I am a naturalist. Nature, I believe, is our best friend and the most important thing in our lives. Without nature we are, literally, nothing.
The day after Abby and I got married at the majestic Delicate Arch at Arches National Park, Utah, we hiked with some friends on a nice trail at Arches called the Primitive Loop. Although the day started cold and windy, by noon it was a magnificent October day in southern Utah. Near the end of the loop trail, Abby knelt down to photograph a small purple flower growing in the sand next to the trail. Another member of our party blundered up and pulled it out of the ground and asked, “What’s this?” After seeing the shock and anger on Abby’s face, he stuffed it back into the ground, but of course, by then it was done: you can’t “unkill” a flower.
I tell you this because a friend of ours surprised and dismayed us recently by carrying his unmanned aerial vehicle, or “drone,” to Delicate Arch, and once there launched it and flew it around for a bit to make video.
It can be pretty upsetting, honestly, when people are openly disrespectful of others and of nature because they think something is cool, or worse, when they don’t care if something is disruptive because they think it will make them money or fame. Add to that the fact that beautiful sites like Delicate Arch are under attack by their discovery by the public; there are far more visitors to the Arch today than even the first time I saw it in 2002. This creates “The Grand Canyon Effect,” in which the number of visitors reaches a critical mass and renders the experience cheap and touristy. In that circumstance, the last thing I want to see is your stupid buzzing drone making more noise and spoiling the view even more than it already is.
Like not being able to unkill the flower, you can’t unruin someone’s natural experience.
When I pointed out on Facebook that flying his drone was both inappropriate and illegal, at first he seemed to apologize, but later deleted my comment. He left the video up, and kept a comment saying it was “cool even if it is illegal.” There’s the rub, really. Ultimately, most people don’t care about the experience of the National Parks or the peace and quite that helps preserve their sanctity, as long as they get some “cool” pictures or video to plaster all over social media.
Abby and I love photographing our National Parks, but we never do it at the cost of nature or the experience of others.
Another problem with drone photography is its obnoxious overuse. It is one of those self-referential activities that becomes a goal unto itself, and tends to undermine the photographic and film-making goals. Most drone photography simply says, “Look, I have a drone.”