There's a lot of us landscape photographers out there.
I like to think of us as a bit of a brethren; people with a common purpose just trying to do their best to capture the beauty of nature.
I know when I'm out shooting a landscape, I find that other photographers are kind, courteous, and friendly the vast majority of the time.
I hope other photographers think the same of me.
But that doesn't mean that there aren't times when we might ruin things for another photographer...
I'd say that when something like that occurs, it's more often than not a total accident.
However, it's still good to think about some of the ways that we can accidentally cause another photographer's shot to be dead on arrival...
Watch Your Footprints
I take a lot of photos at the beach and often wander around until I find a spot that's got pristine sand that's undisturbed by footprints.
Obviously, when taking a photo like the one above, I'm extremely careful not to walk anywhere that will be framed in my shot.
But keeping the sand in that pristine condition is nice for the next photographer that might wander by and think, just as I did, that this particular spot would make a good photo.
That means a little more work for me...
I take care to walk only in areas that others have already walked. When setting up my tripod, I ensure its feet don't dig into the undisturbed sand, either.
If it's a dune situation, I always walk on the shadowed side, that way my footprints won't be visible should someone come along and wish to photograph the dune.
The point is that whether you're photographing the beach, a sand dune in the desert, or a snowy mountain scene, watch where you step so that you get the shot you want.
But also watch your step such that the next guy or gal with a camera can get the shot they want later on too.
In the video above, Thomas Heaton discusses this very same concept. Give it a look - and appreciate the incredible beauty he manages to photograph!
Leave No Trace
While we're on the subject of not leaving anything behind, it's not just your footprints that might ruin a shot for the next photographer.
I find it hard to believe that anyone would purposefully leave trash lying on the ground, and yet I encounter trash all the time.
I know an errant wind gust might pull your granola bar wrapper out of your bag on occasion...
But if we all take a little more care with our garbage (I put mine in a Ziploc bag and put it inside my zipped camera bag), then we won't have to spend as much time picking up before we photograph a landscape.
Be Aware of Where You Set Up
Not every landscape photo you take will be in the wilderness with no one else around (though, that would be neat, right?!).
That means that when you set up your gear, you need to be considerate of how you might impact the ability of other photographers to get their shots too.
Spend some time in Yosemite or Yellowstone or another iconic location, and you'll immediately know what I mean.
There always seems to be that one photographer that's set up in the middle of a path or overlook, forcing other visitors to walk around their tripod and making it hard on other photographers to get a shot at the same time.
Now, I'm not saying that you can never set yourself up for a shot in a spot that's inconvenient to others - that's just part of photography.
But don't be in the way and then stay there for an obscenely long time either!
Try to give yourself and your fellow photographers some space, that way everyone can at least have an opportunity to get the shot they want without you and your tripod in the way.
Just Because You're There First Doesn't Make You Keeper of the Realm
Occasionally I'll encounter folks that get to a spot way before anyone else.
You can usually spot them easily because they're the ones that are yawning the longest and loudest, and they have their gear in the way such that no one else can get a shot from that perspective.
Though it's good practice to get out and get to your shoot location early, it's also good practice not to act like since you're the first one there that you now own that spot.
I'm seldom the first person anywhere, but on the rare occasions that I am, I set up, get my shots, and am always inviting to other photographers to have a couple of minutes in my spot if they want.
Don't ruin the experience for everyone else because you're an earlier riser than your fellow photographers.
Do your thing, be accommodating, and share. It's basic rules of life!
Look Behind You
For me, the most common way that photographers ruin images for other photographers is by simply not looking behind them.
I'm certainly guilty of this...
Walking along a path alongside a river, I found a perfect little spot to photograph the water, fall foliage in the midground, and a mountain in the background.
I plopped down, started unpacking my gear, and then was startled to hear someone about 30 feet behind me clearing their throat.
I had come in on a path that didn't allow me to see them at first, and like an idiot, I didn't look behind me when I found my ideal spot.
Needless to say, I ruined that guy's long exposure (sorry again!) because I was totally inconsiderate.
Just watch where you're going, and if you walk into someone's frame, immediately backtrack, apologize profusely, and find a different spot.
When it comes down to it, landscape photographers are by and large a good group. But it's necessary that we all be reminded of how to be considerate of others when we have tunnel vision and want desperately to get "the shot."
None of this is rocket science - just be nice, watch where you're going, and don't ruin things for other people. If we can all abide by those rules, we'll all get better photos as a result.