Fork in the trail?


Pick it up.

Summer cleanup – you can help

Story and photos by Derek Doeffinger

We Finger Lakes folk love the outdoors in summer. Sometimes too much. Fortunately, we are usually pretty good about keeping our trails and parks clean. But not quite perfect. I know because time and again when I photograph wildflowers or waterfalls while looking through the viewfinder I spot a crumpled can, a discarded tissue, a styrofoam cup, socks, even the occasional underwear (hopefully not yours) in my scene.

Unfortunately, even one ill-placed snack wrapper can tarnish an otherwise pristine scene.

I confess that I’ve not always been diligent in removing stray litter, even though I’ve always admired those inspirational volunteers who spend time picking up the discards of others.

Now I’m going to join them. In my own way. Instead of using Photoshop to remove the litter in my photos I’ve gotten into the habit of picking it up and carrying it out. By the end of summer, it’s inevitable that our heavily used trails begin to accumulate some litter.

So along with lenses and filters, I’ve added a more practical accessory to my camera bag, a kitchen trash bag. It can double to protect gear from rain and waterfall spray but more importantly when I come across litter, I can help restore the trails to a more natural harmony.


Derek Doeffinger spent a few decades at Kodak explaining how people can take better pictures and then encouraging them to use Kodak products — especially digital cameras. That last part didn’t quite work out. Fortunately during his Kodak days he became an obsessed outdoor photographer, especially of Finger Lakes waterfalls. He’s written several photos books about the Finger Lakes and digital photography, and now has written quite a few articles for Life in the Finger Lakes.

1 Comment

  • Astrid says:

    Such an important message. It’s really true that everywhere, absolutely everywhere there is some piece of human residue lying around. Yes to picking it up – whether you’re the one who dropped it or carelessly left it behind, or the one to stumble across and get annoyed by its insiduous appearance once again. We can indeed do better! I like the fork in the road analogy – Which path will we take? More litter or more responsibility and respect for the environment?!

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