Why I Don’t Talk About Where I Take Photographs

By Gary Gray

Bull Moose in the Colorado Wilderness.

If you know me, you’ll know that I’m fairly heavy into moose photography during July and August and where I do this work is no big secret, if you know me personally. I often take my photography friends to my shooting locations and I’ve been doing photo tours for years, so it’s not like I’m a selfish person; however, If your only acquaintance with me is through social media, I won’t be spouting off about any secret photography spots. My reasoning for this attitude is complicated, but I’ll try to explain it anyway.

First and foremost in my mind is that what I do is my business and what I share about what I do is my business. I’ll share my photography because I enjoy sharing my photography. I’m not an insecure or needy person though. I don’t have some underlying craving for attention that can only be fulfilled by trying to impress folks with my worldly ways. I’m just a guy with a camera, doing my thing and I try to do my thing without contributing to the destruction of the things I love.

I once had a woman chastise me for not divulging my moose photography locations.

“Where did you take this photo?” She asked.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t divulge where my photos are taken.” I replied.

“Well, moose belong to everyone. You have no right to keep them to yourself. They belong to all of us and you should share where you take your photos.” She said.

“True, moose belong to everyone. But what I know isn’t public property. My knowledge doesn’t belong to everyone. What gives you special rights to what I know? The only people who know where I go are those who go with me.” I responded.

I never heard another word from her. Oh well.

I had another person get angry with me for tagging a moose photograph with Pueblo City Park Frisbee Golf Course as a location.

“It’s not nice to send people on a wild goose chase” Was the jest of her comment.

“If you’re ignorant enough to look for moose in Pueblo City Park, have at it.” I responded.

Sometimes my sardonic humor gets the better of me.

I used to fish quite a bit. One thing I always noticed and that drove me crazy was when a person caught a couple of fish, everyone else around the lake would flock to their spot and throw their line out in the same area where the fish was caught. Eventually there would be so many people fishing that same spot, the lines got tangled, tempers flared and everyone acted like complete fools. All because they wanted to get some of that too.

Photography is like fishing in many ways. What it comes down to, in my mind, is that many photographers are looking for the easy solution, wanting to get that shot of the subject they so admire but not willing to do the leg work to find out for themselves. They can’t find their own fishing holes. Why not? There are plenty of folks who are more than willing to tell them too. Photography clubs, social media, internet websites, all willing to impress you with their worldly knowledge to gain attention. I don’t work that way.

The basic social issues here are fairly simple. You may not agree with the sentiment, but the mindset is there amongst some photographers that it is unethical to invite the general public to flock to subjects. Visit any national park in the summer to see what I’m talking about. Hords of humanity, lined up cars, crowds so large one can barely maneuver through the environment. Trash, feces, destruction of property, all of it takes a toll. The biggest toll is on the wildlife.  Animals have no say so as to who is allowed to foul up their living environment.

To make matters worse, we now have cameras that will geotag the image files with the exact coordinates that the photograph was taken. I never geotag a photograph. There is a growing sentiment among outdoor photographers that we should all stop geotagging our photographs. Here’s a good article on that subject.

I use the age old adage, “Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.” I’m not going to invite mass numbers of people to visit my back yard where they will undoubtedly do damage to the environment or even themselves, perhaps causing another wildfire that destroys thousands of acres of mountain forest, or causing an animal to get injured, or polluting the earth, or destroying sensitive plants and devastating the environment of the very thing they are seeking, a great photo they don’t have.

No, I won’t cooperate with them. I’m not giving out my private knowledge for mass consumption on Facebook or Instagram. They’ll have to get their info somewhere else.

I have a personal rule that I only associate with other photographers if they share the same general sentiment as me. I’m not interested in informing the masses about how to foul things up. It isn’t as though nobody knows about these places. I see campers dragging their pet dogs out by the carloads, hunters staking out campsites weeks in advance of hunting season, tourists in mini-vans taking photos with their i Phones.  Leaving nothing but trash and destruction in their wake. The hordes of humanity have already descended upon my favorite locations. The only saving grace is the fact that where I work is fairly remote and the typical day-tripper doesn’t have the patience or knowledge to deal with it.

If you are a outdoor photographer, please consider things beyond your ego when you share your knowledge. I suggest that you don’t even ask. It’s not really impressing anyone that you know where the best places to ruin are. They’ll eventually be ruined anyway, so lets step back and use a little ethical choice and keep your information to yourself and more importantly, don’t ask for information.

If you want something bad enough, you’ll figure it out on your own. If you can’t do that, I’m sorry but all I’ll see is another self -absorbed tourist with no respect for the environment or the wildlife that lives there. And for that, I have little respect.

Don’t take the easy way and pick the brains of those who know and who may be willing to spill the beans. Do it yourself. Get in your car, spend your money, make that trip and discover new and exciting places for your photography without having to rely on those of us who do care and don’t want to spoil it forever.