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.

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hiking, lodging, photography, sierra nevada, travel, travel tips

Free Camping in the Sierras

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One of my favorite things about visiting the Sierra’s on the eastern side is all the free camping. Camping allows you to get out in nature in a much closer more intimate way. Cooking your own food and surviving the elements are so much fun (both of which we did on this trip as a huge storm blew throughout the entire night and the next morning we cooked an entire brunch on our fire!). Much of the land in the Sierra’s is BLM land which is generally free to camp in year round. Many of the campgrounds become free in the off season as well. We like Holiday Campground near Tom’s Place, Glass Creek Campground near Mammoth, and Buckeye dispersed camping near the Buckeye Hot Springs (probably the best in the sierras that I’ve been to). Make sure to get a fire permit (available for free online) and put your fire completely out. We don’t need the forest burning any more than it already has.

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lodging, places, travel tips

Awesome Airbnb Travel Deal!!

If you follow my blog you know that I am always looking for the best travel deals. I love traveling well (not 5-star but not bunk beds in hostels either) and Airbnb is one of the best sites I know for doing that. I’ve take 8 trips in the last 12 months with Airbnb.

Yesterday I was doing some shopping on Ebay when I stumbled upon this great deal: Buy a $110 Airbnb Gift card for only $100! I went ahead and bought one but am thinking about buying several more since its basically a 10% discount for free! I’m not sure when the sale ends but I wanted to pass it along.

If you have never used Airbnb, its basically rooms or entire houses that people rent out to travelers. So you can stay in a comfortable homey environment instead of a hotel for a price that is normally much better than hotel. I use it a lot for groups of people when we all want to stay together but need a lot of room. If you’ve never used it before use my link for and extra $40 credit on your account for your first booking!!!

Sign up for Airbnb HERE

Get $110 gift card for $100 HERE

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camera, photography, places, travel, travel tips

First trip to Hawaii! (Video)

Just put together this little slide show of some of my favorite photos from my recent trip to Hawaii. This was my first big trip of the year! Where else should I go this year? Any tips on how I can improve my videos? I know I have a lot to learn but it’s fun just getting started! Thanks for watching and please share, like, and subscribe to my YouTube channel.

adventure, lodging, photography, travel, travel tips

What do you want to know about HAWAII?

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I just got back from an amazing nine nights in Hawaii (five on Oahu, and four on the Big Island). It was an epic adventure full of hiking, snorkeling, staying up too late and getting up too early, kayaking, and swimming. I think this trip taught me a lot about travel and was definitely an eye opener for what Hawaii is really like. Even though I prepared and researched significantly, there was much that the blogs, articles, and Instagram posts, I went through did not cover. This seems to be a common theme in my travels: you go somewhere very popular that you would expect to be well covered in the blog world, but you find that many of the things you wish you had known are no covered at all. So let me ask you: what would you like to know about Hawaii? How can I help you plan a trip there?

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adventure, hiking, photography, travel, travel tips

Watching Lake Sabrina Freeze

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The ice was blue. The umbrella red. My new favorite prop. I know it’s been done many times before but I haven’t seen a lot lately. Yellow raincoats can only be beat by red umbrellas. Self portrait at Lake Sabrina about a month ago. I’ve been here a couple times but my favorite was this visit with the lake starting to freeze and no people or boats around. This lake is located up past Aspendell outside of Bishop California. To get here you must walk up a 2 mile closed road (but its not a bad hike at all).

This is a self portrait by the way. Any tips on capturing awesome photos of yourself when it’s just you and the camera?

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adventure, camera, hiking, places, travel, travel tips

Have you ever seen a sunset quite this lovely?

I love the pacific northwest. there is so much to explore and so much variety in landscapes, wildlife, and weather patterns. Not to mention good food, better coffee, and lovely people. Cape Flattery was one of the best sunsets I’ve seen. The trail leading to it is like a fairyland, full of beautiful greens and blues and made of wooden planks. The water rushes all around you and a lighthouse stands guard off on a distant Island. What’s your favorite sunset ever?

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