Don’t ask, don’t tell: Should landscape photographers keep location secrets?


posted Friday, April 27, 2018 at 6:30 AM EDT


If you're a landscape photographer, particularly one who enjoys hiking and finding new locations, it's always a difficult situation when someone asks you about where you captured an image. Some photographers don't mind sharing all of their information, but others prefer taking a secretive approach.

Photographer Ben Horne tackles this topic in his latest video, seen below. The context for the video is that Horne will be heading to a canyon in an upcoming spring backpacking trip. He visited the location for the first time last year and he did a lot of research before the first visit. He used satellite maps, scouted the location remotely and looked for composition opportunities using his maps. He spent a lot of time researching but ultimately there wasn't a ton of information about what the location would be like once he arrived to take photos. This indicated to him that it was a place not many photographers had really been to and explored. It wasn't well-known by photographers even if it was known within other circles.

In the end, there was, as there almost always is, nice photographic subjects. While the weather was not cooperative for a long visit last year, Horne captured two of his favorite shots from 2017 in this relatively unphotographed canyon. He enjoys these photos not only for their visual splendor, but also because he worked really hard for them and put in a lot of effort to be able to capture them. That work is his and his alone, which is not something which can be easily said about photographing in well-known, famous locations.

When he shared the behind-the-scenes footage from that trip, Horne was careful not to mention the name or location of the canyon. He even went so far as to flip the video from time to time to help hide the location. He didn't want to be a person who made the location more known to photographers. When sharing content on social media, a lot of people can view them and you don't necessarily want to introduce many people into an otherwise relatively quiet location. Horne thinks photographers have a responsibility to lessen their impact.

This is a tough topic. When I am viewing a great image captured in Maine, where I live, I am always thankful when the photographer shares the location because it means I can try my own hand at exploring and photographing the area. If they don't share the information, I don't want to ask them because I can safely assume that they're playing their cards close to the vest, and that's perfectly fine. They put in the work, they spent the time and that experience is theirs to share or not share. Personally, when I work hard to scout a location, explore it and photograph it for myself, I am hesitant to share the location.

There's also something to be said, as Horne mentions, about a barrier to entry. If an area is harder to find or get to, the people who go through the effort and more likely to be careful and considerate when there. It's a painful experience to see people, photographers or not, treating an environment poorly and the more people who visit an area, the more likely that area is to be disrespected. If withholding information from other photographers is the price which has to be paid to help protect a beautiful area, then it's a cost Horne is willing to incur.

Readers, do you share location information with other photographers?

(Via Ben Horne