Appropriateness of Photography

With interest, I just read this article about how placing limits on photographs could deter over-tourism.  Since I have an avid interest in photography and love to travel, it made me think about this potential barrier.

And, you know what?! I would be all for it!

My reasons are based on my own experience.  Very often on our vacations, we will see people obstructing other people trying to take photographs. There is no question that this is rude behavior and part of a pervasive “me first” mentality.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think they’re doing it on purpose or just to be rude. The people that engage in this behavior just seem oblivious to those around them.  It’s like there is a vacuum that surrounds some people and their “need” to get what “they” want. And, like the article says, very often it’s a selfie or group shot in front of whatever famous landscape, monument, or body of water they seem to be visiting.

I go far to the other extreme when taking photos in the places I visit. I’m so afraid of being in someone’s way, I often rush and do not get the photograph I’d like. This is certainly true of family or group photos. It is less true of getting a landscape shot, but that happens on occasion, as well.

For example, on Mt. Haleakala, during our last visit to Maui, people were so intent on viewing and photographing the sunrise, that they trampled a garden where the rare Silver Sword plant was growing! Were there signs stating that people should stay out of this garden? Yes. Did people read the signs and heed the warnings? We did. But for the most part, no, people did not. The park ranger (it is one of our National Parks) eventually had to yell loudly at the visitor to stop walking through the garden. Even that did not detour some stubborn (read selfish) tourists.

Sunrise on Mt. Haleakala, Christmas Day, 2015. The foreground (blacked out) are actually more tourists in front of us! © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015

I know that when my oldest participated in band concerts, both at the high school and college levels, I found that I rarely (if ever) tried to take photos during the event. Firstly, they were never very good. Secondly, I hated to obscure the person behind us by holding up my camera (albeit, small). I never took a larger device such as an iPad to those events for this very reason. And, third, I found that I just wanted to remember the event for what it was and if I was filming it – my memory was obscured by my fear people would find me rude (for obscuring their view) and lack of ability to enjoy the event through my mind’s eye and not the camera’s lens. So, eventually, we took to taking a shot as the music students sat down, stood for applause, prior to or after the concert.

Recently, when we went to Canada’s Banff National Park, we were pleasantly surprised by the politeness of those trying to photograph the stunning Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. In general, families or couples (from all over the world) stood for their photograph and quickly moved aside for others to “take their shot.”  It was a behavior that was unusual enough to have me notice it right away. Was the politeness related to being in Canada? Maybe, I don’t really know. If so, we all need to take some lessons!

Admittedly, however, when we saw a line of cars ten deep in front of the large BANFF sign (think of the AMSTERDAM sign you’ve seen in social media) with visitors – children and adults alike – climbing all over the letters to capture a fleeting vacation moment, we passed right by. “Why get frustrated with that?” we asked ourselves, knowing it would be the case!

Likewise, in our younger years, while living in Buffalo, New York, we frequented Niagara Falls often enough to experience problems with tourists taking photographs. Standing in front of the falls for a photo is fine. But, one has to realize that thousands of other people would also like the same chance. So, take your shot and move on – don’t continue to hog the railing in front of the best view while others are obviously waiting!

I love travel photography, probably more than the next person. It is not usual for me to come home from a vacation with thousands of photos. But, I do think there is something to be said for being in the moment and enjoying the event or place by taking it all in as a person, to store as memory, not a digital file.

All in all, I think I will continue to be conscious and careful of not obscuring someone’s photographic needs. But, having this reminder came at a good time as we prepare for a short trip in the coming weeks.

What do you think? Are you able to just snap away without feeling that you are in someone’s way or do you note that your time for a photo might have come and gone – without taking advantage of it?


4 thoughts

  1. I might agree with this thinking as well. Although I too love photography and travel photography is my favorite, there is really something to be said about how easy it is to lose the experience in the quest for the perfect photo. Just recently I was in Madrid, and one of the cathedrals we visited did not allow photography inside. At first I was disappointed, because my was it jaw-dropping. But not clicking the shutter gave me some precious time to just absorb what I was seeing and really connect with it. Besides, the photos wouldn’t have done that place justice anyway! It’s also one of my pet peeves when people ignore signs and destroy the place just for the perfect photo op. When we went to see the poppies here in California last year, there were countless signs and warnings to stay on the path and not step on the blossoms. Sooooo many people sat, lay, and stepped on the flowers anyway! 😦 A very thought-provoking post, thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your comments! I love the experience you took advantage of in Madrid. I do agree that it is disappointing and hard at first to not photograph something that is amazing and definitely worth sharing. It is so disheartening to know people all over disregard signs and warnings for a photo op. There are always reasons for the signs/warnings. I wish more would heed them. Last year, I worked for a local land trust (conservancy) and we had a very wet spring. Trails were closed but people just went around the signs instead of turning back. Terrible! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us. I appreicate your words!


  2. With a camera always in my hand, I can relate to everything you mentioned in your story with rude people to me being over cautious about interfering with others. I also can agree that some of my most memorable ‘snapshots’ are those I enjoyed without a camera…but then, I’ve taken some really cool photos, too. 🙂 Thought provoking story-thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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