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

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

camera, photography, travel tips

How I get my photos: Camera Settings

So you have all your gear now. How do you set up the camera?

I almost always use manual mode on my D3300. I can be way more specific and have much greater control over the outcome this way. I find that auto tends to overexpose things.

I do use the Auto setting for my White Balance quite often, especially if I’m having trouble getting the correct balance with the presets. However, play with this, because sometimes the Auto setting doesn’t get things quite right you will end up with an overly red or overly blue photo.

The manual mode has 3 primary functions you can adjust: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.

I try to use the lowest ISO possible (100 for my camera) to reduce the amount of grain in a photo. Sometimes I go higher if I need a quick shutter speed in a darker situation.

Aperture basically determines whether you are focusing on a very narrow and specific depth of field (lower numbers) or focusing on a larger range of distances (higher numbers). Lower aperture lets in more light (thus you can use lower ISO and fast shutter speeds) and is good for focusing on one specific item while keeping the background and/or foreground blurry.

For a standard landscape photo I use an aperture somewhere between 8 and 11. This allows me to keep the ISO at 100, keep the shutter speed fast enough that I don’t need a tripod, and still get the entire landscape, both near and far, in focus. When trying to get a long exposure I will turn the aperture up to 22 to reduce the light coming in so I can decrease the shutter speed without over-exposing the photo.

Shutter speed determines how long the photo absorbs light. I like long shutter speeds to blur water, take in stars, and give a dreamy soft light feeling to my photos. However, this requires a tripod or something sturdy to set your camera on, much more time, and compensation if it is bright out (a dark filter for example). Quick shutter speeds (1/400) are good for motion that you want to stop in mid-air (my classic jumping photos on my Instagram are taken like this).

I have recently been using an extra dark filter, 30+ second exposure, 100 ISO, and an aperture of 22 to capture some fantastic dusk photos with soft ambient lighting and blurred water (see the photo featured in this post).

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

 

camera, photography, travel tips

How do I get my Photos?

People often ask me how I get such amazing shots (their words not mine). I don’t think my shots are that impressive most of the time. They certainly aren’t professional yet. And I would love if you guys would give me some constructive feedback on how to improve.

However, I would love to share the few tips I do have so far on getting these shots, including setting, timing, location, equipment, and editing.

Lets start with the gear that I use.

For panorama shots, videos, and certain difficulty lighting situations (where HDR setting is best), I actually use my Samsung Galaxy S7. I wish they would sponsor me haha. Some of my best photos come from this phone. I use an Auto or Panorama setting occasionally using the HDR option on Auto. That’s it!

Brand New cost $600

My DSLR camera is a Nikon D3300. This is a crop sensor (as opposed to full-frame) entry level DSLR with a surprising number of options including full manual settings.

Brand New about $460

My favorite lens is the highly rated Nikon AF-S Nikkor 18-140mm 1:3.5-5.6 DX VR zoom lens. This lens has an auto focus that is usually accurate and a manual focus which I find somewhat stiff to adjust precisely. I hope to upgrade to a professional grade lens soon.

Brand New about $500

My second favorite lens is the Tokina SD 11-16 F2.8 (IF) DX which works with Nikon though I’m not sure if the auto focus is accurate. I use this for wide-angle photos of landscapes at least 7 feet away (the manual mode for this lens adjusts to infinite after 7 feet. Make sure the focus marker is perfectly in line with the infinite symbol ∞.

Brand New cost $450

Besides that I also use multiple SD cards, preferring smaller 4gb ones over larger ones, some filters (Neutral Density filters to extend exposure time and Graduated Neutral Density filters for differing exposures). I need to purchase a Polarizing filter next to reduce glare. I also use an SD to Micro USB converter that allows me to directly put photos from my DSLR to my phone for Instagram posting on the go. I also own an older manual Nikon Nikkor.C 1:4.5 f=80-200mm zoom lens. It’s a really nice older lens that works well on most Nikon camera.

I’m looking to upgrade to a professional grade Camera and am torn between the Nikon D810, Canon Mark III or IV, and the Sony Alpha a7R II Mirrorless. Any suggestions or opinions?

Happy Travels!

 

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