Is it environmentally responsible to lead photography workshops into fragile wilderness areas?

Just a couple humble thoughts here, and a “no workshop” pledge for your consdideration.

To me, every square inch of a National Park is a fragile wilderness area and deserves the utmost respect and preservation.

Now and then I encounter photography workshops in the National Parks, where groups of people are lead over and through fragile wilderness areas.

I was wondering if any workshop leaders might be willing to cut back on promoting workshops with geotagged locations and leading workshops and groups of people into fragile wilderness areas?

And too, as the workshops are often advertised with photographs of the fragile wilderness locations, the workshops constitute a double whammy, as not only are fragile wilderness locations geotagged and shared to tens of thousands via the workshop’s social media and websites of its leaders, but then dozens of photographers in the workshops are lead to those locations, who in turn will tag their photos with the locations.

So it is that it seems a “no workshop pledge” would serve the spirit of this site and the “Nature First” movement.

Thank you for your consideration and have a great day! :slight_smile: I look forward to hearing everyone’s opinions! :slight_smile:

Only speaking for myself and the workshops Jennifer and I lead. We lead very responsible workshops and teach our clients the Leave No Trace principles and have been promoting the Nature First principles for the past year. We even encourage our clients to pick up any trash they find. We take care to ensure that our clients do no damage and leave it better than they found it.

We also do not publicize the locations we visit, only general areas such as Death Valley and highly encourage our clients to not geotag locations.

When a workshop is run properly it will have much less impact than a group of photographers that just looked up a location online and went out on their own, this is because we can show them the way by teaching them principles of how to be a good steward of the wilderness. Granted, not all workshops are like this, but I do not think it is fair to demonize all workshop leaders because some do not adhere to these principles.

Rather than having a ‘no workshop pledge’ which is unrealistic, we need to get workshop leaders on-board with these principles to ensure that they are following them, and just as importantly teaching their clients the principles. Learning this from someone they respect could change their outlook forever and they may become an ambassador for the wilderness. Compare this to having them just go out on their own and they may have no respect for the wilderness because they have never learned why they need to take of it, this leads to destruction and areas being closed.


Thank you David!

I was unaware of your photography workshops.

Some of your workshops are specifically geotagged, such as the Zion Narrows Photography Workshop November 2019 and others on this page:

Might you consider using more general tags, such as “Utah,” or, “American Southwest”, or “Planet Earth”?

Thank you for your consideration! :slight_smile:

I think everyone can agree that the Narrows are one of the most well known spots around, our workshop page is not attracting more people to visit it. There are hundreds of thousands of people that visit the Narrows every year. The people that take our workshop already know about the Narrows, but they’re not comfortable doing it on their own. We take them out and lead them in a safe manner and show them the ropes of how to be a responsible steward. If we rename it to “Utah Workshop” these people would never find it.

I used to lead backpacking workshops to sensitive locations with very small groups and have since stopped once the overcrowding began. I don’t want to contribute to the destruction of these places since they are grossly mis-managed by the National Forest Service due to massive budget cuts. The Narrows are a bit different because the overcrowding is already exceptional and the park has determined that the landscape can handle this amount of people. At some point they will implement a permit system which is the real solution to this particular location that is already so well known that we will have little to no impact by not advertising it.


I feel that you are taking the “Use discretion of sharing locations” principal a bit further than it was intended. The Zion Narrows are openly advertised on the Zion National Park Website. ( I would agree with David that the Narrows are one of the most well known spots in landscape photography.

I am not a founding member of Nature First, but my take on its goal was to educate people on the places they are visiting and how to visit them responsibly to minimize impact. I don’t believe the goal was to try to eliminate or minimize visitation to the National Parks.

In my opinion the cat is out of the bag for the National Parks at this point since they all have their own Social Media accounts that advertise the trails in each park. I am in complete agreement with you that less traffic to the National Parks would be a great thing as there is nothing to take you out of nature more than sitting in a traffic jam in Yosemite. At this point I just don’t see it being realistic.

My take on the location sharing principal was to protect the places that are more off the beaten path that cannot handle mass foot traffic. The National Parks while fragile, have an infrastructure built around tourism.


@ebernstein I’ve followed this thread and another thread about using Zion and Death Valley for branding.

There is one common attribute to both. You want to be argumentative and take things to unrealistic extremes. No workshops in national parks, labeling thins as “American Southwest” or “Planet Earth”.

In this thread you’ve decided to focus on the Zion Narrows after @David_Kingham replied.

Somehow you seem to think that if responsible photographers would just hide their advertising and not take others to our national treasures that all would be well.

I just did a google search for “Zion Narrows Photography Workshops” . That search yielded 189,000 results. If you just search “Zion National Park Photography Workshops” you find 520,000 results. The premise that you can hide these parks by not advertising is ludicrous.

