The other day, I was chatting online with a photographer who I recently became acquainted with. I initially reached out because I wanted to pay him a compliment on a beautiful waterfall photo that he took the in Pacific Northwest area. When I asked him which waterfall it was, his response was utterly bewildering to me. He expressed hesitation about sharing the location because he had done his research and wanted to keep the location as proprietary as possible because of the work he put into locating it. It wasn’t a matter of trespassing or anything like that… he assured me that it was public grounds. But, he didn’t feel comfortable sharing the location because he wanted to minimize how many other photographers would find it.
Now here’s where I scratch my head. We’re all here willingly participating in this social media stratosphere that was built for us, right? You share the comings and goings of your day. I share a photo and a story. We all pitch in by sharing content of varying degrees of interest, candidness, and relevance. When I share a photo, I have every intention of sharing all of it with you. This includes the experience of taking the photo, any lessons learned, and, when applicable, the coordinates of where it was taken. Of course, there are times when I don’t have the coordinates because I didn’t log them and was too lazy to retroactively add them in, but it is never the case of intentionally hiding them from anyone for fear that they may gasp want to enjoy the location, too. If someone was ever interested in where a photo of mine was taken and the geodata wasn’t embedded, all they’d need to do is ask. Now, I understand that, in some situations, it is actually necessary to withhold location info. Often times, when photographing in abandoned structures, it simply isn’t prudent to share that information. I can get behind that.
However, when it comes to this notion that a certain location in nature and on public grounds needs to be protected to maintain exclusivity, I am simply at a loss. You may say that the photographer has every right to withhold that info because he/she put the energy and time to research where it is and how to get there. Even that doesn’t fit in my book of reasons to prevent others from enjoying it. You know what it does show me? It shows me that this photographer has a lack of confidence. Here you have a photographer who is intentionally withholding basic location information. Actually, he wouldn’t even tell me the name of the falls! But he’s withholding this information because he doesn’t want others to easily find it. On what planet does this make sense? Do you have such little confidence in your own abilities as a photographer that you would intentionally keep others from taking a crack?
If you boil it down, there are so many variables that would dictate how I would get my photo and how that would, more than likely, result in you getting something entirely different. Let’s put hardware and photography experience aside. You’ve got to contend with variables such as the time of day, the time of year, the weather conditions, the conditions of the surrounding area, and all sorts of other factors that can make your experience utterly different than mine. And then you get to layer on differences in hardware (your telephoto vs my fisheye) and overall photography experience.
The way that I see it, if there is a particularly picturesque location in nature, and especially if it’s on public land, then everyone who is interested in experiencing it should have that opportunity. Not only will I not stand in your way, but I’ll tell you the exact coordinates of the location and be more than happy to share any notable things to look out for or avoid. Sharing can be such a cathartic and rewarding act when it’s done with selflessly and with good intention. Don’t prove your worth as a photographer by holding others back. Prove it by consistently sharing great content.
For the record, I took this at Upper Ruckel Creek Falls, just off I-84 along the Columbia River Gorge. The actual geodata is embedded within the image. :)
Now, if you’ve made it this far, then I congratulate you. But, I also would like to know if you agree or disagree here. If you stumbled onto a beautiful new waterfall and I asked about it later on, would you share the details? Why or why not?
Camera: Sony a7II with the Sony FE 24-70mm f/4
Filter: Formatt Hitech Firecrest 105mm Circular Polarizer
Tripod: Really Right Stuff TVC-34L/BH-55
Stylization: Adobe Lightroom 5.7