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, photography, travel

My new website is live!

I’ve been working on putting together a real portfolio, with prints available, showcasing my favorite shots from around the world. Its an on going work on progress, but I decided to go ahead and make it live so you guys can check it out. Let me know what you think and how I can improve. If you really love some of my photos, feel free to buy some prints. I’ve kept the prices super reasonable (small prints for just $1!). I’d rather more people be able to enjoy my work than to make a ton of profit right away.  Below are a sample of some of the photos I’ve put up on my page www.creatingezra.com

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www.creatingezra.com

www.instagram.com/creatingezra

lodging, travel tips

Where should I stay when I travel?!? – Closing Thoughts

There are quite a few other options out there as well. I recently spent a few nights in a rustic cabin in Moab, Utah for $25/night with an external bathhouse (hot running water, heat, showers, etc) to be shared with other cabin campers. It was a cute, cozy cabin with a heater, nice bed, end table, lights, window, free parking, and a chair. The separate bathroom wasn’t far at all and kept quite clean. For the price it couldn’t be beat.

Some people enjoy using Couch Surfers. This is sort of like crashing on your friend’s couch while your in town, except with a stranger. It seems to work well for attractive women as there seem to be many young men willing to host them. My experience is limited but mostly involved emailing 7 people looking for a place without getting a single response. However, I know a number of young single women who have had positive experiences with the community and even the enjoyable spontaneous hook up.

I dislike the lack of safety checks that even Airbnb has (though Couch Surfing has worked to improve these and has a good review system in place), the lack of privacy, and the lack of establishing a means by which to ensure the availability of your stay (if your a stranger offering me a free place to crash, I can’t really get upset if you cancel last minute or stand me up).

If you have a large social media following and influence you can often get places to let you stay for free in exchange for some social media marketing or a good review. Research the place first to make sure you can in good faith give them what they are asking for. I see so many travel bloggers sharing photos on Instagram about their lovely stays at such and such a villa, and I can’t help but feel the knowledge being shared in being diluted by advertising. But if offered, I would certainly do the same while ensuring that my readers knew it was a paid endorsement so as not to be misleading.

Nepal has a lodging option called Tea Houses. These are often small hotels or rooms in people’s larger homes that may be rented by wayfarers and often include meals or have a restaurant associated. During off-season you can sometimes stay for free if you buy your meals from the owner. A private room may only cost your $10, but if probably won’t have hot running water or a private bath. Certainly an adventurous way of travel that I intend to use in the near future.

Keep up with my latest adventures and photos 🙂

Buy prints www.creatingezra.com

Follow JELTOWN on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and now on YouTube!

Save money by traveling like I do

$35 off your first Airbnb booking!

Check out the Equipment I use

Nikon D3300
Nikon D810
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR
Nikkor 18-140mm Zoom Lens
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II

adventure, places

Sonoma Coast State Park

The California Coastline is renowned for its spectacular cliffs, rocky outcroppings, pebble beaches, black sand beaches, lighthouses, Redwood forests, and waterfalls plummeting off cliffs onto Sandy beaches below.

Massive waves crashing on a boulder near Bodega Bay
Massive waves crashing on a boulder near Bodega Bay

The Sonoma Coast State Park in Sonoma County has most of these things and more. If you start at Bodega Bay and drive north, you will find most stops than you can make in one day…or even three (I just finished my third visit this month!).

Gazing off into the Horizon near the Arched Rock along Sonoma Coast State Park
Gazing off into the Horizon near the Arched Rock along Sonoma Coast State Park

Its only just over 1.5 hours north of San Francisco and well worth the day trip. From the quaint little resort town of Bodega Bay you head north stopping to see numerous waterfalls rushing over 50 feet over the cliff’s edges onto the sand below. I imagine all the rain we’ve been getting has greatly improved the quality of these waterfalls. The hills slope away from the beaches behind and are dotted with sturdy trees and covered in green grass.

