16 January, 2021

REI Presents: In Our Nature – Ep 1 | Is #Photography Ruining the Outdoors?

– We are a culture that is obsessed with capturing and sharing moments.

It has almost become second nature when we see something beautiful, we reach into our pocket, we take out our phone and we take a photo, sometimes to remember the moment and sometimes to share it.

Photo taking has become so ubiquitous that sometimes going to yourfavorite outdoor viewpoint can feel more like goingto a crowded concert.

Even me I mean I'm a travel photographer, which means I take a ton of photos so I have a lot ofquestions when it comes to how photography impacts the outdoors.

Is there a benefit tothis newfound obsession or has photography ruined our enjoyment of the great outdoors? (gentle pulsing digital music with chimes) My name is Erin.

I am a travel photographer taking a closer look at what the future of the outdoors looks like.

(gentle pulsing digital music with chimes) So just got to Utah and heading to Zion and Horseshoe Bend, which are some amazing placesto take photos in nature.

That said I'm not exactly the first person to figure that out.

So here we go.

(gentle chimes and relaxing harp music) Collectively, we takemore than 1.

4 trillion photos a year and every day we post more than 95 millionphotos to Instagram alone.

We are doing a brave thing today.

(laughing) We are going to Zion National Park.

National Parks were established in part as a way to protectnature and wild spaces, but in the last 15 years, visitation numbers have surged and that is causing acrisis of popularity.

At Zion National Parkwhere we are right now, attendance rates continueto be over 4 million a year and this isn't just a US issue.

Take Norway's iconic scenery, between 2009 and 2014, visitors to Trolltunga increased from 500 to 40, 000 in what many consider a wave of social media-fueled tourism.

But what does this have todo with me taking a selfie? (beating low piano notes) All right welcome to the Narrows.

This is the start of the hike.

We can't actually hike out because the water level is too high, but as you can see behind me there is a fair crowd here.

While taking photos at iconic locations may be natural, it wasn't until recently that you could immediately share it andinclude its exact location so others could find it.

– My name is Rachel Ross.

I'm a video editor for a guided company in Springdale Utah.

People are wanting to goto the most popular spots they see on TV, socialmedia, their friends.

So the Narrows isinteresting because it is a highly impactable location.

So all of the trails within the Narrows are social trail.

So I see the trails getting wider, tons of different socialtrails breaking off into the foliage where they shouldn't be, trash has been a big issue, human waste has been found in the Narrows and this is off camera they found like 20 pounds of poop inthere last year (laughs).

– [Camera Woman] So gross.

– I know.

This is what many refer to as being loved to death.

Elisabeth Brentano has seen first-hand how popularity can lead tovandalism and destruction.

– I think whenever we sayplaces are loved to death, you know there's obviouslypeople who wanna visit these places with respect butthere are just as many people who either don't understandwhat it means to be a responsible visitoror who are gonna take it a step further and behaveselfishly in these areas putting their photos and their experiences over the best interests of the wilderness, wildlife and local communities.

– [Erin] She started apetition encouraging Facebook and Instagram to holdpeople accountable when they break the rules.

– I thought there has to be away where like if someone sees this image pop-up on social media, they can immediatelyflag it where the post would be removed.

Say hey just so you're aware, this might actually cause some damage to this area so here's the proper way to visit this spot.

– [Erin] What you don't see here at Oregon's Kiwanda is aclassic sandstone formation called the Duckbill.

Many snuck past theguardrail risking their life to snap the iconic photos.

And it's not just here, many people are puttingthemselves in harms way to get the shot.

In fact Yellowstone hasgone so far as to start a safe selfie policy, which includes neverapproaching animals for selfies as many people have beeninjured while trying to do so.

So with all this negativetalk about posting and sharing your photos, should we just ban selfiesin nature altogether? Can we do that? So we're heading to Horseshoe Bend, which is another area that has just seen a skyrocket in visitorsover the last few years.

This has changed.

Whoa there's an entrance station! So the last time I was here was three and a half years ago and this was just a tiny dirt lot and now it is a huge parking lot.

There's an entrance station.

There's construction happening.

They're building more access and there's a ton of people here.

Just me and a few hundredof my closest friends.

– My name is Amanda Hammond, I'm a park ranger at Glen Canyonnational recreational area.

– Ranger Amanda grew up in Page and has seen a transformation of this area over the last 30 years.

