Secrecy and Landscape Photography

fa0014I am often surprised by the secrecy, and mystique that some photographers seem to use when it comes to landscape photography. If you see a stunning photo, and ask the photographer where it was shot, some are reluctant to divulge the location (even if it is a rather well known place). I’ve been to galleries where the sales people were instructed to tell stories about the location, and how it was so difficult to take the photo. Lets face it folks, photography is definitely an art, but it is also a matter of pressing a button and capturing an image. Perhaps for the uniformed art buyer, this makes them feel better about a large purchase from a big name photographer. They are buying into the hype of the photographer rather than the actual image.

Sure, it would be nice to be well known in the photographic world, and produce prints that are highly sought after. However, I am not much of a “type A” personality, and I do not have any self inflated ambitions of being wealthy from this craft. I take photos because I enjoy it, and I hope that others enjoy my images as well. I am much more of a teacher by nature. I enjoy sharing photographic information and techniques (thus this blog).

When asked where I have shot my photos, I am more than gracious to share the information. Heck, I’ll draw a map on the back of a napkin, and tell you the GPS coordinates. I enjoy talking with like minded people (those who enjoy the outdoors, and photography). Many of the photos I take are a matter of being in the right place, at the right time, and having a camera with me. I do not depend on keeping a location secret to prevent other people from taking a similar photo. I imagine most people don’t want to mess with the hassles of dragging a large format camera into the wilderness, paying a lot of money for drum scans, and spending hours tweaking the files for print.

I believe that I am producing a product with value based on the time and effort, and expense that goes into making my prints. When viewing the images in person, I hope you can appreciate them as well. If you ever have any questions about when, where and what it is that I shoot, feel free to ask me. There are no secrets with me.

The Above Photo was taken with a Toyo 45AII Large Format 4×5 camera using a Nikkor 210mm lens. Exposure unrecorded on Velvia 50 film. Here are the GPS Coordinates for the location in South Coyote Buttes. A permit is required from the Arizona BLM to access the area, as is a 4WD vehicle with good ground clearance. Bring lots of water. đŸ™‚

3 Responses to “Secrecy and Landscape Photography”

  1. Nicolas Belokurov Says:

    Well, you make a very good point Ben, but I think there are certain opportunities when I believe that not disclosing an exact location, is almost an obligation and it’s when you might feel that attracting a lot of attention to a delicate natural environment could be potentially harmful.
    We have several local stories when for instance a certain beach, or a trail was popularized by a successful photo to become completely overwhelmed by tourists and photographers just a few years later. In that case, a once pristine and beautiful natural scenery is virtually destroyed by campfires, garbage and constant circulation.

    • Ben Horne Says:

      There are definitely many areas that could be damaged in such a way. I can see how an area with sensitive vegetation is definitely more fragile.

      I have found that most people who take the time and put in the effort to get off the beaten path usually have more respect for their surroundings than the average person. This is why I feel comfortable leaving my camera setup overnight in many locations — without fear that it will be vandalized or stolen.

      If a “secret” location involves a longer hike, or a drive way off the beaten path, chances are it will be respected more. If you have to hike many miles through rough terrain, chances are the average trouble maker won’t bother. I’ve even seen some photographers refuse to say where a photo was taken even if it is a well known national park. It is as though they felt that others could simply visit that location, and take the same shot — thus devaluing the work of the original photographer.

      Like anything in life, there is definitely a balance of many factors.

  2. Chris Says:

    Hi Ben,

    I couldnt agree with you more. I love the landscape, and photography, and as I see it, if you have a gift, or are indeed very good at something, its a joy to share this information, rather than be selfish. Most people dont realise that giving is better than taking. Ive had so many conversations with pro UK landscape photographers who wouldnt give you any information on shooting techniques for instance. They fear there reputation be lost or better still, be intimidated or threatened in some way. Its so selfish and immature. Im not a great photographer, but anyone who asks me a question, Im only too willing to help them. Glad you feel the same way, keep it up!

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