A fun rock to climb and watch the waves on Goat Rock State Beach
A fun rock to climb and watch the waves on Goat Rock State Beach

A pull off not far north brings you to Arched Rock, an amazing arch out in the ocean perpetually pummeled by gargantuan waves.

Long Exposure over the Sonoma Coast at a dynamic sunset
Long Exposure over the Sonoma Coast at a dynamic sunset

A few miles father and you reach my favorite spot: Goat Rock State Beach. Here you can turn down a poorly maintained narrow road that leads down to the beach itself and allows you to park feet from the waves. To the right is the Russian River, powerful and flooded at my last visit, spilling muddied water into the Pacific Ocean, changing its color for miles. To the left is another beautiful arched rock and some of the most spectacular sunset watching I’ve seen in California. 

Spectacular Sunset Views on Goat Rock State Beach
Spectacular Sunset Views on Goat Rock State Beach

Continue across the Russian River north through Jenner, CA and you will find several small pull-off with hidden trails leading to secret beaches. My favorite one, not more than a mile north of Jenner, has ropes leading down the embankment to help you climb down to a spectacular pebble beach below. If you make it safely down, hike to the right, following the beach to a huge rocky outcropping where waves splash 30 feet or more over impressive boulders, drenching the rocks below and you if you get too close (Yes of course I got to close).

Directing the waves at a hidden beach just passed Jenner CA
Directing the waves at a hidden beach just passed Jenner CA

Keep up with my latest adventures and photos 🙂

Follow JELTOWN on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and now on YouTube!

Buy prints www.creatingezra.com

Save money by traveling like I do

$35 off your first Airbnb booking!

Check out the Equipment I use

Nikon D3300
Nikon D810
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR
Nikkor 18-140mm Zoom Lens
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II

camera, photography

How I get my Photos: Detailed Editing (on my Laptop)

For exceptionally high quality edits, there is no real substitute for a full blown photo editing tool such as the desktop version of Lightroom or even Photoshop. I have an older version of Lightroom but it seems to work just fine for my skill level.  Adobe offers both as a subscription now rather than a one time program download. You can get both Photoshop and Lightroom as well as numerous mobile apps for just $9.99/month which I’d recommend if you are serious about editing your travel shots!

Lightroom for desktop offers incredibly detailed photo editing and covers nearly all your editing needs. I’m not an expert with Photoshop, but from talking to more experienced photographers, Photoshop is only necessary is you need to do drastic changes to your photos such as adding blue sky or deleting entire crowds of people.

Like the mobile version, I usually start with the Basic settings and then use the more advanced methods if these don’t correct the photo enough. The basic settings are nearly identical to the mobile app.

I also use the spot removal tool extensively to remove clutter, errors in lighting, and unwanted people in my photos. This is not available in the mobile app and is not especially good quality in the Snapseed app.

Lightroom for desktop also offers a gradient tool which is exceptionally useful for fixing overly exposed skies and underexposed landscapes at the same time.

Below are 5 copies of the same photo shot with my Nikon D3300 using my Nikkor 18-140mm lens at 18mm with an aperature of f/7.1, and shutter speed of 1/80 second, and and ISO of 100. The first is the originial untouched and the other 4 are various edits with Lightroom and Snapseed.

Original photo taken at dusk January 15, 2017 at Sand Harbor on Lake Tahoe in Nevada United States
Original photo taken at dusk January 15, 2017 at Sand Harbor on Lake Tahoe in Nevada United States

 

Photo edited with Lightroom desktop edition. I wasn't trying to make them all looks the same, just going for what looked best on the app I was using at the moment
Photo edited with Lightroom desktop edition. I wasn’t trying to make them all looks the same, just going for what looked best on the app I was using at the moment

 

Edited with Lightroom Mobile, notice the blue and purple tones, this is the effect of the Dehaze setting
Edited with Lightroom Mobile, notice the blue and purple tones, this is the effect of the Dehaze setting

 

Edited with Snapseed using the Drama filter and some minor retouching manually as well, notice the grainy texture from over-processing
Edited with Snapseed using the Drama filter and some minor retouching manually as well, notice the grainy texture from over-processing

 

Edited with Snapseed using basic settings and no preset filters
Edited with Snapseed using basic settings and no preset filters

That’s it for now. Help me do better! Leave a comment with your favorite tips and advice 🙂

Keep up with my latest adventures and photos 🙂

Follow JELTOWN on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and now on YouTube!

