Ok, before I get into this, let me preface by saying it has been a long week. I am fairly worn out and as such perhaps a bit more grumpy and rant-prone than usual. But nonetheless, what I am about to rant about is behavior that has bugged me for a little while now, I generally just don’t pay much attention to it. At the same time, it is behavior I don’t understand, at least fully, so I am willing to hear counter arguments to my following rant. If you disagree, please speak up, argue your point, let us have a discussion. A side rant of mine is I tend to enjoy too little discussion on here, but that is beside the point.
One rant at a time. :-p
So here goes. What gives with photographers who believe they need to keep places all “secret”? I see this most often with landscape photographers. They will go off to a place, generally one that is hardly undiscovered, and come back from it with their photos which they will gladly share, and often boast of, but will make sure to mention that it is their “secret” location. Now, I am not talking about the habit of not including location data, I mean, I don’t always post where a photo is. Generally this is because it is not anywhere specific or I don’t know how to describe where it is. Such as with some of my photos of the Palouse. Sure I could get down the map and scour it for 30 minutes finding the exact coordinates of where I took that photo. But I don’t. If someone asks, I will try to give them as good of directions as possible.
So I understand the lack of location data. Rather, what makes me scratch my head a bit is photographers who go out of their way to brag about how a location is secret and they are not telling.
I mean, why? Really?
In a sense it always makes me wonder if the photographer is a little insecure about their own abilities, isn’t this generally why one boasts? Because they feel some need to impress others by letting everyone know how special they are? Ok, maybe I am being a bit harsh. Maybe. Told you I was feeling rant-prone.
Insecure or not, I think it is kind of bad form and etiquette. If you don’t want to share where a place is, I guess that is your decision, but bragging about your secret spot is a bit over the top.
And then there are those photographers who make full use of places like Flickr or Photo.net to locate spots that others have shot, asking questions on where locations are and such, and then refuse to share that information themselves. Kind of self-serving and selfish. I had a customer in the store once who was talking about how foolish most Flickr photographers were to share so much information, that he did not post because he did not want people to know where his favorite spots were, but he did like to get on there now and then to see where everyone else was going and thought it a good use for that. He was a bit of an arrogant scumbag too. But perhaps that is beside the point.
So the question I keep coming back to is, why? What is the reasoning behind this behavior? Are they afraid others will get down there and steal their photos? Can you really steal a photo? If so then perhaps the problem doesn’t lie with the availability of info on where that location is, but rather with your own ability to be creative. And I think that gets to one of the hearts of the matter. With so many landscape photographers out there, many areas get saturated in terms of how often they get photographed, and so the competitive nature (another silly piece of behavior) drives photographers to not only range farther afield to “new” areas but to try and hide that info from other photographers so they cannot get out there and make their own pictures.
I have two responses to that. First, I have a whole series of the St. Johns Bridge created over several years. I find that I take my best and most creative photos in the places I am most familiar with, that I have visited the most. Sure I get nice photos in new places too, but those pictures tend to be based on experience I have gained experimenting in those places familiar with me.
And second, I learn a lot more from seeing others photograph in a place I have been to, than I could hope to on my own. What I mean is, by seeing how others photograph the Palouse, or Painted Hills or the Alvord Desert I learn about other comps, conditions, techniques. Way more than I ever probably would have on my own. So in the long run it is a benefit to myself to share that info and encourage others to those spots to photograph their own perceptions. At least that is how I think about it.
Now to be fair I have heard a good argument or two for keeping locations secret, but these tend to be the incredibly small minority. One was a photographer who was taking pictures of a Mennonite community in New England. He did not want to share the location of this rural community because he did not want photographers bum-rushing out there to take photographic advantage of this quiet community of people. I can appreciate him trying to protect them while still trying share their experience with the world. The second good excuse involved the Boiler Bay headlands along the Oregon coast because the popular trail to the coast involved crossing private property, specifically someone’s front yard. Most photographers will behave themselves, nonetheless I probably would not appreciate a flood of photographers sneaking across my front lawn all the time in the pre-dawn darkness. Now an alternate route has been laid out that avoids the property and respects these people’s privacy much better.
But that is about it, at least that I can think of.
I dunno, I struggle with this one, because on one hand I really don’t care much. To each their own, or such. But on the other hand, it also strikes me as bad etiquette which can lead to bad habits and the teaching of. But even more so than that, because I think allowing yourself to fall into that trap of location hoarding is not a healthy perspective for a good photographer. I think it is a symptom of some underlying problem. I am not a psychiatrist though. Imagine that though, photographic psychiatry!
Anyway, as I was saying, if you think the success of your photos relies on you hiding where you take them, then you probably are not a terribly good photographer. Perhaps competent, maybe even good, but probably not great. Because a great photographer isn’t limited by his location, secret or not, he carries all the secrets of his or her success with them. They are called vision and imagination. Between those two things, they make secret locations irrelevant. In my opinion.
So my advice to all you location hoarders? Don’t. It’s ok. Share information, encourage those around you to go there and shoot. Help them get better because by doing so, they will help you get better too. It is not a contest, nor should you feel like you can be collecting these spots. And if you do insist on keeping your secret locations, don’t show us photos of them. Keep them secret. It is mildly obnoxious to dangle them in front of us and not be willing to share where they are. Chances are, somebody else already knows anyway. You probably were not the first one there. In fact, that is almost certainly the case. And if you still insist on going this far, then at least have the decency to stop taking advantage of other photographers who are willing to share their information. Because that is just selfish and I am out of excuses for you at this point.
Ok, wow, that really was quite a rant. Have not done that in a while.
So to sum all this up, let me just say this one last thing, sort of as the icing on the cake. That is, I have a lot of serious thoughts on photography, but I try not to take any of them too seriously. Even this rant. Sure, it was worth the twenty minutes of typing to put it out there, but at the same time, it really is not that important because I am going to keep doing what I do, in a way that I feel good about doing it. And all the location-hoarders in the world cannot affect that.
This shot by the way was sunrise at a super ultra secret location called Hug Point along the Oregon Coast just south of Cannon Beach. Don’t bother to ask me where it is, I’m not telling. I visited here back in February with (who got really wet), (who makes awesome videos) and (whose pinhole is present in this frame if you look hard enough).