REI Presents: In Our Nature // Is #Photography Ruining the Outdoors?

REI Presents: In Our Nature // 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 your
favorite outdoor viewpoint can feel more like going
to 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 of
questions when it comes to how photography impacts the outdoors. Is there a benefit to
this 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 places
to 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 take
more than 1.4 trillion photos a year and every day we post more than 95 million
photos 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 protect
nature and wild spaces, but in the last 15 years, visitation numbers have surged and that is causing a
crisis of popularity. At Zion National Park
where we are right now, attendance rates continue
to 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 to
do 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 and
include 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 go
to the most popular spots they see on TV, social
media, their friends. So the Narrows is
interesting 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 social
trails 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 in
there 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 to
vandalism and destruction. – I think whenever we say
places are loved to death, you know there’s obviously
people who wanna visit these places with respect but
there are just as many people who either don’t understand
what it means to be a responsible visitor
or who are gonna take it a step further and behave
selfishly in these areas putting their photos and their experiences over the best interests of the wilderness, wildlife and local communities. – [Erin] She started a
petition encouraging Facebook and Instagram to hold
people accountable when they break the rules. – I thought there has to be a
way where like if someone sees this image pop-up on social media, they can immediately
flag 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 a
classic sandstone formation called the Duckbill. Many snuck past the
guardrail risking their life to snap the iconic photos. And it’s not just here, many people are putting
themselves in harms way to get the shot. In fact Yellowstone has
gone so far as to start a safe selfie policy, which includes never
approaching animals for selfies as many people have been
injured while trying to do so. So with all this negative
talk about posting and sharing your photos, should we just ban selfies
in nature altogether? Can we do that? So we’re heading to Horseshoe Bend, which is another area that has just seen a skyrocket in visitors
over 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 hundred
of my closest friends. – My name is Amanda Hammond, I’m a park ranger at Glen Canyon
national 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 both
ends of the spectrum, when you used to be able to come out here and there was nobody but you and today, I mean the explosion
has 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 they
started 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 places
isn’t about keeping people out, it’s about helping people understand how to care for it
themselves when they’re here. – [Erin] While many
people 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 people
might not enjoy their time as much with all of the
selfie 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 when
people take photographs, they actually enjoy the experience more. The reason why that is is
that it gets them actually more engaged with the experience. When you actively take photos, you actually have to think about what it is that you
want to take a photo of, and by thinking about that more, you get more engaged with
what’s in front of you. It doesn’t matter why
you’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 to
go to two more places. First we’re going to the
super 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 that
people are focused solely on getting the shot for the ‘gram. – People go outta their
way to get these photos. – An Instagram account
called insta repeat shows the sameness of a lot
of outdoor photography. – These photos are created
because they are popular, and this game is a popularity contest. There’s a demystification I think going on on Insta repeat that people
get 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 down
this side this morning. All right ready? (crowd cheering) 131 applicants we will
be 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 thus
concludes 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 this
one’s cooler than the wave? It’s just interesting
how 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 take
everything that we found about today and just take some photos for me personally, and for creativity’s sake. – We have to be educating
as 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 caring
for these special places. – [Erin] Our photo taking
obsession shows no signs of slowing down. But maybe the encouragement is to go find somewhere you’ll enjoy, not because someone
else took a photo of it but somewhere unique. Capture it through your lens. Be present, remember to stay safe and
keep the land protected and in the process you
might 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 and
we’ll see you next time.

100 thoughts on “REI Presents: In Our Nature // Is #Photography Ruining the Outdoors?”

  • Can you imagine when the US population reaches 500 million? 700 million? How about the world population gets to the predicted 11 billion?

  • The inconsiderate people taking selfies & vlogging are ruining nature. Section hiking AT & could not believe all the people on their phone talking to themselves.

  • That is why I try to truly connect with nature and not go to the tourist locations. As a result I have wild areas to myself. Maybe people should plan real adventures, rather than have a sanitized nature experience.

  • Serious REI. They used to be for true adventurers; they are just another corporation (sorry co-op) that is making money of people that have no respect for the outdoors feel that they belong there. They are a major part of this change and now they pretend that they are not part of it.

  • When I went to Zion a few years back and hiked The Narrows it wasn't even fun because the amount of people and their screaming kids there. On my last trip out west I began to enjoy the National Forests more than National parks because you can get away from the crowds.

  • Morpheus Jenkins says:

    Bruhh that’s not photography, photography requires hours of skill, dedication and persistence “just snapping a few pics” isn’t secondly uncaring selfish people do.

  • Jonathan Rindos says:

    I just wonder if anyone would do anything anymore without social media announcing to the world what they're doing. Remember the days before social media when we all just lived in the moment because that's all there was?

