Photographer's Don't Own the Landscapes, We Share Them
I was a bit surprised on my last bit of travel how downright rude some professional photographers were about people being in their shots. I was surprised because my experience with other professional photographers has always been very positive. They are nature lovers, appreciators of creation, and most seem to have such respect for the scene they are photographing that they understand the desire of anyone wanting to share in it. In fact, we want to share it... that's why we're photographers in the first place.
And this was the case with most photographers I ran into along the way at Havasu Falls in Havasupai Village in the Grand Canyon, at Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Slot Canyon in Page, Arizona, in Monument Valley and so on. Cordial, polite, accommodating to everyone.
But after the challenging 1.5 mile uphill hike to the famous Delicate Arch in Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, I was really disheartened at the professional photographers, just about 5 of them or so, who stationed themselves along the opposite side of the Delicate Arch for that classic shot. I've been to the Delicate Arch before and this time I wanted to move around... a LOT... to get different perspectives and vantage points of this amazing location.
Eventually I went back up to the ledge where the snooty photographers were and I was shocked at what they were saying! "If one more person stands in front of the arch for a selfie I'm going to shoot them." Then they'd talk about the kind of weapon they would each use to kill the tourist and it would go downhill from there. The conversation just kept rolling along, with other things they would delight in happening to these people... a rock to the head, maybe an accidental fall off the back of the mountain behind the arch.... and honestly, these people were only guilty of being in awe of this amazing structure and wanting to take a memory home to share it with others.
The visitors were happy, excited, marveling and being kind and courteous to everyone who wanted a shot, offering to take pictures for a whole family or group under the arch, etc. It was quite a nice display of humanity.
So as the photographers grumbled on about these inconvenient people, who left ample time for wide landscape photography in between, I came *this* close to telling these men what I thought. That these national parks belong to everyone, not just them, and that photographers don't have a right to unobstructed views. That's what makes a good picture even more valuable; that the photographer was able to get it despite whatever obstacles might be in their way.
But I did myself a favor and kept my mouth shut knowing eventually they'd hear themselves and perhaps stop. One eventually said, "Well, they have a right to be here, too... but I just wish they weren't."
I settled for that.
We aren't hired wedding photographers that essentially "own" the wedding couple for the day who have the right to complain about Uncle Joe popping up with his smart phone and ruining our shot. Nature belongs to all of us, and our National Parks to every American who pays taxes and every visitor who pays to get in. God shares His magnificence with us and we are so lucky that He does.
The saddest thing a photographer can do is to go glorious places and not realize he's in a glorious place. Sometimes focusing solely on the "mission" or the shot makes these adventures a job instead of, well, an adventure. And then, why are you a photographer anymore?
I've really come to appreciate the people I encounter, messing up my shot, almost as much as the location. Here are a few examples of some people interrupting my job... aren't they great??