Is Access to Key Photographic Locations a Growing Concern?

Access to key photographic locations is increasingly becoming a concern among photographers worldwide. As iconic landscapes attract more visitors each year, issues surrounding access, preservation, and management arise. This article delves into the factors contributing to the potential loss of access to these sites and explores perspectives from both landowners and photographers.


There are many iconic and picturesque locations globally that attract visitors each day; some of these areas are well managed and are set to cater to the volume of visitors, others, however, are not, and while they may be equally as stunning to visit. The very fact that they aren't set up sustainably is resulting in many disappearing from public access, be that totally or temporarily. There are, of course, two sides to every story and, of course, reasons why some areas shouldn't be open access, however, surely for the sake of all there are possibilities for compromise and understanding.

Landowner's Perspective

Landowners, whether private individuals or public entities, face various challenges in managing access to key photographic locations. Concerns such as environmental damage, overcrowding, and liability issues prompt them to impose restrictions or limit access altogether. For example, delicate ecosystems can suffer irreversible harm from excessive foot traffic and littering, prompting landowners to regulate visitation to protect these fragile environments. While I can understand this is a challenge, the decisions are sometimes made without any public consultancy, resulting in visitors arriving not knowing that access has been barred; this can then lead to further frustrations for all parties involved.

Additionally, liability concerns arise when visitors engage in risky behaviors, leading landowners to restrict access to mitigate potential accidents and lawsuits. While these scenarios are in the minority, they obviously hold such a weight that they become a factor in the decision to block all access.

Maintenance costs also factor into the decision-making process, as managing high-traffic areas requires significant resources. As stewards of the land, landowners must balance the preservation of natural wonders with the need to manage visitor impact responsibly, however, what is becoming increasingly evident is the solution seems to be just to block all access.

Photographer's Perspective

From a photographer's standpoint, losing access to key locations poses significant challenges. Many photographers rely on these iconic landscapes to capture stunning images that contribute to their portfolios and livelihoods. Limited access not only restricts creative opportunities, but also hinders the ability to share these natural wonders with a broader audience. Having zero access has a totally different outcome, as there will be no chance for anyone to capture new images, resulting in older images becoming the only available archive.

Moreover, access restrictions may disproportionately affect amateur photographers or those with limited mobility, further limiting inclusivity within the photography community. As access becomes increasingly restricted, photographers may find themselves competing for limited permits or facing barriers to entry that impede their ability to pursue their craft.

Reasons for Loss of Access

Several factors contribute to the loss of access to key photographic locations. One primary factor is the growing popularity of these sites fueled by social media and digital platforms. As photos shared online attract more visitors, pressure mounts on landowners to manage overcrowding and mitigate environmental impacts.

Additionally, commercialization and tourism development can lead to the monetization of natural landscapes, shifting priorities away from conservation and sustainable access. Land use changes, such as development or privatization, may also restrict access to previously accessible areas as ownership rights change hands.

Furthermore, conflicts between different user groups, such as hikers, photographers, and conservationists, can complicate access management decisions. That is only if there is a platform for open communication, which in many cases there is not. Balancing competing interests and addressing conflicting needs requires careful planning and stakeholder engagement.

Drone Ban:

We are increasingly also seeing drones banned from many outdoor coastal areas for various reasons, primarily related to safety, privacy, and environmental concerns.

  • Safety: Drones can pose safety risks to both people and wildlife. In crowded coastal areas, the potential for collisions with other aircraft, such as helicopters or seaplanes, increases, posing a significant danger to air traffic. Additionally, drones flying over water can experience technical malfunctions or battery failures, leading to crashes that may injure bystanders or damage property.
  • Privacy: Coastal areas often attract visitors seeking relaxation and solitude. Drones equipped with cameras can infringe upon individuals' privacy by capturing images or videos without their consent. Concerns about unauthorized surveillance or invasion of privacy prompt authorities to restrict drone usage in these areas to protect visitors' rights to privacy.
  • Environmental Impact: Coastal ecosystems are fragile and sensitive to disturbances. Drones flying over coastal areas can disrupt wildlife, causing disturbances to nesting birds, marine mammals, and other sensitive species. The noise and disturbance from drone flights can also disrupt breeding, feeding, and resting behaviors, impacting the overall health of coastal ecosystems.
  • Regulation and Enforcement: Many coastal areas fall under protected areas or national parks where drone usage is prohibited or heavily regulated to preserve natural habitats and wildlife. Regulatory bodies enforce these restrictions to ensure compliance with conservation laws and prevent unauthorized activities that may harm the environment.
  • Conflict with Other Activities: Coastal areas are often frequented by recreational activities such as swimming, surfing, and boating. Drones flying overhead can disrupt these activities, posing safety risks and causing disturbances. To prevent conflicts between different user groups, authorities may implement restrictions on drone usage in coastal areas.

