adventure, camera, photography, places, travel, travel tips

Is Geotagging your photos really so bad?

Why is Geotagging so controversial?

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In recent months, many Instagrammers have become increasingly protective of where they take their photos. I’ve seen multiple photographers and influencers cite organizations such as Leave No Trace who have recommended that people don’t share geotags when posting images. Their stated reasons are to reduce the environmental impact that drawing more people to a beautiful place could create (particularly a previously “undiscovered” location). General tags (such as a nearby city, general national park name, or state) are acceptable alternatives. In addition to these recommended measures, I have experienced many influencers responding to location requests in their comment section with encouragements to find the place with my own research. Even direct messages away from the public eye may not be answered.

There are numerous stories that support the idea that geotagging can cause once pristine places to fall into disrepair (a trashed hot spring in British Columbia that created a bear problem comes to mind). While I have not noticed any major detriment to the environment, I did notice first hand the drastic increase in photographers and tourists alike going to Taft Point in Yosemite after a few sunset photos went viral. I’d been to Yosemite a dozen times and never gave the spot much thought till seeing a few stunning shots. Having been a few times now myself, I can see the appeal. It has a perfect composition,great sunset lighting, and (perhaps most importantly) doesn’t require a lot of effort to reach.

I am 100% for protecting the environment. For such a purpose it would seem that geotagging some locations should be avoided and for others used with caution. But, in my opinion, some of the Instagram community is taking this way to far. Let me clarify. Sometimes geotagging may be detrimental to the environment and thus best avoided (especially if you have a large popular account and the place you are sharing is easy to reach, easily damaged, or not suitable for large crowds). However, that does not mean that the location needs to be kept an absolute secret or that no location should ever be geotagged. 

Here are some thoughts:

  • Not geotagging is ineffective if the spot is already popular (Moraine Lake, Yosemite Falls). These places will be packed no matter what (often the National Park itself is the one promoting the place). 
  • Not geotagging a large public post does not mean you don’t ever tell anyone (the Leave No Trace suggestion does not seem to imply secrecy so much as reducing broad public announcements). It would seem reasonable that someone told you about the location in the first place. In most cases if I take the time to privately message you about a location, I am already showing by my effort that I am a more careful person who has a greater likelihood of taking care of what I find.
  • If the place is hard to get to (ie, requires actual backpacking or hiking beyond a mile or so) than most likely the vast majority of tourists won’t even try to get there. Yes there are notable exceptions, but in my experience, even dedicated professional photographers take most of the their photos at either drive up spots or within a mile of their car.
  • Unfortunately, many naturally beautiful areas are being trashed all the time by people who just don’t care about the environment or aren’t educated on the importance of keeping it clean and pristine. This was going on long before Instagramming and Geotagging and isn’t always a direct result of either.
  • I understand you can’t vet every person who asks for information about a location; However, neither did that blog writer who wrote the article about her backpacking trip that inspired you to go there in the first place.

This final point leads me to the other related statement I read time and again: “you should put the time and effort into researching a place and finding it on your own like I did”. I agree, it’s awesome to research and find things “on my own”. The work can be quite rewarding and the process can help me find more new places along the way. One way that I do that research is to ask other backpackers, travelers, hikers, and photographers where they recommend, where they got a particular photo, where they found that stunning view-point.

Saying someone shouldn’t ask you where you shot a photo is like me telling you to put down the Google driven GPS on your phone and find your way with a road map, because that’s how the last generation did things. Or perhaps you’d like to just set out west across the vast country like Louis and Clark, without even an accurate map to guide you.

Times change, and how we obtain information has drastically changed even in my short lifetime. Figuring out the most effective way of allocating all this new information is something we will be working out our whole lives. But denying the most ancient of methods for obtaining knowledge, asking a simple questions, often comes across as more pretentious than as a genuine desire to protect the environment. 

Perhaps a better way of applying and expressing the Leave No Trace principles is as follows:

  • If you really care about the environment and believe that by geotagging the location of a shot you will expose it to harm, than don’t geotag.
  • If you truly believe that the person commenting or messaging you will be careless with the location you share with them, by all means don’t share it!
  • If you simply don’t want someone to get the same shot as you or enjoy “your” hike, than by all means don’t share the location (you have that right, but don’t pretend it’s about the environment).
  • If someone in good faith asks you about a natural beauty that you have enjoyed and you have no reason to suspect they will destroy it, perhaps the right thing to do is to tell them or point them in the right direction

Just remember: someone shared with you once (via a blog, a personal note, a YouTube video, a local expert, or *gasp* an Instagram geotag before they were forbodden!)