  • I think one reason selfies are so out of hand is that in this culture sexual market value is now hugely affected by photos people use.this is social media but also has morphed the dating world that is foundational to most peoples behavior.

  • Photography isn’t ruining nature; people and social media are ruining nature! People litter and have 0 respect for nature. Look at Iceland, they had to recently close down parts of the country because of people tramping all over the moss which took roughly 500 years to grow and will take another 500 years to recover.

    Pick up your trash, pick up your dog poop, and tag locations simply as Planet Earth. Don’t trample on Moss and wildflowers. Do not pick wildflowers. Do not trample on farmland for that wheat and sunflower photo! Use common sense.

  • A J MacDonald Jr says:

    I haven't taken an outdoor photo during a hike or mountain bike ride since I read "The Humiliation of the Word" by Jacques Ellul.

  • The people trashing the parks arent going to watch this. The ones that do think the video is about social media and selfies….
    Stop trashing the parks, dont liter and dont wander into dangerous areas.
    People havent changed, the retards are just more informed on where to go and were just more aware with what park rangers are dealing with.

  • the sickness of popularity are getting insane this days. they often forget how beautiful the place they have visited. But, thats the reality

  • 1:33 why in the hell would this be bad? All that money goes towards the parks. Who cares if people want to go to parks now because of social media.

  • edshotsdotcodotuk says:

    There's a further issue with photography's impact on the environment. This video deals with social media's influence but there's also the devices being used to capture and edit the photos. Film photography uses masses of water and of course the pollutants created in processing/printing. At least the camera's used are almost totally used so somewhat green. New cameras and gear have a lot of heavy metals and plastics. Phones are also not very green with the materials used. I personally try to buy secondhand wherever possible and rarely buy a new release of a product. Electronic manufacturers need to build in more future proofing and release updates to firmware so customers don't have to buy new products as much. The unibody design ultrabook similar to that of the MacBook also has quite an impact on the environment especially if a new model is released and bought in large numbers every 6 months to a year. I've got a 2014 MacBook Pro and hope to have it for another year or two at least.

  • If there is a silver lining to all this it might be that these places may have very few repeat visitors, since having taken the obligatory selfie, they have 'done' the location and will move quickly on to the next.

  • Seems like people like to visit the outdoors, yet how much land in the past twenty years has been added to wilderness status or new parks created. I live outside Yellowstone yet I see land being sold off to private subdivisions not being added to a preservation status. Once it's gone it can never go back to being a forest. REI sells overpriced gear, how much of their CO-OP profit goes into actually buying land for preservation?
    We don't need trail maintenance workshops, rock climbing clinics we need new lands added to preservation status

  • It seems technology is creating this attraction frenzy and not so much taking the picture.
    The resolution, filters, just point and shoot and upload. If taking a picture took 2 minutes then no one would do it. And now we see such amazing photos we all want to go do it ourselves. But this shouldn’t stop us from traveling and seeing the world before it crumbles apart, sadly due to humans

  • Michael Forbes says:

    Preface: I am a photographer-nature and street. This video seems somewhat pretentious. It pretty much starts with a hidden premise which is "these people are ruining my special place". The National Parks service was launched as an effort to get people to experience them and preserve. When more people come to visit that means more money for the local economies and for the parks themselves to hire staff, and expand on preservation efforts as well as cleanup etc. The "instawhores" that go to these places for the sole purpose of their feed are outweighed by the multitudes of people going there because they love the outdoors and look for new places to vacation & experience. "A crisis in popularity" is not an actual crisis so you should probably take a look at that. And us questioning if we should "ban selfies in nature" is an extreme overreach. I do agree that people should be educated due to their ignorance in parks because of lack of experience. I rarely write this much in comment but this completely rubbed me the wrong way.

  • Joshua Foulger says:

    do a vlog of hammocking and the impact it is having on the outdoors. countless times that i have gone rock climbing i have come across areas where there have been people hammocking in little camps they set up. and on the way back down the camp will be empty of people but will be loaded with trash and other items.

  • Anyone can take a picture of a bird or a mountain, but the truly special pictures are the ones with you and/or your friends and family. Or maybe your campsite or something you made.

    After looking at lots of my photos I've realized that nearly all of them aren't meaningful to me years later.

    Sometimes it takes away from being in the moment to take a picture, but if it's something you can print out and save for years to relive the moment then I think it's worth it.

  • Just ban anyone in a yellow jacket…. Why is it everyone has to be Sheeple and go to the same places? For every spot that's popular there's 20 that nobody knows about. For instance… I'm in Ireland and EVERYONE has to go to the cliffs of moher. You can bet someone reading this has either been there or knows someone who has been there. But, within half a day's drive, there are the highest cliffs in Europe….. 3 times the height of the cliffs of moher, but you can't jump out of the coach and take a quick picture because you have to hike over bog to get to it, and I ain't telling you where it is.

