After reading an article from a fellow Fstoppers writer on following the herd, I realized the power one person actually has when it comes to sharing a photo. Here is my story on discovering a location that doesn’t exist.
A few weeks ago, I was able to go on a trip I am very proud of. For years, I had been dreaming of visiting Dubai, and finally, my opportunity was there to do so. To make things even better, I was able to bring a buddy to help out with the project. Keeping this short and simple, we took advantage of everything we could out there and had a really amazing experience. However, coming home from it all, I soon realized that an image I created convinced thousands, if not millions of people that my Photoshopped picture was an actual reality.
Social media affects everybody in a different way, but in this case, it really affected me. I never thought I would be able to have this kind of leverage or create something that few people would question. Traveling and discovering new spots has to be one of the greatest fads on social media, but do these places we see online actually exist?
The truth is, I’ve seen photos like this so many times on my Instagram over the past three years or so. I said to myself that if I ever get to go to Dubai, I want to do my own version of this photo. When I got out there, I tried to do just that. After spending some time on Google maps looking for where this road could be, Martin and I decided to take it or leave it and head to the location we thought this one spot could be.
As we rolled up, we noticed the road was blocked off and the area seemed to be restricted. There was not a shot we would be able to get to that spot. We went back to check Google for more spots with this potential view, but soon discovered that we had been fooled by other photos of "fake" Dubai.
Every time I saw these pictures, I thought they were real. I’d always wonder how these people got onto these roads covered by this sand with such a beautiful iconic view. For me, it kind of hurt to find out it we'd been fooled, but it allowed me to create a scene of my own and actually plan to do it.
This leads me to my conclusion. Three or four years ago, I found something that really interested me: aerial photography. I had just bought a drone but never put it to use like I saw people doing on Instagram. Over the years, I learned more and more about drones, aerial photos, composition, good lighting, drone laws, and so much more. Just like me, anybody can dedicate their time to understanding this stuff, but at the end of the day, I feel like I created a false reality to such a large audience.
All this leads me to think about how our generation has literally brought people to locations that don’t truly exist. I guess it comes down to our morals. With over 20 people reaching out to personally ask me where the location was, I found myself unable to lie about that being a real place.
Anybody can get an image out there like this, but if they are one of the first ones to create that image, and so many other people create their own version of the same thing, how do people know what is real and what is not? Should we lie and pretend these places exist or be honest and let people know they are fake?