A common courtesy


I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve visited Boulder Beach in Acadia National Park when there have been other people there. I’m still amazed that virtually every time I visit this gorgeous location, I have the place all to myself. Granted, I’m usually there an hour before sunrise – and in the summer months – that can mean a really, really early start. This, however, is the story of a morning where I did not have the place all to myself.

When I view online images of Acadia and read about the photographer’s experience, it genuinely warms my heart to know that others have had an opportunity to see what I see, to feel what I feel, and to make a photograph of a place that I love. I also enjoy sharing Acadia with others, especially those who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting before. Many times I have “guided” friends and family in, around, and through Acadia, and I never get tired of their appreciation for my favorite national park.

On this particular morning though, my feelings of hospitality were sorely tested. As I was setting up to enjoy and photograph what turned out to be a spectacular sunrise, a horde of people came scrambling down the path. A photo workshop of a dozen or so headlamp bearing, tripod clattering people descended on this quiet little scene, and any feelings of tranquility disappeared in an instant.

Honestly though, my first thought was, cool… this was the perfect morning for all of these photographers to be here. I was guessing that most of them were “from away” with limited time to spend in Acadia, and if this was their one and only morning to visit Boulder Beach, they couldn’t have picked a better one. I have spent many, many mornings hoping in vain for good light at this exact location, and right now the sky was showing signs of lighting up in a way that I had always dreamed of. Lucky day!

Then things started going awry… I’m not one to bother anyone while they’re concentrating, but I’ll always say hello to a fellow photographer. Usually a smile or a nod will be reciprocated – I’ve even had conversations that morphed into staying in touch  – but on this occasion, my friendly salutations went coldly ignored. Maybe these folks had spent such a considerable amount of money just to be there, or maybe they were just intently focusing on getting their shot… either way, I realized quickly that they were going to be decidedly unfriendly, and the mood was shot. At this point I should probably have just moved along, but the light was so good I decided to hang around.

10-15-12 Acadia4

Compositional options for everyone were obviously compromised by the photographers strewn across the landscape, and although I would have loved to have included the ocean more prominently in my own images, I just shrugged my shoulders and positioned myself off to the side. I was totally happy to concede “the shot” to this group – after all, this was probably the only time they would ever be here. That’s when one of the workshop members lifted his gear, and without even acknowledging my presence, moved sideways and plopped himself directly between me and the main subject in this scene, Otter Cliffs. The guy was only about ten yards in front of me, and obviously knew that he was positioning himself smack in the middle of my composition. He never said a word… just went about his business as if I, and every other photographer there, didn’t exist. I shook my head rather incredulously, mumbled a few expletives, and figured it was time to pack up my gear.

I’ve heard horror stories about large numbers of photographers jostling for an iconic shot… Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, Mesa Arch in Canyonlands, and the bridge over the Virgin River in Zion that offers a great view of the Watchman – these locations are all infamous for the crowds that gather to try and capture a landscape photograph. I’m all for people sharing in the beauty of iconic locations (and making their own photographs), though I kind of wished that the leader of this photo workshop would have added one more item to the laundry list of things they profess to offer their eager paying clients… a lesson in common courtesy.

13 thoughts on “A common courtesy

  1. How to take the fun out of what would normally be an amazing experience. : (
    I think photography is best experienced solo. Then you are able to get lost in what you are seeing.
    How unfortunate…

    • David Patterson

      I grew up in the world of team sports, so I get the whole group dynamic thing. Having said that, I totally get your point about the solitude that can be found in photography, and that’s definitely more my style these days.

  2. Wow! You still got a few amazing shots despite the utter rudeness from that group! Common Courtesy goes a long way! After all weren’t you all there for the same reason? Share and share alike I always say…I am sorry this happened. It was uncalled for and unjust! However; You were the bigger person, although by no means should have had to be forced out as it seems. People these days need to learn common respect!

  3. Inspired and pretty

    This story is unbelievable ! You’re very patient…You can be sure I would have told him to move… I become very irritated when I’m in the presence of people who don’t know good manners.
    It’s a good thing you stayed because these photos are absolutely fantastic !

    • David Patterson

      This was a rare occasion when I encountered others there. Maybe it’s because I spend time there outside of the tourist season.

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