  • Too many visitors is ruining iconic outdoor destinations, also, to many visitors helps protect iconic outdoor destinations. okay…

  • Photography is just a tool. Many photographers have used this tool to reduce the world into a photographic research in the form of photos. Advertisers in turn have reduced photos as content for advertising. Yeah, social media has blown up places that used to be quiet and have made them “loved to death.” Thanks for your video!

  • 1967davidsrebrnik says:

    On a recent video after the 10 death on the Everest, the guy's idea to lower the number of climbers is 'if you couldn't tell anyone or post a selfie about it, would you still climb it?'

  • Stephen Andrews says:

    Confusing people with a cell phone to those of us who are photographers causes me issues…

    But irresponsible, selfish, and below average common sense people are the cause of the issue

  • You know what, here's what I think about this hilariously un-self aware project: This video is most assuredly pointing fingers at the wrong people. Look in the mirror, REI. If you go outdoors and have a pulse, you are going to film it – at least a little snippet of it. Because it's 2019 – there's no putting Pandora back in her box. In my latest video I filmed two distinct areas completely filled with trash in the backcountry – specifically to call attention to the pollution of our forests. So I'll ask a more pertinent question: if you film it – do you want to be part of the solution, or are you just going to go to the same photogenic cliffside as everyone else, in order to garner followers, likes and a sweet dopamine hit? My guess is the people who left so much trash I couldn't even begin to pack it out probably don't have 10k instagram subscribers at their beck and call. But a fair number of prominent outdoors Youtubers and IGers never, ever, ever show the unglamorous side of what they find others have discarded in the #outdoors.

  • Hmm this video have similar style and message to Vox and Johnny Harris' video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAcXVIK9mjo&t=326s

  • I think this is temporary, though. These spots will become overplayed, and people will lose interest. Then only the true outdoor lovers will continue to visit. Or at least I hope so, I guess! Until then, I just seek out areas that aren't as popular, but still beautiful!

  • It is a very difficult matter. I struggle with it too as a photographer. I really want to see those beautiful location, but I don't want to contribute to the overpopulation of them. Also, am I a part of the cause of it when I'm sharing photo's? It is so difficult and I wish that social media never was invented. Would that solve the problem you think?

  • my old astronomy professor used to tell us – Human beings make things complicated, it is in our nature to complicate things, and this is a clear example of it.

  • When you hear about people loosing their luve due to getti g that perfect shot, I call it natural selection. Fu king idiots

  • Great topic. Thanks for posting the video. There is so much to discuss. I recently visited Rocky Mountain National Park during the peak season. I attended a ranger program at Glacier basin campground. It is here I learned that some of the alpine plants can live for as long as 100 years or more, and one misplaced step can Squash it’s chance for survival in this harsh environment. Had I not attended the program, I may not have been so careful of my foot placement the next day during an alpine hike. I think education is crucial but it’s hard to convey this information to millions of people whom are easily distracted by beautiful views, wild animals, and selfie sessions. Is there one solution? Probably not. I think we are gaining some awareness and we need more work to spread the word.

  • Robert Goodman says:

    As a person who enjoys photography from a stronger skill than just using my cellphone, what I've noticed is that I have to be very selective of what and where I am taking a picture. But I also remember to put down the camera and just enjoy the moment because between me and enjoying the outdoors is the camera itself. Furthermore, I have zero desire to post my photos anywhere except the wall of my home or the desktop of my computer or maybe with friends and family. That's it. Last but not least, my basic rule is never to be where a lot of people are and never to take pictures of people without asking. As for taking pictures of animals, either learn to understand animal behavior or risk your life interacting with them.

  • With all these people taking selfies and sharing like they do and pictures on YouTube showing where they were at
    Yes the pictures and videos beautiful but for me knowing I will share only a very few items of my pictures I will not disclose the location of where I took them at
    The GPS location on my cell phone is strictly for me I will not attach that location to a photograph

  • This message needs to be broadcast. So important. Some locations are so 'overshot' it becomes a cliche and spoils the opportunity for other Photographers.

  • Jörg Zimmermann says:

    Taking photos and traveling is not the problem, I have been doing this for over 30 years. The invention of the iPhone and the outgoing spread of smartphones and social media has changed everything. In the analogous times where you had 36 pictures in one roll of film, taking pictures was still a challenge and the number of pictures was limited by the space in your luggage and purse. There was no Photoshop, a photo was a photo – an original that captured the split second. Does technology make the world better? Sometimes!

  • Ironic that REI's existence is to encourage people to get outdoors and now they post a video complaining that people are. Perhaps companies like REI are running the outdoors by encouraging more people to "get out there" and then profiting from it.