There is only a finite number of places people can go in their limited free time. By increasing the number of people at say Taft Point, we may have significantly decreased the numbers of people at Glacier Point, thus making it a more enjoyable place for you to now enjoy the sunrise.

People (including followers) helped you along the way to get where you are. Should we be willing to help others in return? I for one find it very rewarding to help others enjoy the beauty that I’ve been blessed to see as a result of those before me. 

Cheers.

Enjoy my adventures?

adventure, camera, country profiles, photography, travel

A Photo Tour of Bali

As my time in Bali comes to a close, I thought I’d share some of my favorite shots from the trip and a brief story or information with each one. Enjoy!

Sunset overlooking the resort pool
While our villa wasn’t exactly in the resort, we got to use Sayan Terrace Resorts pool and spent several evenings enjoying stunning sunsets overlooking the Ayung River (which we later rafted down) and some beautiful rice terraces. The pool was always empty and a great spot to relax and enjoy a Bintang (local beer).
Top down view of our resort
The Aerial view of our resort was quite beautiful as well. The pool is pictured in the middle surrounded by thatch roofed villas of all shapes and sizes. Little pathways made their way between villas, pools, and a restaurant. My drone had its first crash landing here but despite a chipped propeller kept working without issue.
Trekking Ubud
Just outside of Ubud is a beautiful trek called the Campuhan Ridge Walk. This seemed a popular spot for early morning runners and people hoping to catch the sunrise. It wasn’t too crowded and gave us some of the best moody morning views of the trip.
Tegallalang Rice Terrace
Tegallalang Rice Terrace is perhaps Bali’s most famous rice terrace. It was near harvest, so the rice looked much less green than we expected but during sunset the color contrast was quite beautiful. Like most things in Bali, this place is overrun with tourists and the tourist industry. Taxi drivers yelling and honking, shop owners calling for you to buy, drones flying everywhere, and rice field owners asking for donations. Its understandable to was money for tourists to walk through your fields, but a simple ticket entry fee would be simpler and preferable to all parties in my opinion. There are plenty of less crowded rice fields for sure, but I guess it takes knowing a local or living here to find the really good ones.
Walking through the fields
Eventually as sun sets, the crowds begin to thin and the pressure decreases. Here in the background you can just make out of the many tree swings which tourists in Bali seem to love (and thus appear everywhere). The amount of labor and thought that has been going into these rice terraces for centuries is incredible to observe.
Kroya Waterfall
Through the dense foliage you can see the beautiful blue waters of Kroya Waterfall (often mislabeled Aling-Aling Waterfall on Instagram we found out). This beautiful waterfall can serve as a fun rock slide. According to the gate attendants at the park you must have a guide to do this or they will fine you. Entry to the park is 10,000 IDR, with a guide it goes up to 125,000 IDR. The water looked inviting but we didn’t risk the fine.
Aling Aling
This is the actual Aling Aling falls according to what we were told. This super tall waterfall is not one you can jump from. It is however quite a lovely site. Above it and on up the river is the Blue Lagoon and Secret Gardens which we didn’t have time to explore.
Tukad Cepung Waterfall
Tukad Cepung Waterfall has been labeled the hidden waterfall. In my Bali research, I read articles as recent as 2017, saying this was “off the beaten path” and “barely discovered by tourists”. This is apparently no longer true, as we found the waterfall packed with people. There is a 10,000 IDR entrance fee and then a long but pretty walk down many stairs and through a hidden green canyon up to the falls. Its hard to get a photo like this as the crowds are packed in front of the falls all trying to do the same thing. But with some patients we managed to snap a few.
Near Echo Beach
Canggu was one of the first places in Bali that has felt peaceful and relaxed. Despite reading online that both Ubud and Canggu were good places for ex-pats and escaping the crowds, we found the Ubud was nearly just as bad as the Kuta area. Walking these beautiful Canggu beaches was a perfect was to spend the evening.
Echo beach from above
The much emptier beaches of Canggu gave me some much needed drone flying practice and I successful made 3 flights here. The overhead clouds helped with lighting and and dark sand makes a nice contrast with the white froth of the ocean.
sunset
After watching the sunset over Canggu, we decided to leave the beaches lined with fun looking beach clubs and bars and find some street food. We ended up getting a fusion burrito at a little food truck which was delicious. Food in Canggu is hard to beat in my opinion. There seemed to be plenty of cheap local options but there are also many excellent healthy more western options as well. While many restaurants serving Avocado toast and smoothie bowls tend to be a bit more expensive, the relaxed atmosphere and clean environments make it worth paying a bit more here. Overall Canggu was the nicest place I visited in Bali and the only one I’d come back to for a longer visit. It seems set up for relaxed, ex-pat, beach life with healthy food options, yoga, surfing everywhere, and a lack of the general business that overshadows much of Bali.
aerial shot
One of my favorite aerial shots of the Canggu area near Echo Beach, The water and air both seem so much crisper and cleaner up here than further down the coast. These rocks in the ocean were quite stunning when viewed from above.
adventure, camera, hiking, hot springs, photography, travel

