Do We Have An Obligation To Not Disclose Locations For Nature’s Sake ? – Kevin McNeal
One of the main objectives for any landscape photographer is to photograph new places. Landscape photographers spend countless hours on the Internet,researching, hiking, and exploring all in the name of discovering and being the first to photograph a new place. For obvious reasons we aren’t the first people there but we may be the first to photograph it. So you come back excited from finding this new place, process the image, and then finally post it. Now that you have posted the image, the reviews are in and people love it. But they now want to know where this place is? You know the question I am talking about: “ Love the image and I was wondering if you could maybe tell me where this image was?” I have even been asked even if I could provide GPS coordinated for a particular place. This is where the focus of this article arises; do we have an obligation as a nature photographer first and foremost to reduce the impact of man’s footprints. Does this include not divulging certain locations when asked by fellow photographers. I know I have been guilty of providing locations that I have photographed previously. Whether this is right or wrong the issue needs to be addressed. Forget the fact, that for some professional photographers this is a competing business of locations.
If we go this route, then we have to be aware of the GPS metadata and whether we should remove it before we post. I know with some forums they give you the option to remove the ability to identify the location of your image from other viewers. When I have gone this route I often get emails asking me why I did this and whether I would provide the locations to them anyways. They seem to be annoyed with my lack of forth coming; any other photographers experience this ? Then there is the subject of tagging and keywording the location that allows the image to be “googled” and thus allow the image to get more traffic. This in turn can be good for business.
One of the main problems is with Internet and the popularity of photography forums. A photographer can post an image of a unique place and within days the same forums are filled with similar images from the same place. We often feel the need to share locations to avoid the label of being “selfish”. I am sure there are other words better then selfish but I will stick with that for this article. While teaching workshops I come across many other photographers who hold other photographers in contempt for not sharing. So what is the right thing? I guess this is why I am writing this. I feel an obligation to nature to reduce the impact from other photographers flocking to these areas. I do have a responsibility to keep areas of nature untouched the way they were suppose to be. But is this good for my business, especially in a market that is so competitive for every penny. The counter argument is how can a few others really do any damage to any location. Well in short, it only takes a few opinions’ like this to add up and over a short period of time the damage is irreversible. Many photographers online can receive over 20,000 views on a particular image; that is a lot of photographers that will now want to visit that certain location. I am not sure if there is any answer other then taking away the stigmata that comes with not disclosing locations. As nature photographers we need to avoid asking others where the image was taken or if they can provide any details on the place. It should be okay to say no to these questions. This is just my two cents. I would love to know what you think?
Any suggestions to this dilemma?