Delicate Nature – What’s Your Responsibility?

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park Utah is just one example of a sensitive area in a frequently visited location

Just one example of a sensitive area in a frequently visited location

I was inspired to write this post based on a Facebook photography group posting that stirred up a lot of vitriol in the comments section yesterday evening. The group, a typical bunch of happy-go-lucky photographer’s posting their latest images, had a large majority of responders none too fond of one of the images that was posted. I’m not going to list the group, commenters, or the poster of the image, because the specifics aren’t the point. The action being displayed in the image is. The behavior in the photo seems to occur all to frequently in many of the social media platforms, groups, etc. The image in question was one of a young man jumping on top of a sensitive rock formation on the Oregon Coast. While I’m sure the young man’s intentions were not malicious, the resulting photo and posting for hundreds, if not thousands of viewers, lends it self to copy cats. One after another, after another trying to recreate their own insta-twitter-book moment.

Ok, then what’s really the problem? We all love social media right? We all want likes and thumbs ups, right? It’s just a photograph, right? The issue many had, as well as my perspective, is that this behavior puts an undue burden on the features, formations, and landscape. Let’s say you live close to a State or National Park with a famous view, rock formation, historic structure, etc. Would you crawl on it? Jump on it? Trample it? Just to get a photo or fun shot for Instagram? Twitter? Facebook? I understand taking photos with individuals enjoying moments in awe inspiring locals. I try to put myself or friends into my photography to give scale and perspective. But we, especially as photographers, have to use good judgement.

Just less than 2 years ago Glenn Taylor and David Hall toppled a delicate rock formation over in Goblin Valley State Park (Utah), all the while capturing it on video. This past year Casey Nocket willfully vandalized 8 National Parks for the sake of ‘being creative’, some say fueled by her ability to show it off to others via social media. Trevor Lee recently was fined by the National Park Service, both monetarily and with community service for creating a stream of unique, but illegal photos in Yosemite National Park on his Instagram feed. Mr. Taylor & Mr Hall, Ms. Nocket, and Mr. Lee posted to social media sites touting their ‘accomplishments’ and by no means am I accusing the young man mentioned above of intentionally destroying anything, but the ‘what’s it going to hurt’ mentality for social media posting ties all of the above far too closely together.

What this boils down to is as a photographer I’ve come to grow an immense respect for the natural beauty around us and the reality that it is delicate, very delicate at times. Am I perfect? No. I’ve jumped a few barriers & ignored a few signs in my younger days. Do I now try extremely hard to pay utmost attention to being respectful when I’m in a delicate environment? Absolutely, yes. Hindsight puts me in a position where I wish I had the perspective I now have back then. It’s growth and heightened awareness that’s changed me. More time spent in these beautiful and wild places has shaped my perception. As well as simply growing up and being more mature. If we all decide to jump up and down on Balanced Rock, trample the meadows of Paradise at Mount Rainier, or climb all over Delicate Arch – eventually we won’t have Delicate Arch. We won’t have a meadow full of wildflowers. We won’t have Balanced Rock. And Then what? It will be too late to fix.

I want to encourage anyone who enjoys the outdoors, wilderness, parks, and trails to set an example. I encourage others to share this and my hope is that others will learn faster and at a younger age, to teach and encourage others to be respectful of those places we all enjoy. Because we ALL want to enjoy them.


(I encourage good conversation and open dialogue on this topic and want to hear your thoughts, but anything that turns into poor behavior/mud slinging/name calling/etc won’t be tolerated – those comments will be deleted).




2 thoughts on “Delicate Nature – What’s Your Responsibility?

  1. Kudos for writing this, Michael. I’m getting tired of hearing these criminal acts in the news. In almost every case it seems to have been driven by the desire for attention online. I read an article this week about how some American girls were arrested at the Colosseum in Rome for carving their names into the wall and trying to post a photo of themselves doing it. I hope they get punished for it.

    • Thanks Richard. I read that too, same stuff different country. While I love social media & the interaction and people we’d never meet if it weren’t for the platform. The drive to ‘create’ the next big thing or one up the other guy is just escalating the behavior. What I’d really love to see is more articles/blog/retweets about those getting penalized or punished. Maybe, just maybe it would start deter the behavior.

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