The National Parks Traveler’s Instagram posts will have a slightly new look to them for 2022 (are you following the Traveler on Instagram (@national_parks_traveler)? If not, why not show the Traveler a little love and go over for a looksee).
And here’s the reason for the new look for the Traveler’s Instagram account:
Back in September 2017, I took over maintenance of the Traveler’s Instagram account and raised the followership from about 1,000 to almost 46,000 (and counting). Most of the images you see on the account are mine. If the images are not mine, then I do my best to give credit. Usually, the images are from the NPS’ public domain gallery, which means anybody can use the photos. If those images were captured by a volunteer photographer for the NPS, and their name is listed on the NPS’ gallery site, then I name that photographer, too. On occasion, I have copied lovely/pertinent park posts from other Instagrammers, but ONLY after asking their permission to do so. And, I also give credit for the repost.
The other day, I noticed one of the people following the Traveler’s Instagram account had basically stolen one of my images that I posted. They never asked permission, and they did not give credit for the post. They just copied it over to their own account. I guess they think the National Parks Traveler is a part of the National Park Service (it is not – it is a separate entity, editorially independent from any corporation, government, or agency, including the NPS) and it’s ok to use anything they see on Instagram from the Traveler’s site without asking permission or giving any sort of credit. This Instagrammer acted as if that photo was taken all by themselves. That really annoyed me.
Ok, so why should I be annoyed about a photo that was posted on a public platform being co-opted by some other Instagrammer? To me, aside from the ethics of it all, it speaks of sheer laziness. It speaks of someone who is too damned lazy to go out, enjoy the beauty of the Great Outdoors and get a photo on their own! It’s such a cool feeling to know that you, yourself, have captured this amazing image with your own camera, be it a smartphone, point-and-shoot, or tricked-out SLR. You did it! Not anybody else. You got up, you got out, and you used your own resources to get that photo – that one, beautiful moment in time. You didn’t steal it from some other photographer who made that effort because you were too lazy to do it yourself.
And, what if you can’t get to that same area as a photo you’ve seen? I’d like to get up to where I can see the Northern Lights, but I might not be able to do that anytime soon. Doesn’t mean you (or I) have the ok to utilize that image on your own Instagram account and act like it’s your own image. You like that image? Then message the original photographer and ASK if you can use their image on your own account, giving that photographer credit. If they say sure, go ahead, then wonderful! If they say no, then no is no. Period, end of sentence.
From now on, most of the images you see on the Traveler will have the Traveler’s logo on it. In truth, many, if not most, of the images you see on the Traveler’s Instagram account were captured by me. And I’m absolutely fine with the Traveler using those images. That’s what I do for the Traveler: contribute photos to this nonprofit, editorially-independent media site. To be honest, the National Parks Traveler is the reason I have continued to photograph within units of the National Park System. The Traveler has given me a voice I did not have before, with my writing and my photography. I’ll always be grateful for that, and it’s why I have no problem whatsoever allowing the Traveler to use any of my images they want. I believe in the Traveler’s news mission and am so glad I’m a part of that mission.
So – if there is ever a photo that you see on ANY public platform that you like (Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, etc.), find out first if it’s ok to share/use that image for your own purposes. If there is a Facebook Share button on FB, then it’s probably ok for you to share that photo. It’s nice if you give credit, while you are at it, and it’s even nicer if you ask permission, first. It’s also nice (and ethical) to NOT erase / cover over the watermark signature that might be on the photo. It’s the right thing to do. As of 2016, ethics seems to have gone out the door and into the trash, so it would be nice if people could rise above that, you know?