so this is kind of cool. The Leave No Trace guidelines have been around for a long time, and now there’s these new guidelines regarding social media.
Abbi: Those were the social media guidelines. Both of these can be found by googling Leave No Trace Principles or google Leave No Trace Social Media, and I think they’re the top link for both.
Joelle: I’m so glad you brought that up. I had no idea about the social media side, and it all makes so much sense. I just have to say I really appreciate the way you handle yourself in all of this. You have such poise and grace about you when you talk about these things, and I feel like it’s so much more powerful that way, so thank you for that. It’s a great example for all of us.
I want to kind of touch base on one of your posts from last fall. In October you shared on your Instagram about how you had seriously considered quitting this incredible job, and never booking a wedding in public lands again only because you were afraid that you could be having a more negative impact than a good one. Instead, you decided to take action and you sat down with the Moab Bureau of Land Management to talk about ways you guys could help each other, and I love that you took action on that for a more positive difference rather than just stepping back. You recognized the positive power and influence you could have on the subject which I think is an incredible example for all of us. Following up on that I would love to hear if you don’t mind sharing what all you guys talked about. Is there anything you can share about the ways you guys will be working together this year?
Abbi: Totally. Yeah, my friends that are the ones I text when I’m upset know about this. My monthly meltdown about photography in the outdoors and those kinds of things. Honestly, it’s typically spurred by seeing a fellow photographer going to one of the places we’ve been to quite a few times, and we’ve posted photos of, and they’ll go take photos there, and it my head I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’m making the next horseshoe bend, this is 100% my fault if this place becomes destroyed because it becomes trendy in the wedding world”, and then I just spiral.
Basically, I started coaching myself and realizing is that this is happening whether I am involved in it or not. People are more attracted to the outdoors, the idea of getting married in the outdoors has become more and more popular, and even outside of the wedding industry, more people are wanting to recreate in the outdoors. I constantly try and remind myself that overall this is a good thing, and it’s good for the human race, and it’s good for our country, and for these outdoor spaces I hope. Basically, I’ve realized that I can have a better impact, or I think I can have a better impact by being involved in these places and posting and sharing and with the following I have, using that power to educate people on how to spend their time in the outdoors. I really love doing posts about the cryptobiotic soil, and I love when I get messages from people saying, “I came to Moab for the first time, and I saw this crypto, and I told everyone in my group about it and how we need to stay on trail to avoid it”, and it just makes my day because these are people that maybe would have never known.
Overall, I hope that we’re still having a positive impact, but it definitely is something that I’m aware of, and I’m fearful of the idea of inspiring people to go somewhere and then not knowing how to treat it, or even my impact personally by going to these places over and over, so yeah, this October I sat down with Moab BLM and I actually talked to one of the staff people about a year before that, and we got to know each other, and they knew who we were and our website and we stayed connected and finally this fall we were in Moab and I had time and I was like, “Hey, can we sit down and just talk through what the heck is going on, and if we have any ideas for how to help each other make it better”, because we both have the end goal of preserving and protecting the lands, and that’s something I will say is different about our business is that our number one priority is the land and we choose not to work with couples that aren’t going to respect that.
We try really hard to put that out there and let them know before they book with us that that’s important to us, and in the end, we would never choose our service and our job over protecting these places long term. I think BLM feels the same way and when we talked with them, their issue is it’s becoming so popular to get married in Moab, and for adventure elopements to happen in Moab, or adventure weddings and their issue is that a lot of people are coming in and just assuming they can wander wherever they want with fifteen people and because it’s a small wedding it’s a minimal impact on the land, and they’re not realizing that if every weekend multiple people, groups of fifteen, are walking out on crypto, to have a ceremony in some beautiful, remote, off the beaten path place that’s going to have a really negative impact, and especially because it is photos of people standing on crypto, or photos of people breaking these rules that has a widespread impact beyond anything we can figure out. That’s BLM’s issue and I am on the same team as them, and I want to figure out how to fix it.
Our solution this year is that they’re testing out their permitting process on us by having us apply as a special recreation permit, which is the permit that anyone that does jeep touring or hike tours or canyoneering, anything that provides a service that brings people into the outdoors, and Moab BLM has to have this permit, so we have it, which means that we go over every single one of our locations with them, and they all have to be approved based on location and number of people. We also have shown them and proven to them our emergency responses, so that we have an in reach in case of emergency. It’s kind of a thing that even if we’re out of cell phone service, we can send an SOS and it contacts the nearest search and rescue. Obviously, we hope we never have to use that with one of our wedding couples, but in case of emergency, and all kinds of other things. We basically had to prove to them that we are worthy of bringing people into the outdoors and that we have plans in place for if things go wrong.
