With the rapid adoption of social media over the last ten years, hoards of information has now become available to anyone who is curious. Simply searching through the popular Facebook and Instagram accounts will reveal stunning photos of landscapes, cities, and small rural towns that not too long ago few had truly known about.
That rapid spread of information is putting a huge strain on many of these locations. National Parks, hikes, and rural villages simply cannot handle huge influxes of travelers all hoping to get their shot of the newly social media famous location. As a photographer, a few often shared images in particular immediately come to mind: Mesa Arch, Tunnel View in Yosemite, Iceland, Hallstatt, Venice… and so on.
Some of these places are more equipped to handle large crowds. Tunnel View, for example, has a large place to handle big crowds of tourists. But what about some places like the Wave, which now has limits on the number of people that can visit each day? It’s great that the Wave is taking precautions, but many others are not and we are seeing the damage unfold, with greater destruction happening every year (cough… Lake Elsinore Superbloom…).
In an age where everyone is set on getting their “internet points” by snapping a selfie or quick snapshot at these places, it is easy to think “well, I’m just one more person.” And that may be somewhat true. But what I find concerning is when people begin to look for that next best thing, and we as photographers are setting it up to them on a silver platter by doing one thing in particular: Location sharing.
Now I get it. There are some locations that are awesome and we just love sharing that with friends and others who want to experience it themselves. I will gladly tell people within my circle about an amazing campsite, photo spot, or less known national or state park trail that should be experienced. But what I will no longer do is broadcast these less known locations on social media.
I know that I’m not the most talented photographer and that the likelihood of one of my images will go viral enough to steer swarms of people to the places I shoot. But what if just one does? What if it is at one of my deeply personal, favorite locations that maybe only 30 people know about? What if suddenly, that spot gets 150 visitors per day, and when I go back in the future there are tons of trampled areas, trash, and scars in the land?
This is no longer something I am ok with. I strongly believe that we as photographers have a challenging responsibility to share images of amazing locations and views without necessarily directing those with either destructive intentions or ignorance to them. This is what I think about too whenever I go to places that are not deeply personal to me, but I know that they are to someone. So I’m sticking to this year’s resolution to never share location information. I will usually tag the state it’s in, or tag the location only if it’s a well known spot like Tunnel View or Delicate Arch. Because, I mean everyone knows them already.
But, as I seek out lesser known spots that are reliant on staying pristine and lightly visited to maintain their charm, I won’t be the one to out that location. I hope that other photographers will join me in doing the same.