Iconic Locations

Many recent blogs deal with the subject of sharing (or not) interesting locations and of photographers’ responsibility for damaging the environment. To add some heat to the debate, here are some of my thoughts on the subject. I will start by sharing two images from Iceland – places that I shouldn’t really photograph, as according to some, there are enough pictures already, not to mention that photographers who were there first have an exclusive God-given Right to photograph them. The other hot claim is that by taking pictures and sharing them on social media I will be responsible for the destruction of pristine Icelandic landscapes. Last time I checked, we all had an equal right to travel to Iceland or any other world destination (apart from North Korea) and to photograph whatever we want (well, almost). Joking aside, environment protection is a very serious matter. Five long years of studying nature thought me not only to appreciate it but also to understand the environment. As a photographer and naturalist, I believe that interesting images may influence others in a positive way, while education is the only answer to all our sins as tenants of the third planet from the sun. I recently hear often “hordes of people coming to iconic locations of” and I don’t like the negative connotation of it – after all, why is it OK for me or another photographer to come here and not for a Chinese, British, American or any other tourist? In my experience, most of the people paying for a trip like that enjoy the landscape and care about it, whether they photograph it with big cameras, mobile phones or not at all. The number of visitors to iconic location is greater than before thanks to cheap travel and growing population. It is a complex issue, but with a bit of a clever planning and good education, we can protect the environment better and satisfy the needs of the increasing number of travellers.

  1. James LongJames Long05-02-2018

    I live in Iceland and never tire of seeing those locations! I’m also pleased that so many people now visit Iceland to see the scenery here. The unfortunate side of it is that tourism growth has outpaced the Icelandic governments ability to handle the influx in a sustainable way for the environment. There are no park rangers or guides to educate and protect the delicate areas.

    Just last week it was in the news here (i.e. where no tourists will be able to see it) that the government was concerned that people were still visiting Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon despite having closed the footpaths there to allow for the regeneration after winter. People were simply ignoring the signs and tramping through the mud. However, someone rightly pointed out that the government could have easily prevented this by closing the access road entirely and putting up more informative signs saying it was closed to allow for damage repair. Therefore it is hardly the fault of the tourists on their once in a lifetime (expensive) trip to Iceland to see this iconic location and to walk around a small sign stuck in the mud.

    Similarly I read yesterday that those who brought Iceland to its knees in 2008 are the ones now controlling the tourist economy here, some even doing so from prison! These guys are hardly going to have educating visitors at the forefront of their minds. Hence those tourists venturing out in hire cars are never really told about or or the 112 services or what signs means in the parks. They are being sold windscreen and gravel insurance though!

    The other side, which I have experienced recently, is that Icelanders actually often want to share secret amazing locations. They are very proud of their country. They share with the best of intentions but it often results in an influx that cannot be handled by the area. The canyon is a great example of this as is Kirkjufell.

    One last little rant 😉 At Kirkjufell, you are not allowed to fly drones there. However, on both occasions I have visited recently I have seen drones flying there. It would be very easy to get annoyed with people ignoring the signs if it weren’t for the signs being placed at the top of the hill above the waterfalls (i.e. miles away) rather than in the car park where people are launching the drones from!

    Ok rant over – come to Iceland, visit the iconic locations – boo to the Icelandic government!

  2. adminadmin05-02-2018

    So nice to hear all this from someone living in Iceland. My dream (and the very first) trip there was well prepared. I do a lot of research in my line of work, but nothing could prepare me for the conditions in Iceland. I was surprised with the severity of weather – naively I thought if I can survive storms on Skye and Isle of Harris, I can survive Iceland. Not so. Education – as you say – not enough signs, not enough printed leaflets. People are not stupid, but need information. Guidebooks do not necessarily show all the dangers to visitors and to the environment. Iceland is unique and my life would be so much poorer if I haven’t seen its beauty and experienced its violent side. Let’s fight for its environment and a better approach by those in governments and those visiting.

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