  • Incredible insight! We should all focus more on the journey we experience rather than the destination. Everyone should get outdoors and be responsible. Go play!

  • Summit and Beyond says:

    🤙 This is a great message. I am a UK Mountain Leader and over the last few years we have seen the moutains start to change. The amount of people been lead over the classic routes is destroying the hill side. I think education is 100% needed. People need to know how we can look after these beautiful areas.

  • As someone whom hikes and fishes a lot. When you find a “secret” fishing spot you tell no one or only those you know will respect and honor it. I apply the same principle to my hikes. Somethings are just better kept to yourself and don’t need to be put out there for less careful people. Who knows you might have just saved some part of nature to continue to thrive.

  • Magnitude Reviews says:

    Is it photography that is the issue?

    Or is it the widespread impact of social media, partnered up with a general public who don’t understand the rules of Leave No Trace and it’s importance on the land.

  • In these larger more popular spots we really need to think about daily limits on visitors…like they are doing at the Wave with permits. They should also be weighted heavily towards favoring residents/citizens.

  • No, photography isn't ruining the outdoors, as a landscape photography I ten to go of the beaten track to find the not so popular shot's, I phones and smart phones ruin popular places!

  • The HeartBrokenBiker says:

    A good video this.
    This is why I never tag THE EXACT LOCATION.
    Also I upload late – months after the trip..sometimes years. 🙂

  • People might get the thrill of taking a selfie photo, but they don't get engage nature properly because they take a photo. For one, a true photographer pre-visualizes the scene in order to capture what they feel. This doesn't mean a snapshot. It is deeper and requires years of experience to be aware of their surroundings.

  • Steve Ferneyhough says:

    Well presented Erin. Sadly this is happening in every genre of photography and primarily I think social media is to blame. From landscape to astrophography it is the same situation; people unwiitingly share all their images of a location online then you get a million copycats wanting to go and do the same thing. I photograph & film wildlife mostly and it gets mad when a rare bird shows up at a particular location; it's amazing how quickly people find out via social media and then people flock there, trampling ground, leaving litter, trespassing or parking dangerously just to get a view or photo. Last year a local beauty spot had horrific grass fires and it turns out it was caused by someone leaving a disposable BBQ unattended. People talk nowadays about 'mindfulness' but I think a lot of people are just mind-less!

  • Stephen Turner says:

    Maybe there should be a more enforced set of rules for what you can post and where.
    There is a well known selfie spot on the west coast of Ireland. It is against all the rules and laws to go onto it due to the risk of death! Yet people do, and nothing seems to be done about it. If these photos go up, then people should face punishments for it.
    There should, of course, be more patrols to stop littering and vandalism!

  • Alison Olmstead says:

    I mean hasn’t REI an other outdoor retailers main aim to get more people in the outdoors and now they are and are complaining that it worked?! If people want to enjoy an area let them. The human impact on nature in forms of cities and infrastructure is way more than some wear and tear on some rocks and trees in “wilderness”. Fact is these lansdscapes have always included human history until the US decided to kick the indigenous peoples ojt out and make it a “wilderness”

  • This was an awesome video. I think its messages like this that people need to see more than "highlight" worthy photos.
    Enough people have said this enough in the comments but, its not the photos its the people you ruin these places. We just need to continue to educate.
    Thanks for posting this!

  • This is why I stopped sharing my locations on my videos and photos. I share it with my closest friends and only photographers and film makers I trust to keep
    It secret

  • Gregory Veizades says:

    We should go back to the good old days and only allow film cameras into national parks. Make them work to share that photo.

  • Perfect Little Planet says:

    Well done and very thought provoking for us to consider as we create travel videos here on YouTube. We try to promote responsibility in all of our videos, like staying on the boardwalks in Yellowstone and not flying drones over protected lands. Hopefully our viewers will learn and do likewise, but I sometimes worry that our promotion of a place might inadvertently have negative impacts like the ones you highlighted in this video, and I really want to do more to minimize that possibility. -Brian

  • I was in Yakima Canyon and there was an REI photoshoot going on — nothing like the sound of a large drone to scare off all of the birds that I came to see, and to ruin the peace and quiet I came to find.

  • Aydin Productions says:

    As a pro i'lll say it makes the places like where I Live in the Canadian Rockies just busier and those visiting don't appreciate it for what it is. They've started to chase animals to get a photo with them all day. Parks Canada has stopped the reporting system because people will go out of their way too find those animals and harass them which usually end up with wildlife dead.

  • BackpackerCoach says:

    It's a people problem not a photo problem. Don't blame the tool. Blame all the uncaring, irresponsible, selfish people.

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