Hot Creek and Gorge

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Hot Creek Geological Site is one of the many diverse geothermal locations near Mammoth Lakes. The land is rich in volcanic history and has so many hot springs most of which you can freely bathe and relax in. This one is unique though. The water in the main springs (pictured below) is quite blue (yes it really is that color). While the water in the creek formed around all these springs is green (I suppose from all the algae growing in it). The gorge itself is much larger than I ever would have thought just from seeing photos. The pools are probably close to 100 feet blow us and the gorge, which has a trail running along much of its base, is quite long. Is the distance loom the might Sierras and all around are geodes and amazing rock formations from ancient volcanic activity. Sadly you can’t get in the pools anymore as they have been closed to protect them. But who’s complaining when we have so much beauty to enjoy and many other pools are still open to all. Have you seen this epic gorge yet?

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adventure, camera, hiking, nightlife, travel

Midnight over Morrison Peak

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Some people say that you can’t see the milky way when the moon is out, especially if it is a full moon. It certainly isn’t as crisp and clear but with a good lens, and nice camera, and a little luck one can still find our galaxy even when the landscape is being lit up like day by a bright moon. I got this shot at an undisclosed location near Mammoth Lakes California and can’t wait to come back here to shoot the Milky Way again when the moon isn’t so bright and the stars can shine to their full potential. The High Sierras make such a perfect backdrop for the galaxy don’t they?

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adventure, camera, photography, travel

Winter in the Picturesque June Lake

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Winter is Coming! I actually took this shot in the daytime during a brief snowstorm at one of the best places to watch fall colors in California. June Lake is a small resort town of about 500 people nestled 7000 feet above sea level in the Sierra Nevada Easter Range. Snow in September is not uncommon at this altitude. The colors were beautiful and so was the scene but I wanted to add a little fun touch so I used photoshop to create a nighttime feel with lit street lamps and windows shining into the night. What do you think? How can I improve my skills? What could I have done better?

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adventure, camera, sierra nevada, travel

First Snow of 2017

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Watching the storm role in. Snow transforms everything, turning dry dusty ground into a white winter wonderland. Snow allows the almost desert like conditions of the Eastern Sierras to thrive with life, Aspens and Evergreens, Wildflower and Wild Berries. While California certainly does have some beautiful mountains all year long, I think that snow really puts the finishing touches on them and brings them to the level of some of the more lush mountain ranges to the north. Can’t wait till more snow falls here…maybe be out in it, maybe get stuck on the wrong side of a closed pass again as I did last fall during the first snow (that I recall) when I took this photo of my friend shooting near June Lake. What’s your favorite thing about winter?

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camera, sierra nevada, travel

Reminders of the Past

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I’ve always wanted to shoot thud dilapidated old cabin on the side of the highway. It’s given way to long years of wind and weather with both snowy winters and dry summers taking their toll. Just before sunset, whispy white clouds began pouring over the Eastern end of the Sierra Nevadas setting the perfect backdrop for the seen. Weathered and beaten. I wonder what the story is. Did someone live here? Were they farmers or gold rushers? Do you have a favorite weathered old building to shoot? Care to share it?

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