A continuing discussion….
The other day I got an email that I thought was very thought provoking and that should be shared as this is an interesting and vital discussion among all of us that go into the field to do workshops and just enjoy shooting the natural history environment! I have not named the person who sent the email in respect to his privacy and I think his message was well crafted and with a lot of merit. I have included the responses from myself, Bill Lea and Jack Garham and I hope this will spur more discussion of this issue among my readers!!! The orange is the origianl email the responses in blue.
Bill, Jack & Bill,
I respect each of you as photographers and have followed your work for some time. Bill Fortney, I met you when you were affiliated with Nikon and we were both photographing a scene in the Smokies. You impressed me then as a kind soul, encouraging me to join NPS even though our conversation was brief. Bill Lea, you and I have bumped into each other several times in Cades Cove and at the Morton Overlook as we stood side-by-side photographing and enjoying the wonderful scenes in front of us. Jack, I’ve not met you but have followed your work.
Recently Jack and Bill Fortney have commented in blog posts about the crowds at “iconic” photography sites – Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Monument Valley, etc. – and I have seen similar posts from other photographers and workshop leaders (Tony Sweet is one that comes to mind). Your posts struck me as ironic and somewhat self-serving, so I thought I’d share my thoughts privately (“Praise in public, criticize in private” was something I learned early in my corporate career).
I’m a resident of (DELETED) and have lived here for more than half of my life. I enjoy the diversity of scenery and seasons and combine my love of the state with my love of photography. Since 1998, I’ve traveled to the Smokies almost every fall to capture the fall color. Lately though, the venues have been overcrowded, and in some cases almost impossible to photograph due to the number of workshop and tour groups that arrive in vans, buses and carpools, all with tripods and cameras (and/or smartphones) in hand. You all are involved in a workshop (The Great Smoky Mountains Photography Summit), that is now in its second or third year, that invites 200 photographers and 15 workshop leaders to the small town of Townsend, TN during the peak week of fall color. Similar workshop “collisions” occur in Acadia, the Tetons, Yellowstone and other popular destinations (even Brooks Falls in Alaska).
As the photography business has changed, more and more professional photographers have resorted to leading workshops, as their print sales, stock image sales, and online revenues (Scott Kelby’s enterprise, for example) have dwindled. I understand the business model transition and don’t have a quarrel with it. But it has produced an unwanted consequence – every workshop leader wants to be in each iconic location at the same peak time. The last week of October happens to be that time in the Smokies for fall color.
My message is simple. Understand that you, the workshop leaders, are a part of the crowding problem. As an individual photographer, I’ve had to fight my way into a tripod row to get a shot I wanted, as workshop leaders were all instructing their acolytes on proper long lens technique rather than on photography etiquette. I saw it begin to happen in Bosque del Apache with Art Morris’s workshops. The crowds aren’t all Asian tourists. They’re photographers who arrive at these locations in groups of 10 to 200, each wanting to “get the shot”.
I won’t be heading to the Smokies this year. I can’t imagine trying to park along the narrow unpaved Tremont Road or getting into Cades Cove for sunrise with 200 of my closest friends vying for a spot for their tripods. Yes Bill Fortney, the “good old days” are behind us.
First thanks for your note. It’s always great when folks who have something to say make their points…all vary valid and well taken.
I won’t speak for Bill regarding the Smoky Mt event, but this event is primarily an inside, breakout sessions etc. event. Yes, about 4-5 small groups venture out in the am for a few hrs., but the summit is really about the breakouts and group sessions.
It’s really quite ironic that in most of my workshops the amount of “photographers” ( everything from pros to amateurs) have not really increased in the past 5 years in many locations. The amount of photo workshops at Schwabacher Landing in the Tetons in late September is no more than it was 5 years + ago. What has increased is the amount of “individual photographers” and tour busses filled with both US and foreign tourists. The tour bus folks are the folks squeezing their way in with their selfie sticks and iPhones. The individual photographers are almost without exception great to be around and are very respectful. However there are also a few that listen on my teaching sessions knowing full well they are not part of my group. If it doesn’t bother my paying folks it doesn’t bother me. This happened last week in California. I even get questions from individuals on where to go etc. Depending on my mood and or how they go about asking me, I help them or sometimes not.
In addition, I and other workshop leaders I know are increasingly taking their groups to the less than iconic locations with equaling appealing imagers. I just returned from the Eastern Sierra. Yes we went to Mono Lake one morning ( the Inyo NF limits photo workshops to 3 per day, not a lot at Mono Lake) but for three other mornings we are in locations with no other workshops and made some great images. Responsible workshop leaders are not the problem believe me. ( Yes there are many no so responsible). Also there were many “individual photographers” literally climbing all over the tufa. I actually had to remind one that the tufa is fragile and they are not supposed to be climbing on it. My attendees are instructed not to do so.
Believe me, not every workshop leader wants to be in each iconic location at the same peak time.
I am in the field about 250 days a year. To sum up what I see
1) Are there more workshops every year … not really
2) Are there more individual photographers ( most think they know more than they do) definitely YES!
3) Are there more individual photographer at your level—not really ( I looked at your images and work Joe and your work is superb, as good as any Professional I know, including me!!!)
4) Are there more tour busses and pardon my French, half ass photographers—Definitely YES!!!!
It’ not workshops Joe, it’s not folks like you… it’s the other categories that are making things tough. We can’t eliminate them from being in locations so it’s just a tough time to be a photographer. It will probably get worse !
Just my $0.02… and thanks for your input!
PS—Take a trip up to the Cuyahoga NP in Ohio in October and some of the Cleveland Metro parks—they are amazing good for color, as good as anywhere else. Bill and I are going to be there in 2017. I’ve been doing events there for over 10 years now! Small crowds, great color, great locations! There is more to fall color than the Smoky’s! How many times can you shoot the Tremont river from “the” bridge or Cades Cove… it’s been done—-do we really need more images from Mesa Arch?
Bill Lea’s Response:
This entry was posted on Thursday, October 6th, 2016 at 12:41 pm
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