I realize you are relatively new to NPN. The culture here is one of civility and positive values to help photographers grow in the craft of nature photography. I’m well aware that you have already been warned about your argumentative behavior, once in private, and once in the aforementioned thread. I’ve seen enough of your argumentative behavior and do not wish to see any more. As a moderator here, one of my responsibilities is to help enforce the rules for this site. I’ll take steps to remove any threads that I believe are intended to stir an argument and create controversy from this moment forward.


I believe workshop leaders have a great opportunity to advocate and educate on Nature First principles. Most workshops are so much more than just taking attendees to photogenic locations. They are small group, intensive learning sessions. Attendees pay for them not only to go to great locations, but to learn the art and craft of photography. Why not add responsible nature photography to the curriculum?

I don’t run workshops, but I do know @David_Kingham. And I know that he included Nature First practices in his workshops before the movement was even formed. I’m sure there are many workshop leaders who don’t. So our goal should be to get those leaders on board, to help spread the word. Just like social media “influencers,” there is a significant population of nature photographers who follow well known photographers and educators. And again, I think they have a great opportunity to educate their followers on responsible nature photography.

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@David_Nilsen pretty well covered what I was going to say. There is a massive difference in advertising an exceptionally well known location vs. advertising a delicate location off the beaten path. You clearly want to argue for the sake of argument and can only see these issues in black and white, when in reality there are all sorts of shades of gray that you are unable to take into consideration.

The fact of the matter is we lead responsible workshops and teach our clients principles that they may not have otherwise known if they hadn’t take our workshop. The fact that we advertise the Narrows as a location is likely having zero impact on the number of people that want to visit there. Like I said, just about everyone knows the Narrows exist, so by not advertising the specific location in this case will have no impact. I’m not going to beat this dead horse anymore, I’ve said all I can say.

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Hello Ed, Evelyn???

I do not do the type of photography you talk about and have never led nor participated in a landscape workshop or any workshop in the out of doors, so this comment is not so directed.
This site is a great place to get to know people and share ideas about photography and our photographs. I notice you have not really identified yourself - no website etc, nor have you posted any photos. You might want to try that. For all any of us know, you may not even be a photographer and your name might be a pseudonym. Not that your opinion as a non photographer would not be valuable.
So perhaps getting to know the people here in a different way from the way you have initially chosen would lead you to a better understanding of what they do. and the type of people they are.
Are you a landscape photographer, like these people you are interacting with? Post some photos and get to know them.


I have looked at this thread a couple of times, and I don’t participate in discussions like this. Guess I’m like Kathy. This site for me is more about the art of photography, and discussions allied directly toward imagery, rather than getting into any sort of argumentative discussions. For you, @ebernstein, and anyone else, including @David_Kingham, this is NOT what I signed up for !!


Thank you for that moment of clarity @Bill_Leggett. I am embarrassed I got sucked in. I am deleting my previous posts on this thread.

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I believe that we all feel that minimizing impact on the environment with everything we do is important. However, that does not mean abandoning these sensitive sites, or not joining or leading workshops there.
I have been to a quite a few workshops, and - in EVERY case - the leaders were exquisitely sensitive about environmental impact., including Nate Chappell, Ken Archer, Richard Bernabe, John Marriott, Dale Franz and others. They talked about our responsibility to think “Nature First” and called us on things we were perhaps wrongly considering - “It would be better to not use that path, since it’s growing in with sensitive plants”
I don’t know David at all, but I am very certain he is very responsible in this area.
All we can do is advocate, and lead by example, and talk with others when we see something insensitive. The members joining our workshops receive an excellent educational opportunity, in many environmental areas.

We can’t control what others do, only educate and advocate.

As an example, There is a certain golden eagle nest in a part of Alaska we were fortunate to find. We, and leaders of other workshops there were careful to not publicize it’s exact location, though most knew.
I did not share it unless I knew the person asking was highly ethical.

Then I purchased a "Guide to xxxxx, Alaska wildlife, published by the AK govt, and available in every AK bookstore and tourist trap. It listed the exact location of the nest and others, per GPS and written directions, and a complete description. Thankfully, it is quite a long, difficult distance out from town, and even when I sat there discretely for 5 hours one day, only about 3 cars passed and all were locals uninterested in photography.

@EBernstein, you have some valid points, but perhaps expressed in a fairly augmentative way. It would be good to “tread lightly” in this area, too, especially at first.

We WELCOME you and your thoughts and participation, but it would be great for you to post a picture, and give us a bit of information about you (in the Autobiographical area) . That will help us get to know you and help you become a valuable member here.
Cheers - Sandy R-B