The difficult thing, and what they’re trying to figure out, and we’re helping with, is that it’s really hard to make every single wedding photographer that comes to Moab get the permit because it was a long process, and it’s complicated, and it’s like a year long permit, so if someone’s doing one wedding in April, they’re not going to be that motivated to get this one permit. With BLM it’s also really difficult to enforce anything and make sure people have the permits because they have so few officers out there. It’s still difficult, and it’s still an issue, but we’re trying to figure it out, and I think it could be helpful for the national parks where the couple has to get a permit for their location and number of people, and that way it’s not the photographer who is in charge of the permits each year, but each couple has to get a permit for their wedding.
Obviously, there will always be people that break rules, but that’s not a reason to not put rules in place. I have hope for where this can go and I hope that it encourages more photographers to pay attention to local rangers and local BLM and learn how they can have minimal impact and how they can most benefit BLM because another part of that permit is at the end of the year, we will pay back 3% of our earnings in Moab to the BLM service. When I was telling a friend about that, they were like, “Oh my gosh, 3% is so much”, and I was like, “It is, but also, it’s going to BLM who is maintaining the lands that we’re using”, so really to me a 3% studio fee is pretty low. I have no issue with that money going to BLM. I think it would be amazing if every single wedding that occurred in Moab, if 3% of the photographer’s earnings went to BLM because that would just be huge for them and help them a lot. Obviously, they’re not like rolling in cash. I think it could be really good if everyone pursued something like that, but it will be difficult to figure out how to enforce it and educate every photographer about that plan.
Joelle: I love how well thought out all of this is. It just makes me appreciate our national parks even more, and everything that you guys are doing. You bring up another question, so I would love to hear from you, what are some ways that photographers can plan ahead whenever they have adventure weddings in national parks? How can they properly prepare?
Abbi: Such a good question. So, for wedding photographers, if you book a wedding in a national park, it’s really important to realize that every national park requires a permit for the wedding. That’s almost always up to the couple to get. We always tell our couple about it, and in every national park I’ve worked in, they’ve required that the permit say the place the wedding ceremony will occur, and a time slot. In Yosemite we typically pick Glacier Point, it’s one of the more popular wedding ceremony locations, so as soon as they want to book with me, I tell them, get your permit from Yosemite, and as soon as you have a permit, we’ll book that date because sometimes the park will come back and say the next day or the day before is a little better. They’ll book Glacier Point from 1 PM to 3 PM or something like that and their ceremony will be at 2:30 or 2:00. That’s just something that everyone needs to get. Basically, it helps the park understand what is happening, know what’s happening, and especially at a place like Glacier Point where so many people want to get married there, and make sure that someone else isn’t getting married there at the same time as you. Obviously, that would not be ideal. Yosemite is one of the parks that I have definitely had that permit be enforced and they want us to have it on hand, but we always make our couples get the permit and have a printed copy with us while we’re hiking, or when it’s obvious that we are a photographer crew with a wedding couple, it’s important to have the permit. That’s a big one.
Also, I am a strong proponent of scouting beforehand. So, I actually just a few days ago got an email from a photographer that had just booked her first Yosemite adventure session, or I think it was an adventure wedding, and she was super excited, and she was like, “Hey, I just booked this, I’ve never been to Yosemite, do you have any suggestions for where we should go?” I was just like okay, our couples pay us a lot of money for that information, and for that knowledge, and it’s hard because honestly I believe that you should know the place before you’re taking a couple there because first, it’s one of the Leave No Trace principles, but also as an adventure photographer, you’re typically viewed as their host, and while you aren’t technically their guide, they kind of see you as that, and a lot of our couples have never been to these places before, so they’ll book with us in Yosemite, and it’s their first time in Yosemite, and they’re trusting us to show them the way and show them where to go. I feel like it’s really important to know the place beforehand. Ideally, you would go there and physically walk around and scout and have a few days or go and do a trip before the trip for the wedding and just get to know the area and do research and it’s amazing because you’re in Yosemite. It’s not that bad of a thing to have to do before a wedding. I think that’s really important. If you can’t go there beforehand, I think there’s a lot of ways to scout from afar. Using Google Maps, Google Earth, with Yosemite it’s really important to understand the traffic patterns and know that the Valley Loop is one way and if you’re going to have your wedding ceremony in Ackerson Meadow and then go take photos and do a picnic at Cathedral Beach, you should probably park at the cross-thru instead of having to do the entire loop to get back to the beach. Little things like that are really important to look at it beforehand. I can’t possibly tell a photographer that, even if I wanted to, but the bottom line is, if people hired you the photographer, you should be the expert. You should be the one that knows the information that they need. That’s something that I really believe in, and so it does kind of irritate me when I see people that book something and then they’re like, “What do we do?”. You need to figure it out for yourself.