Save money by traveling like I do

$35 off your first Airbnb booking!

Check out the Equipment I use

Nikon D3300
Nikkor 18-140mm Zoom Lens
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II

travel

How I get my Photos: Basic Editing (on my Android)

So now you have the right gear, you’ve learned how to set up your camera just right, and you found the perfect spot, with the perfect lighting, at just the right time of day, and you nailed it. You got that perfect, amazing photo you’ve always been wanting.

What next? How do you edit it?

For Instagram, I edit almost all my photos on my phone. I am just now getting into more professional editing through Adobe Lightroom on my laptop which I will cover later.

I have an Android phone (Samsung Galaxy S7) and I edit nearly all of my Instagram photos on this phone including ones taken with my DSLR. I use two apps: Snapseed for basic editing, quick fixes, and dramatic effect; and Lightroom Mobile for more detailed work.

Snapseed:

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Gásadalur, Faroe Islands, edited with Snapseed

 

Snapseed is a free photo editing tool now owned by Google and essentially their response to VSCO. While VSCO focuses on softer light and quieter tones, Snapseed seems to excel on bold, deep, dramatic edits especially the very popular HDR.

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range imaging and in short tries to emulate to depth of field and clarity seen by the naked eye (with perfect vision). Snapseed has its own adjustable preset HDR filter but also excels at allowing you to create a custom “HDR” setting with their basic manual editing mode.

Snapseed also includes selective mode (select a color on the photo and adjust it), brush mode (use a brush to adjust hues, contrast, exposure, etc), healing mode (“heal” or fix blemishes on your photo), vignette mode (create a vignette or reverse vignette), and more.

Besides HDR, Snapseed offers Drama (dramatic darker HDR effects), Glamour Glow (good for smoothing out faces and skin or creating a mystical slightly blurred effect), Tonal Contrast (adjust specific tones such as lights or darks), and numerous more specific filters (which I never use).

I can edit a photo on Snapseed in about 30-60 seconds most of the time.

Quality is average but by no means perfect. You can clearly see the difference when the photo is blown up to high-resolution compare to one edited on Lightroom.

Update: Snapseed now offers Facial filters, White Balance adjustment, and Text!

Lightroom Mobile:

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Gásadalur, Faroe Islands, edited with Lightroom

Adobe now offers Lightroom Mobile free of charge on Android. This is an amazingly powerful app, nearly as good as the full version of Lightroom itself. It does lack a few key tools such as spot remover (Snapseed to the rescue?), but overall is about as complete a tool as one could possibly need for their phone.

Lightroom allows you to import as many photos as you want and edit them in the program without actually saving a copy of the edited photo unless prompted. My guess is that the app simply saves your adjustments as a sort of mask for the original photo, compiling them into an entirely new .jpg image upon saving. This results in far higher quality even with extensive editing then is allowed by Snapseed.

Lightroom has 6 primary modes: Basic, Tone Curve, Vignetting, Split Toning, Color/Black and White, and Dehaze.

Basic covers all your basic and primary needs including White Balance, Temperature, Tint, Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks, Clarity, Vibrance, and Saturation with an Auto Tone setting as well. With just basic I can do 90% of all my editing.

Tone Curve adjusts the hologram for the image with primary color adjustments or focusing on highlights, lights, darks, and shadows. A bit more advance, it does offer far more specific adjustments than basic and is useful if you can’t get that exact lighting you want with the simpler settings.

