I am taking some time to talk about ethical photography and hiking. I have been wanting to write this for a while but just haven’t had time (hence the lack of updates recently). I was spurred on by seeing a post on Instgram. It was a photo of Falling Springs Falls in Virginia. The photographer and climbed down to the bottom of the falls for the shot and it was being shared on various accounts (the main Virginia Tourism site for one). It irked me. It is illegal to hike to the bottom and fines are involved if caught. Do people get caught? Maybe. Probably not. And maybe they don’t care about the fines but there are reasons some areas are closed off. And by sharing those photos, it encourages others to climb to the bottom.
Now, in all honestly, I have passed a few lines that said, “stay back”. I have certainly hiked off trail but usually where allowed. But when signs say, “This is illegal and you will be fined.” I respect that. Maybe I’m a noob but if all photographers ignored those signs there would be trails where there shouldn’t be and vegetation would start to fade away. I believe in ethical photography. That means respecting laws. It means staying your distance away from animals and wildlife. It means not disturbing nature and following Leave No Trace.
Speaking of Leave No Trace… apparently people are now leaving painted golf balls on trails. It started with painted rocks. Now they have progressed to golf balls. This is from the blog “A Fork in the Road” by Jim Fetig.
This is a big no-no. If you see these, please pack them out. This is from the Appalachian Trail of all places. No rocks, no balls, no painted anything should be left on trails. So many places are being destroyed, we need to be ethical hikers as well and not introduce things that aren’t native to where we are hiking. And no, painted rocks are not native. I have packed out more than one of those. If you want to paint rocks and leave them around your neighborhood, that’s fine. I think that is totally different than Shenandoah National Park.
What do you think? Do you practice responsible hiking, Leave No Trace and ethical photography?
The other day I went looking for an owl to photograph. I have a fondness for owls. Not only do I think they are beautiful, but, they are fun to watch. You can almost see their feelings on their faces.
I had been standing there for just a short time (maybe 30 seconds my second time around) and a woman asked me to move along. Or basically, “Don’t stay too long!” I was taken aback a bit. Honestly, I thought her shouting that at me to get my attention was worse than me standing to take a few photos. I explained I knew what I was doing and she shrugged and moved along.
I did photograph the owl twice. Both times, I kept it very short. The telephoto lens meant I didn’t need to get super close and I could take a bunch at different settings. I then left, walked away for a while, and then returned for a different angle. I had no plans to stress out the owl. I don’t even share where the owl is and I respect it. It is their habitat – not ours. As I left, I walked down the trail and eventually met up with the woman again.
She took time to apologize for how she came across and I explained that I felt like us talking was more disturbing than me standing quietly and shooting. What she explained next was so annoying. A photographer had come a year ago, at dusk, and set up his tripod and flash and proceeded to photograph the little owl. The flash is a big no-no. And setting up just to use the flash? That’s just wrong. The owl flew away and didn’t return for a long time. As nature photographers, it is imperative that we respect nature. That means that we may not get a perfect shot. We may miss an opportunity or can’t get as close as we’d like. What matters is that wildlife and nature go as undisturbed as possible.
I remember one time I was driving and saw a Great Horned Owl. It was on a branch that I could see from the road. Clearly. I turned my car around and drove back. I suppose I could have parked my car somewhere, gotten out and walked to a spot to get a closer shot. But I simply rolled down my window, looked for cars, and shot as much as I could. The photos aren’t great. I didn’t have a big telephoto with me. I was in a hurry and hadn’t changed my depth of focus. But I had a wonderful experience with the owl.
The same goes for any wildlife. Bears in Shenandoah. Turtles in ponds. Anything out west. It is one reason so many photographers are no longer sharing locations. I won’t tell anyone where this owl is unless I know, 100%, they are a photographer that respects nature. It took me 2-3 times of going to the location just to find the owl. I knew the general area and that was enough. We go. We search. We respect. I wish everyone operated this way.
Below… the little cutie!
This past summer was great for my photography. I was lucky to see numerous butterflies, dragonflies, and flowers. I hiked a lot less than I normally do. The free weekends I had were spent running Spartan Races versus hiking and that’s okay. I’m hoping that my Saturdays will free up soon so I can get back to it. I imagine I’ll be hiking a ton this winter to make up for it.
I wanted to share a handful of photos from this past summer. Some of these are included in my calendars that can be pre-ordered but I am also leaving some as a surprise.
I’m pleased to share that my 2019 calendars are available for pre-order. Last year I made a calendar almost on a whim and people went crazy for them. This year, I had a request for an all-flower calendar. To be honest, it was hard to pick photos for that because I have so many flower photos. I also wanted to do a landscape/nature calendar so I have two for people to choose from.
The options are on my website and all orders will be sent or delivered in December. For those who live near me, I’ll be hand-delivering them. Otherwise, all will be sent priority mail. These are full 8×10 calendars with sturdy pages. Each page is like receiving an 8×10 color print of my photo. I have gotten samples from other, less-expensive places but I couldn’t do it. I had to go back to my original vendor because quality is important.
Go to https://jennifergonzalez.com/calendar-pre-orders/ to place a pre-order. Obviously, I recommend ordering one for the office and one for home. Or one for you and one for a friend.
Questions? Let me know!!