I have linked here to Carol Leigh California Wildflower Hotsheet a number of times over the years and have always found the hot-sheet and her forum to be an extremely valuable resource. Yesterday it was brought to my attention that Carol stopped maintaining the hot sheet, a decision that may become permanent. She writes:
Right now I cannot in good conscience continue to distribute “where-to-go” wildflower information. Private property is being destroyed. Flowers are being trampled. Rude and inconsiderate behavior abounds.
I don’t know Carol, but it is clear she has a real love and passion for wildflowers. Although I will miss her updates, I respect her decision to put the wildflowers first. But it does raise a larger question; how much should we share, and as photographers, are we helping to destroy special places by publicizing them?
I have had this discussion with many photographers over the years, and have some photographer friends who keep everything close to the proverbial (photo) vest, and others who share most anything. I personally tend to share far more then most, and I think it is a big reason why my photo blog has become popular. Not just locations, but techniques and most anything I know. There are topics in which I have drawn a distinct line, the main one that comes to mind is the location of winter animal sightings for animals like lynx – because I know a trappers love of animals directly competes with my own.
But in recent years I have decided to keep some physical locations private. This amazing spot in Valley of the Fire is one that immediately comes to mind. I would like to say I have some noble motivation to keep the location secret to help protect it, but frankly, often motivation is largely selfish. I like the idea of having an amazing location all to myself. To have a spot like that crawling with people, muting the colors with their footsteps would “ruin” it a bit for me, and could ruin it for generations to come.
But there is more to my motivation. I like to think of myself as a photographer, and tend to avoid the label businessman, but truth be told I am in business and this is our sole source of income, and frankly the fewer people who have photographs of an area I have found, the better it is for me. Certainly Ford would never share a discovery with Chevy, and no one would expect them to, but the same expectation isn’t always applied to photographers. I have been surprised at the questions other photographers have asked me over the years, and disappointed in how few take the time to email a quick “thanks” in response – more often then not I end up asking myself why did I just share that information?
I know there isn’t a right or wrong answer, and my opinion will likely continue to ebb and flow over the years, but I’m interested in how much others are willing to share and why?