Vignetting is fairly self explanatory and does what it should do.

Split Toning is something I haven’t messed with much but its supposed to do what the full desktop version of Lightroom does with Gradients. This is useful if you have an overly bright sky and darker landscape for example.

Color/Black and White adjusts specific black and white settings or specific colors. Lets supose you want to bring out a blue sky. You can adjust the saturation and Luminance (essentially brightness) of all the blue hues in the photo individually without turning up the saturation for everything else. Options include Hue, Saturation, and Luminance in 8 colors each.

Dehaze is one of my favorite options. This setting allows you to increase or decrease the “haze” effect created by the atmosphere as objects increase in distance from the camera. It does tend to make the photo overly blue if overused, but can create quite a nice bold dramatic effect that I can’t normally emulate with just the basic settings.

Lightroom takes me much longer to edit in. Partly because I haven’t developed any presets yet (yes it has a preset option for customizable settings!!!) and partly because I lack the skill at knowing exactly what needs adjusting in my photos. I’d guess about 3-5 minutes per photo.

Update: Lightroom now offers Lens Correction!

So there you have it. The two apps I use for just about every photo on my Instagram. Go check them out and tell my what you think. What apps do you use? What settings? Any tips?

Keep up with my latest adventures and photos 🙂

Follow JELTOWN on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and now on YouTube!

Save money by traveling like I do

$35 off your first Airbnb booking!

Check out the Equipment I use

Nikon D3300
Nikkor 18-140mm Zoom Lens
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II

photography, travel tips

How do I get my Photos: Location, Setting, Timing

So you have your gear and now you are ready to go out and take some awesome shots right? Where to begin?

Start with something you are really interested in. I usually see an amazing photo and think “I want that shot, I want to be there and see that in person”. And than I try to make it my own.

I may get the typical shot at the typical place or I may get something totally unique: which is far more rewarding. Sometimes I don’t get anything good at all.

I love mountains and expansive landscape scenes. So that’s what I gravitate toward. I purposely travel to mountainous spots and schedule hiking and trips around prime landscape scenes. But the location is really up to you and what you love. Don’t do what I do, do what you want and what you love.

Once you’ve found the right location the next task is getting the right setting.

Where do you want to set up your camera? Do you want someone in the photo to add perspective? I personally love having people in my photos. They add a new dimension and personalize the scene. They help tell the story as more than just a generic shot of an amazing scene.

Another aspect of setting is the perspective. Do you want to look down or look up? Do you want to be far away or zoomed in? For me that depends on the scene. I want to include enough of the surroundings to create depth of field so I like to get something close by in the photo. It could be a person, a tree, a cactus. I also don’t want to much detail (although I tend to be bad at accomplishing this) because if your eyes are being pulled in all directions the photo will lose its focus.

Also a part of setting is leading the eye in the direction of the main subject of your photo. This is also something I am learning. I try to find natural aspects of the landscape, a valley or a stream works perfectly, to leave the eye in the direction of the horizon.

Finally, you need to find the right timing. Usually the golden hours around dawn and dusk are best. However, on a cloudy day you can shoot almost any time (I love clouds, they have saved many an otherwise mediocre photo). Or if you are far north in the summer you may find that each day gives you 6-8 golden hours giving much more time to get that perfect shot.

You may want to wait for a cloudy day to create a stormy dark feeling. Or a perfect sunset to illuminate your subject. Timing is perhaps the most important aspect. For me cloudy days are best especially those ominous snow storm clouds that completely coat the sky with 3-dimensional grey contour.

Have some tips of your own? Please share them below. I’m not the expert! I’m here to learn just like you 🙂

Keep up with my latest adventures and photos 🙂

Follow JELTOWN on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and now on YouTube!

Save money by traveling like I do

$35 off your first Airbnb booking!

Check out the Equipment I use

Nikon D3300
Nikkor 18-140mm Zoom Lens
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II