In his latest blog post Guy Tal argues against revealing the locations of his photographs because other photographers use him as a stalking horse so they may also visit wild and elusive places so as to cut another notch into their Instagram belt (my phrasing).
He's found that some of those
natural formations I discovered were destroyed by people, either by nefarious intent or by leading to overuse.
Speaking about this concern with fellow photographers, outdoor writers, conservation advocates, employees of the National Park Service and of other agencies, a point commonly raised is this: to advertise and to “develop” these rare and wild places is a good thing because if more people see them, more people will become motivated to advocate for their preservation. Although not obvious, the first part of the argument, by virtue of being true, negates the second part, at least when it comes to truly wild and sensitive places. It’s true that social sharing, development, and increased use of a wild place means that more people will see it, but no people will ever again experience it as a wild place.
He's been called selfish for his refusal to reveal these locations to others so they may have the same joy he did even though they would miss the most important part, the joy of discovery.
Now, I'm not by any means an adventure photographer or even an adventurous photographer. Most places I visit have been trod upon for ages, they're new to me and I'm happy with that. I totally agree with Guy's approach and if I never find that elusive spot with the perfect evening light hitting that perfect juniper then so be it. I'm grateful he did because he revealed to me something beautiful.
I've written about hunting iconic landscapes before and I know it's very hard to have driven over a thousand miles to the canyons of Utah and not stop at Mesa Arch and watch the sunrise, even if you're doing so with fifty others lined shoulder-to-shoulder. I'm happy that Mesa Arch is accessible to the masses even though I know that eventually the masses will destroy it. I'm beginning to see it and others as sacrificial lambs. Mesa Arch will be destroyed so other less accessible landscapes and formations can survive, at least a while longer. Even as I write this the idea sickens me but if ten thousand visitors a year are satisfied with (pick your icon) then the wild places Guy and other responsible nature photographers visit can last that much longer.