– 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.