I think those are really important things, and then definitely know the Leave No Trace guidelines, talk to rangers, you can almost always call an office and get on the phone with someone and say, “Hey, I’m going to shoot a wedding here. We got our permit for this time, what do I need to know?” People are so happy to tell you that because they want the parks to be viewed and enjoyed and they love when people care about that, and want to do it in a sustainable way. That’s kind of my main advice.
Joelle: Solid advice! Seriously! Okay, going off of that, I’d love to hear a little about how you guys educate your couples before you go on a hike, and meet up and do the whole shebang. What are some things you tell them ahead of time? How do you prep them?
Abbi: So, first and foremost, our social media is a huge way to do this. It’s something where I’m sharing it because it’s what I care about, but it’s also a strategic move because almost all of our couples find us through Instagram, and even if they don’t, they follow us on Instagram, and so by me posting it, often, we will get to Moab and we’ll be about to do our crypto spiel and my bride will be like, “Oh yeah, that’s crypto”, and it’s amazing because she’s says she’s seen it in our stories. That’s our frontline of telling people and making sure that most of the people we’re interacting with know about it.
On top of that, with our couples, we have a guide we send out to them beforehand, and I actually have been working on it over Christmas break because our guide has kind of always had guidelines, and encouraged people to know about Leave No Trace, but I’ve been putting in more work to have it be like very specific and tell them our expectations and what they can expect from us, and that we are for the parks and those kinds of things. I’ve thought about possibly doing custom guides for locations for specific things to know about Yosemite that are for sustainability, and also things that are helpful like that the restrooms are disgusting.
So that’s how we educate them before hand, and we have it in our contract that we won’t do things that are hurtful for the park or things that could put our couple in danger when they’re in the park, and that kind of thing. We always set expectations beforehand to where when we do get to the place, and we are hiking, and if your bride were to say, “Hey could we take a photo over there?”, and I respond, “We have to stomp on crypto to get to that spot, so I’d rather not.” With all of these expectations before hand they will likely say, “Oh, good point, I didn’t even notice that.” Whereas if I haven’t put any of that out there before, they might be like “What the heck is crypto? I want to go take that photo.” So, I think beforehand expectations are important.
We also, before every session, when we actually meet up with a couple, we do a spiel about how we take our photos and what to expect in that realm, and then I’ll also educate them on the specific area, and as we’re hiking out I’ll point out what cryptobiotic soil is, or in Yosemite we often pick up trash, and it’s cool because our couples typically pick up on that and start picking up trash as well. Things like that are all about leading by example and then educating them beforehand. That’s really important to me, so if I see them do something that is wrong, or if I see them pulling out confetti for a ceremony, and I didn’t know about it beforehand, instead of being like “Oh my gosh, you can’t do that, that’s ridiculous, you’re littering”, I’ll pull them aside and say, “Hey, they encourage people not to throw confetti in the park because this is technically litter and even if it’s biodegradable, the next few people that come and view this area, there will be confetti all over the ground, so could we do this photo in the parking lot where we’ll be able to pick it up?”, or something like that. We try to come up with new ideas and so far, every single time they have completely understood and known that I was putting them and the park at the top of my priorities, and I wasn’t trying to be rude or ruin their plans and that kind of thing. I think having them know we care about it is super important.
Joelle: Yeah, it’s a super valuable approach rather than just shutting them down. I love that you come up with a compromise, so they can still find a good middle for both of you, while still being respectful. That’s awesome.
So, you’ve talked about here and there, about the reasons why you no longer disclose exactly where your photo spots are around national parks, and you kind of touched base on that with the new social media LNT principles, too, which is awesome. Do you guys ask your couples not to share the different locations that you guys go to for their couple photos as well? Or do you just trust that they won’t say anything?
Abbi: With that, I don’t specifically ask them not to. I talk to them about why I don’t, and typically our couples have gone away from their wedding deciding that they don’t want to share the location either. Sometimes it’s because they feel like it’s their special location, and sometimes it’s for Leave No Trace, but that’s something that I honestly still feel like is up to the user on Instagram. It’s definitely something that a lot of people like to share specific locations, a lot of people really hate when you won’t. I personally do not, but I don’t think I have the grounds to tell other people not to.
For our couples, sometimes I’ll bring them to a place that is very special to us, and is something I really don’t want shared, and in that case, I will explain to them that I don’t want them to disclose the location, and unfortunately on Instagram, people can be so sneaky and I’ve had people ask me for a location and I’ve refused to give it, and they have messaged my couple directly and asked them. I just encourage them to tag Arches National Park or in Moab, I always just tag Moab, Utah which could be anywhere. That’s what I tag. I think I typically encourage my couples to do that, but I’m also not going to go after them if I see them tagging specific locations.
