Let’s face it, some photographers can be aggressive and annoying—especially the ones we meet in those crowded iconic landscape photography locations.
Some notorious locations worth mentioning, include Schwabacher’s Landing in the Tetons, Upper Antelope Canyon in Arizona, The Watchman Bridge at Zion National Park, Delicate Arch in Utah, Maroon Bells in Colorado, and Bass Harbor Lighthouse at Acadia National Park, just to name a few.
Below is a humorous and “very politically incorrect” look at the top ten idiots we often encounter during our photographic travels:
The Party Crasher: It is inevitable that no matter how early we get to that iconic photography location to try and secure the perfect spot, someone will set up in front of us at the very last second. Next time, consider borrowing your friend’s snarling Pit Bull and staking them out on a long tie-down cable a few feet in front of you. Throwing out raw meat every now and then can also help to keep last-minute party crashers at bay. When all else fails, let the Pit Bull off the leash. If you can find a dog that foams at the mouth, you’ll be guaranteed a clear line of sight.
Flash Gordon: There’s always one photographer in the crowd that will attempt to use flash on a mountain range that is miles away (or the photographer who thinks they can miraculously achieve a sharp handheld image at five seconds). “Sorry to tell you dude, but your flash range can’t extend that far. So you learned photography, where exactly?”
Long Duck Wrong: Ahh Chinese photographers. I have nothing against the country or culture (in fact, I love Chinese food and knew a Chinese guy once, ha-ha). But seriously, I’ve noticed a proliferation of Chinese photographers visiting iconic U.S. landscape locations these days—many of whom have zero clues about proper etiquette. Typically arriving in busloads, they have absolutely no qualms about setting up directly in front of you, or a mere two inches away. And when you say anything to them (or give them the photographer’s stare of death), they either ignore you or pretend like they don’t understand what you’re saying. In all fairness, they probably DON’T understand what you’re saying. But they will DEFINITELY understand snarling Pit Bull. And trust me, snarling Pit Bull is none too happy to find out that his relatives are on the dinner menu at the “all-you-can-eat buffet” in Shenzhen.
The Self-Important Photographer: Truth is, tourists have just as much of a right to be there as we do, although that whole selfie-stick thing can be downright annoying at times. Even when tourists are well-behaved, there’s always the photographer or two that will yell at them to get out of the shot. And let’s not forget about the “you’re in my spot” guy who composes using so much of the available landscape (typically shooting super-duper wide from an all-encompassing vantage point), as to preclude anyone from venturing within two miles. There’s also the jerk who throws rocks into the mirror-like pond just to get some ripples, or the imbecile who won’t hesitate to throw a rock at an innocent critter that has wandered into the shot. While not as bad as the other self-important types, we’ll occasionally bump into the photographer who, in Seinfeld terms, might be dubbed, “The Etiquette Nazi.” These well-intentioned folk sometimes go overboard when pointing out slight infractions.
The Sand Whisperer: Yes, this is the asshole throwing the sand. If you’ve ever been to Upper Antelope Canyon in Arizona, you know what I’m talking about. This is the guy who thinks he’s Peter Lik and grabs a massive handful of sand and throws it up in the air, mucking up twenty expensive cameras in the process. Next time, consider bringing one of those air vortex cannons (Airzooka) and having a little forced air fun!
The Self-Professed Expert: This is the narcissistic photographer shooting with that shiny new $45,000, one-zillion megapixel Hassy, who obviously knows more about photography than you do and is way more accomplished than you are – and will proceed to make their superior skills known to everyone around them in a condescending way. And seriously folks, are we still arguing the merits of Canon versus Nikon or Sony versus Fuji? Yea, that’s what I thought you hack amateur. Now go back to taking pictures of your cat.
The Clone: This is the amateur photographer who will set up right next to you, even when there’s ample space to spread out. These copycats don’t understand how wide-angle lenses work (often drifting into your frame) nor the invisible personal bubble that surrounds you and your tripod (yes, my tripod doesn’t like being touched there, lol). And wherever you move, they follow you around like a lost puppy—emulating every shot, angle and vantage point. “Like dude. Seriously. I’m photographing a leaf. Now move on, there’s nothing new to see here.” If you really want to have some fun when photographing in a busy location, set up your tripod in the most meaningless spot you can possibly find and pretend like you’re photographing something epic. Chances are pretty high that your actions will attract a few clones. Of course, the worst clones are the ones who ask for advice beyond a question or two. Yea, I’m all about paying it forward. But next time I’m bringing my Square credit card reader. BTW, I now accept American Express.
The Ansel Adams Wannabe: Probably the least offensive of the tripod-hole dwellers, these chatty photographers often show up wearing Ansel Adams photography vests (with 100 secret pockets), vented Indiana Jones hats and multiple Black Rapid slings and harnesses. Typically they’ll be carrying two or three additional Lowepro or Think Tank camera bags. Usually bearded old-timers belonging to camera clubs, they are friendly gear geeks, and are awfully fun to watch. If you’re looking for a good story or meaningful conversation on a brisk Autumn morning over a piping hot cup of coffee, these are the photographers to hang out with. They are also very knowledgeable about the local area, especially the best places to eat.
The Rule Benders: These are the photographers who won’t hesitate to trash nature to get a shot. They don’t care about posted signs telling them to stay on the trail, nor do they have any issues trekking through a field of rare plants or vegetation. These are the same jackass photographers who left muddy footprints at “The Racetrack” in Death Valley a while back. And don’t even get me started about those Boy Scout leaders who knocked over an ancient Hoodoo rock in Utah. Well, here’s hoping that you break out in a raging case of Poison Ivy! Congratulations, you just destroyed millions of years of history to get five Facebook likes! And your pictures still suck!
The Arrogant Workshop Instructor. These are the worst offenders of the bunch! I’m all for workshops, but nothing ruins the serenity of a magic hour shoot faster than three van-loads of students descending on your location x twenty workshops. What’s even worse is the loud-mouthed instructor who proceeds to yell out detailed instructions to the entire group (e.g. to every human being within a one-mile radius), or the entitled instructor who is perfectly fine letting his bloated group of students jam into an already overcrowded area. Nothing pisses me off more than the greedy solo workshop leader who thinks that they can single-highhandedly control and instruct 25 photographers (just for a workshop money grab). Listen, I’m stoked that you have 5,000 Instagram followers and are a frequent contributor to “Outdoor Photographer Magazine.” But if you ask me to move to accommodate your group of tripod-toting minions, I’m going to have to break my camera over your head. Now piss off…
So there you have it kids. Did I miss any tripod hole offenders? Did I offend any old-timers who own Ansel Adams vests? Well, feel free to chime in below. Of course, it goes without saying, that we have nobody to blame but ourselves when we choose to visit iconic tripod holes. There’s certainly a lot to be said about photographing “off the beaten path!”
If we ever do find ourselves at a tripod hole, we would be wise to follow the words of Rodney King, when he so poignantly said, “Can’t we all just get along?” Unfortunately for some selfish photographers, these words often ring hollow.