This is a topic that comes up now and again on forums and social media and it can become a heated debate. This post is my thoughts on this issue, but first a little background on how I shoot. I spend close to 300 hours, or more, per year scouting out locations. And I’d guess that less than 5% of all my portfolio images are “happy accidents”. The rest have all been thoroughly scouted out. So the location of an image, in terms of time invested, represents a major portion of my photography efforts. I’d say 25%.
The crazy thing is that the location of an image is starting to seem more important than the quality or emotional connection to the image. Social media comments are more and more looking like:
Nice shot, where was that taken?
Often the “Nice shot” part is left out. And should a photographer resist or, heaven forbid, refuse to disclose the location, the response from social media can be very unkind.
With that preface out of the way I’d like to touch on some of the issues that come to mind with respect to the issue of sharing a photo’s location.
Entitlement & Judgement
I’ve provided pretty detailed information on my shooting locations for as long as I’ve had a presence on the internet. But much of the information that folks want photographers to provide for free is hard-earned and often part of their work or business. I really can’t see people walking into a restaurant and demanding free food, but that’s equivalent to what is asked of photographers.
Responsibility to Nature
A huge dilemma for me, and many photographers, is that by photographing and publishing beautiful images of stunning locations we are creating an environment that helps to destroy the locations we cherish. The reality is that many of these locations just can’t handle the current amount of traffic that they receive let alone an increase due to the extra exposure online image posting can bring. In addition there is an unstated pressure to always one up the last image by going further off trail, using drones or whatever else it takes to create more internet exposure. And many of these choices can permanently ruin these locations for everyone.
I confess that I don’t have any easy answers to these challenging issues. But I guess I feel that it all comes down to respect. Respect for nature and respect for the photographers who work hard to capture the images that pique our curiosity.
It’s my goal to capture images in a way that allows the next person to share my experience, so I’m working hard to “Leave No Trace”, and in addition I’ll be adding a few “Updated Leave No Trace Practices”.
And I’ll keep trying to learn more about nature to become a less intrusive photographer. Cause without a beautiful natural world, landscape photography doesn’t exist.