Should we Stop location sharing?

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.

What are your thoughts on location sharing? This is one of my all time, lifelong favorite spots. There’s a 0% chance I would share it.

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.

Best,

Brian

10 Comments on “Should we Stop location sharing?

    • Exactly! It’s such a tricky balance. I think popular areas are fine. Parks are ok as long as smaller, less visited spots are generally referenced as just the park to inspire visitors. And then really off the trail type places with almost no visitors should be kept quiet. That’s at least what I’ve been going with, hoping that at least if I don’t necessarily share the exact coordinates but show that “hey, upstate NY is amazing” then it will inspire people to hike too. Tough!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Very good point. I’m privileged to live and work in a national park. In the last few years, visitation jumped from 2 million per year to 4.5 million per year, in a six mile long narrow canyon that only has one entrance. There are other parts in the park to visit, but the majority come here to hike two popular hikes that are both narrow and dangerous and one also has to backtrack.

    When I take photos and share them, I rarely say where they are for the reasons you mentioned. Some, like sensitive rock art like petroglyphs and pictographs, I won’t even tell my co-workers where they are.

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    • Thanks for your thoughts, Kelly. Glad to hear I’m not the only one that stays a bit quiet. Based on your description I’m fairly sure I know where you are, and agree there’s lots that make sense to keep to yourself there!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the initiative you are taking in this post. It is a very hard decision to make but I think it is important. When locating a place I’m writing about I’m starting to try and use the general term for the surrounding area. Like in my recent Instagram post I said “New England”. But sometimes when writing I feel it’s a little bit harder to be general.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Deanna! Yeah I’ve been doing the same anytime I post a photo that isn’t in a well known park or location. I’ll invite friends to tag along but never share anymore. It’s easy to see the damage with a quick google search of influencers taking over somewhere that used to be pristine

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an interesting topic and as a photographer an important one to address. While i feel like location sharing is okay so long as the area is open to the general public. It wouldn’t be cool to share the loction of someones private property even if it is quite “remote”. I can understand why we should be concerned about the impact on giving out location information. Most people can be quite thoughtless and careless in their actions. Still, you cannot be responsible for the actions of other people.

    Cheers and nice photos by the way!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I completely agree that it is an incredibly grey topic area. I only disagree in that I think lesser known, remote areas should be kept under wraps even if they are technically “available” to the public. An example would be state game lands or national forests, where anyone can go in and hike and see the area. However, if the area isn’t set up to handle large volumes of people (ex. Yellowstone), then the increased number of visitors could do a good deal of harm to the area. I know we can’t be responsible for the actions of others, but we can watch our own and recognize when there is somewhere that is fragile or maybe holds value to us in that it is quiet and secluded. Those types of places should be protected 🙂

      And thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. *Sigh* This is a tricky one. Since 2017, Banff and Lake Louise have been bombarded with masses of tourists, both local and abroad. We do not have the infrastructure to deal with so many people. The vast majority just want to take that one IG shot of the lake. Others, like myself, are going to these locations to climb and scramble the surrounding peaks. I haven’t been able to visit my local Banff park in the summer for years, due to overcrowding. The National Parks actually asked people to NOT location tag their photos! Covid has been a blessing by reducing the amount of tourists. I have been able to hike here two times, and am planning a third one soon.

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    • ah, I am well aware of Lake Louise and it’s prominence online. That is a great example of oversharing run rampant! I’m glad that you are able to hike a bit more.

      Liked by 1 person

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