Images you may never get to make!

3 years, 1 month ago 20



Now that I have your attention,  I want to follow up on a great blog post by Jack Graham dated yesterday,    Jack went into great detail about some experiences he has had over the past week, and that we have both seen this coming!  I will let you get a lot of the the details from Jack’s blog post, but the short version is that he took a group to the Lower Antelope Canyon only to find the old 20 car parking lot has expanded to more than 100cars and bus’s and the rate raised from $85. per person to $250.!!!!!  He said it was so croweded there was no hope of setting up a tripod and making a decent image.  $250. to have a lousy experience????!!!!


In the “old” days we used to help students set up for a shot and then we would “kindly” ask others to hold up for one minute so they could finish their shot, no such luck now,  many visitors don’t speak english and have no idea what you’re asking, or pay no attention to your request at all, result,  ruined shots!



Don’t get me wrong, anyone has the right to visit these magical places and we,  (serious photographers),  have no special right to have the slots all to ourselves, but sadly those quiet special moments alone with some of the great scenes are probably over!  The price gouging is awful!


Jack also mentioned that the parking lot for Horseshoe Bend was packed an the edge of the canyon as filled with tourists with selfie sticks.  He even heard that the BLM is going start charging a fee to walk down the hill to bend!


Other locations are also up in the air, remember my experience at North Window in the spring (early spring)?  Just as the sun was rising to make the classic through North Window looking at Turrett Arch image, a 100 Chinese tourists arrived and went up and stood in the opening, replete with self sticks, I admit I hate those things, the sticks, not the tourists!!!!   The shot below may be a distant memory!


Try getting to Mesa Arch in any time, except severe winter weather, and show up before sunrise and you will find 40 others already there!!!!!!




Change happens!  The famous wagon wheel (below) in Bodie finally gave up the ghost, rotted and fell over!  Kinda like my body!!!  Yes, things they are a changin’!  Jack and I are researching where we can take people and not allow them to not have a bad experience or be gouged financially. Thankfully, many great national and state parks still allow a great experience and we will, of course, continue to go to them, but for now, we are taking a number of locations off our lists as suitable for a great nature photography experiences!





I had another bad hotel experience in Nashville inmate July.  The Courtyard West at Vanderbilt has always been great, been there three times!  This year they pulled every underhanded stunt in the book, too high a rate, required $30. a night valet parking and extra charges on the meeting room that were all uncalled for!!!  Won’t be going back there!!!  Please share your experiences with crowds and price gouging with us, and we will share your valuable information and experiences with others!


It’s still worth getting out there, but changes are coming!




the pilgrim





20 Responses

  1. Thank you, brother Bill, for opening up this subject — damn straight. The “gouging” has become so extreme that it threatens many of our national parks as well. Some places in Jackson Hole and West Yellowstone are charging $300-400/night for a room (your old Cowboy lodge was just under $300 last week) and even $179 in Gardiner is way more than adjusted for inflation from what it once was. When I was at Antelope Canyon the tribe had photographer groups which came in a little bit ahead of the crowds to allow for shots to be set up (and they even helped) but $250 is out of line. This isn’t just photographers or photo workshop hosts grousing but it really, at least in the case of national parks, threatens the core of why we have the parks and shuts off the ability of people of lesser means to enjoy THEIR parks. There are many components to this, to be sure, but these places were not intended to be “trendy.” I have had to shave days off of trips because of the increased costs. Good discussion.

    As for tourists with selfie sticks, etc., right on again. How many times have we had to literally pull foreign tourists away from standing in front of a bison or horny bull elk? One thing I (and some other photographers) try to do (when possible) is offer to take a picture of the family group rather than watch them struggle. Usually this is welcomed (I think they think we’ll take a better picture, too!) and helps to get them out of the way. The flip side of this is that I have seen many instances where (usually Asian) tourists run off charter buses en masse at Yosemite, Yellowstone, Banff, Jasper, Yoho and other prime spots and grab a quick photo and then run back to the buses. I sometimes pity them because they have not had a chance to enjoy or appreciate what they’ve spent big bucks to do.

    Now to say something positive. Sometimes people who approach when I am shooting are annoying but a couple of times I have been surprised by late teens/early 20s Muslim women with an interest in photography who were friendly, inquisitive and engaging all while wearing their head scarves, etc. While there’s nothing wrong with that it’s a bit unusual because folks tend to keep to themselves but some of the younger Muslim women have been publicly coming out and saying they are tired of being looked at as abnormal or freaky.

  2. Mike E says:

    The old saying is really becoming true — Nobody goes there anymore. It is too crowded.

    While I am happy that I got to go to a number of these places before they became so popular, I am very sad that I can’t go back again (with better camera equipment) and am really, really sorry that so many of the younger folks will not be able to truly enjoy these places…

  3. David W. says:

    As for the gouging of the visitors to parks and natural wonders, I don’t like it. I do see those charging outrageous amounts are just charging what the market will bear. My outrage at the ripoff charges is tempered in some locations by knowing that tourism is the only industry and work for many locals. I fear the windfall from the high charges don’t stay in the local community.

