Social Media is probably one of the reasons, why most of the people are trying to capture photos, that are as unique as possible. While this may work for the social profile, it’s often anything else than social.
I am not sure, if this was always the case, but platforms like Instagram seem to motivate people to get as creative as possible about their photos, so that their images would stand out from the crowd. While I totally understand this behavior and like it from the perspective as a creative person, I see the other side of the coin more and more often and it feels like it’s getting worse and worse every year during my travels around the globe.
Enjoying this beautiful waterfall called Marymere Falls near Seattle isn't always that easy. The fence doesn't prevent people from getting down there and in this case there were around 50 people (some of them were even yelling at them), that had to wait for quite some time until they finished their private photo shooting. What a nice way of this mother to teach her son how to make friends and how to respect other people...
Tourism is definitely on a peak right now and while some might think that this is the whole issue why so many places are so crowded, I am kind of glad, that so many people can afford to travel and to see the world. Every year more and more people will probably be able to travel and that’s good in general, as long as we understand, that we are a part of these tourists. I believe that a lot of photographers hate too many people at specific places, but well… they are present too and therefore part of the issue.
There are 2 very easy solutions to solve this problem for serious photographers:
- Get out of your comfort zone: This means, that for example standing up early or getting there outside the main season or during „bad weather conditions“ are great time slots for serious photographers, when you have the chance to enjoy these places nearly alone.
- Visit non-touristic places: There are so many beautiful spots around the world, that are definitely not crowded and still beautiful. This is especially the case at locations that are not so easy to reach or just not interesting for the standard tourist.
The status quo
While these 2 suggestions are probably easily extensible by even more ways to get a unique photo, most of the people decide to go for the easiest of every possible solution, which is ignoring other people and being extremely egoistic about their photos. Here are two situations I experienced myself quite a few times now:
The space problem
At most of the places, there is usually enough space so that everybody can get his own photo from the scene. Blocking the spot for anybody else that might also take a photo during sunrise might be your right, but what’s so hard about being kind to other people?
This is how the spot itself for the famous view towards Hallstatt in Austria looks like. There are usually a lot of people, that want to get the same photo during sunset too. While there is definitely enough space for everyone, a lovely lady always held her phone in front of my lens, because she was anything else than fine with me standing next to her.
This is how a possible result looks like from the Classic Hallstatt View Spot. Looks so idyllic, doesn't it? ;-)
F*ck the rules
Another great way of being egoistic is by disregarding closed areas. While these people might think, that it’s their problem when they get caught or if they risk their life for a photo, it’s also often them, who are standing in everybody’s photo. Others, who are respecting the rules, may now have to wait until they finished their photographic round trip through everyone’s image section. Sometimes it’s even worse and others may be motivated to risk their life too, because otherwise they have no chance of getting a photo without these people as a main photo topic. This also happened to the landscape photographer Thomas Heaton at an active volcano in Hawaii, who describes his frustration in the following video.
I am sure, that you all experienced both situations as well and I am also pretty sure, that I was one of these guys at least once for others too, because we all love to get that very special shot. My last visit in Canada opened my mind though, because I experienced quite a lot of these people that ignore everybody for their own good.
The benefits of being respectful
After I experienced extremely ignorant people, that would stand without any regrets in front of around 50 other photographers that are booing at them, I started to pay a lot more attention to situations like this one. I am still openminded for getting these special photos behind the barriers, but this is something you might want to do in the early morning or during bad weather when you are not disturbing anybody else.
While respecting the rules and helping others to get their souvenir photo too, I met so many nice people, that were very thankful for a peaceful co-existence. I talked to quite a lot of them and especially locals often had a special advice about a hidden photo spot. Instead of trying to get the most of Social Media, I was suddenly more social and making friends and this just because of being friendly and respectful to other people.
Please don’t get me wrong here. In my opinion it’s definitely not about being a holy person, but paying more attention to others and respecting them would make these iconic places better for all of us. Making friends locally nearly always results in better travel experiences and sometimes even in more real followers on Instagram (if that's what's important for your), just because you’ve been social by the real meaning of this word… ;-)
What about your stories? Did anything like that happen to you too? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!