Joelle: Awesome. I just think that’s a really good rule of thumb. This has all been so informative, I cannot thank you enough for all of this. Thank you so, so much! Is there anything else you would like to leave with us as we wrap up this episode?
Abbi: Thank you so much for asking all of these questions. It’s been really good. I would say moving forward, the biggest thing is to realize that there’s not these like noble, wonderful Leave No Trace advocates that will always know more than you. You as a person can always learn how to Leave No Trace, how to best respect the land. You can learn about the specific places you go to, and the best way to love and have minimal impact on them, and you don’t need to just leave it up to the warriors that you see on social media that know everything. Do this research for yourself and figure out for yourself. Talk to rangers. The biggest thing is to realize that if we’re learning anything from this giant government shut down that’s happening right now, the national parks are run by the staff. The staff are so important to these places. One thing I’ve learned this year is nobody loves the parks like the park staff do. Those rangers in the parks, I mean I know sometimes It’s like “Oh, rangers are cops, and I don’t want to see their car because I’m going to get in trouble”, but rangers care about the parks, they care about the visitors and they want the best for both. I would say just talk to rangers, talk to the people working at the visitor center, get to know the people caring for these places because they know what’s best for the individual park you’re at, and then learn for yourself and do your own research and figure out ways you can love these places. It’s not cool to break rules. Nature is really important and really fragile, and we want to learn how to respect it the most we possibly can.
Joelle: Amen to that! Awesome! Well guys if you were in the car and you couldn’t take notes, or you just want to be able to look back on the written version of this episode to use for future reference, we will have show notes up, and you can find those at the link www.hearttoheartofficial.com/21. We’ll have all of this information up for you guys to be able to look back on. Thank you so much Abbi for all of this! This was so informative, so helpful. I love everything that you’re doing, all the ways you’re advocating for this, and I’ve just learned so much, and I’m excited to learn more from you!
Last question, how can people find you and keep up with you?
Abbi: You can find me on Instagram @abbihearne, and then linked in that profile is our adventure weddings account @thehearnes, and you can find Callen in there as well. That’s the best way to find us or if you want to go to our website, www.thehearnes.com, that has our blog and our wedding work, and that’s how you would contact us for adventure wedding inquiries. Really, social media is the best way to follow along, and I’m extremely active on both accounts. It’s me running @thehearnes account and sometimes I’ll post the same thing on both, but it’s almost always different so a lot of people like to follow both, but I would say whichever one applies to you and is the most interesting to you.
Joelle: Awesome! You heard it guys! Go follow her. They have some amazing work and if you don’t follow them already you are seriously missing out! Thank you so, so much Abbi!
I am just blown away by all of the information that Abbi shared and just so grateful that she came on the show. I know I’ve said it a million times, but I really could not be more grateful for her for sharing all of this valuable insight.
A couple of things as we wrap things up. First of all, show notes. You can find everything that we talked about at www.heartoheartofficial.com/21. That’s where you can find the transcripts, links, and everything so you can have it for future reference or if you weren’t able to take notes that’s where you’ll be able to find all of the information. I know I myself will probably be looking back on it a couple different times because I love everything that was shared. It was so valuable.
Second, please, please, please leave us a review, especially for this episode! When you leave a review, you are able to increase our chances of getting boosted in the rankings and we can reach more people that way. For this episode especially, we want to be able to reach as many people as possible so that we can really spread the positive impact and word on caring for our environment in our national parks in a much more meaningful, conscious way. If you guys could please go leave a review, that would seriously mean the world, not only to me, but also to Abbi, so that we can spread the word around and get people thinking more conscientiously about the effect that we are having on our national parks.
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Lastly, this episode is brought to you by my new Bible Study Guide on the book of Ruth. I’m calling it the Ruth Guide, and it’s made such a positive difference in my life. Basically, a couple months ago, I sat down, really dug into the book of Ruth, and I was honestly shocked at how much I found. If you grew up in the church or hearing Bible stories, you probably heard the very basic story line on the book of Ruth about her loyalty and how much courage it took for her to go to a new land that she was completely unfamiliar with, but when you really look deeper into the story, there is so much more to be uncovered. In this twenty-one-page guide, I go through all four chapters and break down the historical context, the cultural context and the deeper meanings that I never knew about and I think most people don’t. I’m so excited about this so you can find that on our website, www.hearttoheartofficial.com/shop. I would highly encourage you to check it out and if you use the promo code HEARTTOHEART, you can get it for 50% off, so be sure you go check it out! I’m so excited to see the impact it makes. Until next time, thank you so much for turning in! It means the world! Don’t forget to leave a review! Bye!