– Yeah I've seen at bothends of the spectrum, when you used to be able to come out here and there was nobody but you and today, I mean the explosionhas just been so rapid.

When it first became apparent that we had so many more visitors coming here, we started putting trash cans out.

As soon as we did that theystarted filling up faster than we could empty them.

It's just impossible to keep up with the explosion and visitation here.

For people that are concerned about places like this being loved to death, it's really important to use your voice to help other visitors understand how to take care of a place.

Taking care of these placesisn't about keeping people out, it's about helping people understand how to care for itthemselves when they're here.

– [Erin] While manypeople despise the crowds of selfie takers there are actually quite a few benefits to our snapping.

For example when more people are outside using these locations they may become easier to protect.

Many places are seeing a rise in awareness and protection simply because it was easy to share on social media.

And while some peoplemight not enjoy their time as much with all of theselfie takers nearby, those people taking photos might actually be enjoying their experience more.

– We did a lot of studies.

– [Erin] Kristin's a researcher at USC and has done group tests on how photography affects our experiences.

– So what we find is whenpeople take photographs, they actually enjoy the experience more.

The reason why that is isthat it gets them actually more engaged with the experience.

When you actively take photos, you actually have to think about what it is that youwant to take a photo of, and by thinking about that more, you get more engaged withwhat's in front of you.

It doesn't matter whyyou're taking photos.

If you take photos for yourself, you'll enjoy the experience more than if you take photos with the intention to share.

I know oh I'm going to share this, then the question is is that sunset really pretty enough for Instagram? Am I gonna embarrass myself by having this mediocre beach photo? – [Erin] So I want togo to two more places.

First we're going to thesuper uber iconic wave.

In fact it's become so popular that the permitting system is wild.

Let's find out if we can even get one.

Many people argue thatpeople are focused solely on getting the shot for the 'gram.

– People go outta theirway to get these photos.

– An Instagram accountcalled insta repeat shows the sameness of a lotof outdoor photography.

– These photos are createdbecause they are popular, and this game is a popularity contest.

There's a demystification I think going on on Insta repeat that peopleget something out of, even if they aren't thinking about it exactly in those terms.

– Who wants to see the wave? (crowd cheering) – All right let's go downthis side this morning.

All right ready? (crowd cheering) 131 applicants we willbe drawing for 10 spots.

All right number 33.

– [Person In Crowd] Yes! (crowd laughing and clapping) – Number 33 is a group of four.

– [Crowd] Whoa! – All right it's a group of two.

Number 30!- [Woman In Crowd] Yay! – Number 31.

(man whooping and crowd clapping) – Thank you thank you.

– 18.

– [Man In Crowd] Yep.

– All right that thusconcludes today's lottery.

(crowd clapping) – I didn't get in.

Okay well maybe we can find a place that's kind of similar.

Here we have girl out window on dirt road.

A classic.

So we came to this site, we heard that it's similar to the wave and it's down a dirt road, it's an adventure to get to but it's not too far.

There are definitely cars here, it's not like totally abandoned but it's nothing compared to what the other site is like just with hundreds of people waiting in line for a permit.

Who's to say that the wave is cooler than this one or that thisone's cooler than the wave? It's just interestinghow there can be such a huge contrast in the number of people that are coming to these sites and how they're regulated as a result.

I have the most beautiful view right now.

(upbeat techno music) It is beautiful there's a lot of really cool rock formations here.

You can just run around and play.

Hello! The light is getting to be beautiful and I'm gonna takeeverything that we found about today and just take some photos for me personally, and for creativity's sake.

– We have to be educatingas much as we're inspiring.

– So you can't post something and say I'm just sharing it's like you're sharing but are you caring? Is sharing caring in that aspect? Sometimes it's not.

– I think you have to use your voice to help educate kindly your fellow visitors and how they also can play a part in caringfor these special places.

– [Erin] Our photo takingobsession shows no signs of slowing down.

But maybe the encouragement is to go find somewhere you'll enjoy, not because someoneelse took a photo of it but somewhere unique.

Capture it through your lens.

Be present, remember to stay safe andkeep the land protected and in the process youmight end up enjoying the outdoors a little more.

Hi everyone thank you so much for watching again my name is Erin and we really wanna explore some questions about the outdoors with this series so if you've got any questions or topics you wanna see here please let us know in the comments below andwe'll see you next time.


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