    Just as we as photographers are finding the large number of visitors presenting huge challenges to getting good images, the parks are suffering severe ‘wear and tear’ and vandalism from the tourists. Even caverns are suffering from visitors causing too much fresh air being introduced into the chambers. While those that love nature may be much more gentle than the tourists, the sheer numbers are causing damage. The well worn stone steps on many old buildings shows this type of damage.

    If we don’t go to the major national parks, where do we go? A good place to start may be within 100 miles of your home. While not everyone is blessed wonderful stone arches or majestic canyons out their back door, there are many wonders available only if we seek them. Tomorrow, I’m meeting three photography friends to check out a park on Stringer’s Ridge in Chattanooga and see what views are appealing. (travel time: about 20 minutes.) The mid afternoon may not be great for photos but we may find some interesting things to return to in the early morning or late afternoon. In a different direction I can be in old growth forests and eastern canyons where photo opportunities are plentiful in a state park or a state forest.

    For something a bit more developed, what about the industries that have fallen on hard times. The coal mining country in eastern Kentucky and West Virginia have yielded wonderful images for many great photographers. I’m sure that there are still many great photographs remaining to discovered. I doubt that coal country will be overrun with tourists anytime soon and what is spent will be going into the local economy which is needed and appreciated.

    Bill, thanks for writing today’s post. It made me stop and realize that while I would like to get out to see and photograph arches and the many wonders our west and far away, there are many opportunities much closer to home. The post made me question why do people want go to these places. We go to see the beauty and majesty of Creation, attempt to save an image of it, and to stand in awe and wonder. We sometimes forget that the beauty and majesty and awe and wonder may be found closer to home.

    Thanks for the soapbox, too.

    • admin says:

      It is a sad reality, but reality none the less! I would feel better if the Navajo council would share their profit with the tribe, but appears that rarely happens!

  4. Carl says:

    I have noted changes at local national and state parks also. Last fall, both of my local parks, had pretty fair restaurants where I was glad to eat the buffet for about $8-10. This spring I went to both, the meals were $20-22 for the same food/service. When you are miles from any other restaurant, one almost has no choice. And last year the room rates were $80/night – this year, $180/night.

    The government tells us we have less than 2% inflation in America – humm… not sure about that! At least in government circles!

  5. Don DeLong says:

    Hate to say it but this really has me re-thinking my workshop plans for next year and beyond. Just the act of using my frequent flier miles this year has turned into a nightmare…..used to be simple….not anymore.

  6. Johnny Boyd says:

    I guess living in Big Old Texas has it’s advantages …… I am able to shoot wildflowers during the Spring and not see another photographer…… shooting along the coast at sunrise and sunset and very seldom do I see another photographer, fishermen yes just as in other parts you have to know where and when to go…. misty rain oh yeah I am all in it others are not.

    Moab in the Fall…… yep Bill’s buses and buses and buses….and yep lodging prices the last two years are of the charts, but I have my secret $100 spot… SOP… arrive in the dark and leave early and return near dark since most are headed back in to town to eat and stay and shoot some stars..

    SW Colorado prices and crowds are way up compared to years past. I have a photo I took about 3 years ago of Matt K and about 30 others lined up at sunrise at Dallas Divide and if you want to rent a house in Ridgway well you better make your reservation in June or July. I used to make reservations in August and have many choices.But what the heck I still go ever Fall, in fact I leave tomorrow.

    GSMNP… well we all know about this one…… but I keep coming back almost as if I can’t stop myself. Every year, when I am stuck in a bear jam I tell myself…. THAT DOES IT I AM NOT COMING BACK NEXT YEAR….. I’ll see you in October Bill…… I must be under some kind of spell.

    Ozarks….. the drought has been brutal last ear the Buffalo was almost dry where I went and the major color that I have seen the last 2 or 3 years has been Brown. But I am hoping with all the rain we finally received here in Texas and in NW Arkansas the color might be a shining this Fall which I wll check out as I pass through on my way to….. yes that’s right…..GSMNP….SPELL BOUND.

  7. Bob Jensen says:

    Fyi…that wagon wheel at Bodie was restored a while back

  8. Bob Jensen says:

    Sad about Antelope Canyon…we were at Lower just a few years ago and it was very cheap…in fact a two hour deal for photographers was only $60. My son and I never saw another person, other than our guide, the entire time.

  9. janel says:

    You have hit the nail on the head. Yes….things have changed. I was so stressed when I did Antelope Canyon due to ALL the people, it wasn’t a lot of fun…even though I did get some images I liked…and yes, it was definitely that way at Horseshoe Bend. We are in the Tetons now..and yesterday morning there were probably 30 photographers at the Moulton Barn, before sun up…which actually wasn’t too bad. The people at Maroon Bells this time of year are in the hundreds…..we have LOVED our Parks to death, or so it seems…yet I do know that that Parks are for everyone…it’s a double edged sword. Thank you for posting this. Think of you often and hope you are well…..fondly, Stripes! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *