Facing Crowds

May 23, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

California was on fire. The area surrounding North Lake, Bishop was closed off to the public. Smoke filled the air to such an extent that the air quality was dangerous. The pandemic made travel difficult and photographers anxious to get out and shoot. Then one day we had a break. The smoke blew the other way and the passage to North Lake opened up. So to North Lake, I went, but so did all the other photographers. I have no idea how many people showed up but the shoreline was lined with photographers.

          This was my first ever visit to North Lake which was made famous by the desktop image on Apple computers. What was I to do? How was I going to get an image without all the other photographers in them? How do you get rid of people in your view? After all, I literally had people's tripod legs intertwined with mine. Even though I got there early to reserve my spot, what are you going to do when another photographer comes and asks nicely for a spot?

Here are a few tips to deal with photographic crowds:

  • Arrive early, before everyone else. Arrive early even if you have to stand in the cold and dark for an hour or two waiting for the sun to appear.

  • Pick your spot carefully, anticipating crowds. Make sure others cannot get into your view, if possible. You can see in the images above that I positioned myself at the farthest point possible. The reeds to the left prevent others from getting into my field of view.

  • The best spot in crowded situations may not always be the best spot for the best composition. You may have to compromise here. The best spot is the one that gives you a chance to get an image without the crowds. What would you chose, the best-composed image with forty other photographers in it or the fourth-best composition free of other people? If you want the best composition without the people ... (read the third point down)

  • Stay at your spot. They say possession is nine-tenths of the law. Don't wander off as someone else will be sure to take your spot or encroach too much into your space.

  • You may have to use a longer lens to narrow your field of view down to eliminate people from your view.

  • If there are just too many people and the landscape does not make it possible to place yourself in the right spot you may want to consider going back when the weather is harsh or cold. That usually rules out the most photographers leaving you with more manageable crowds, if any.

  • You may want to consider avoiding the iconic shots. Oftentimes, there are great images to be had just a hundred yards this way or that way. Spend the harsh light hours of the day scouting around to find other compositions.

  • Be alert. Watch out for people walking into your image while you are making an exposure. Most people don't mind being asked to wait for 20 seconds, but you have to stop them before they walk into your image because once they reach their spot it becomes much more difficult to get them to move.

Dealing with these crowds not only poses photographic problems but relational ones too. There will always be the jerk who does not care about anybody else and ruins other people's shots and experience. Expect them. At times you have to mix a bit of firmness with your kindness. Most photographers though are nice people. Work together. Take turns. Remember, all of you have the same goal; to get that winning image. Use that common goal to negotiate the situation. Be nice and respectful. Share nature.

          Enjoy your photography.


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