Overall, the ban on drones in many outdoor coastal areas is aimed at protecting public safety, privacy rights, and environmental conservation. While drones offer unique perspectives for photography and videography, their usage must be carefully regulated to minimize negative impacts on coastal ecosystems and the experiences of visitors

Possible Solutions

Collaboration between landowners, photographers, and other stakeholders is essential to address the challenges surrounding access to key photographic locations. Implementing sustainable visitor management strategies, such as permit systems, timed entry, and educational outreach, can help mitigate overcrowding and minimize environmental impact. It should be evident to visitors why these restrictions are in place and how long they are intended to be in place. This will avoid conflict from all parties and should also stop the renegades who feel it is ok to jump a fence as the rules don’t apply to them.

Fostering a culture of responsible photography through education and advocacy can promote ethical practices and encourage respectful behavior among photographers. Supporting initiatives prioritizing conservation and habitat restoration can also contribute to preserving these landscapes for future generations. In general, I see there is some responsible behavior in the photography community, however, should we also be mindful of the viewers of our shots and how they will be influenced to take it upon themselves to get their one, not knowing the rules, restrictions and potential damage that can be done.


The issue of access to key photographic locations is multifaceted, with implications for both landowners and photographers. By acknowledging the concerns of all stakeholders and working together to find sustainable solutions, we can ensure that these iconic landscapes remain accessible for generations to come. I personally would like to see a more open dialogue in place so we can work together to find solutions for all, rather than not knowing anything and having areas gone forever. I experienced this myself recently when visiting a popular and stunning location for walks and photography, and it frustrated me while there and also after I had left. If I had traveled a long distance to reach this spot only to find it closed off, with signs warning me of no entry and impending prosecutions if I entered, I would feel cheated. It would have cost considerable money to get there only to have to turn back. Perhaps I am in the minority as I won’t break the rules, however, I am sure that others will think that they have traveled all this way and aren’t going to be stopped at any cost. This, in turn, leads to further conflict, no doubt.

Darren Spoonley's picture

Darren J. Spoonley, is an Ireland-based outdoor photographer, Podcaster, Videographer & Educator with a passion for capturing the beauty of our world.

Log in or register to post comments

Even the issue is shown once in the video I am impressed always with Europe photographers who find great spots even with gray clouds get great images. As for the issue and farms I always ask and if I get a great image I get a metal print made and present it to the owner. I also ran into the problem at a state park where a volunteer was at the entrance of a lighthouse saw my camera and told me the rangers had to give permission to photograph and after a wasted afternoon the ranger went down and corrected the volunteer, some are overbearing. The worst was on Jekyll Island at a church that is filed with Tiffany Glass and wedding photographers had to pay lots of $$$ to photograph but it was a local person doing the ok and for photographers to go in and take photos there was a charge. The island is a state park and once a email went to the governor all was no more and arrests were made. You will find also if a photographer uses models and lights with helpers even in state or federal parks some will need permits.
1. Finally got to get images without a wedding.
2. Asked the airport owner if i could get this image, the lights came on when pilots key a mic before landing at any of three airports - looking over my shoulder.
3. Alway ask the farmer or at night you may have a Blue Light party, gave two prints. It is the unseen no one thinks about.
4. Ask the group for group capture with the unseen, all got a copy. No flash needed

The author writes:

<blockquote>I experienced this myself recently when visiting a popular and stunning location for walks and photography, and it frustrated me while there and also after I had left. If I had traveled a long distance to reach this spot only to find it closed off, with signs warning me of no entry and impending prosecutions if I entered, I would feel cheated. </blockquote>

With respect, but this is the same <em>Fstoppers</em> that tells us that we should do our research, right? If I'm going to travel a long distance to photograph something, I should take care to be sure that I can do the photography, and that includes needed permits and permissions. If you don't do the research, you can't blame anyone but yourself.

I do landscapes and wildlife out in the rural country. I have a simple rule -- never, ever, for any reason, trespass. I don't care how good the image is going to be, don't trespass. Country folk can be quite touchy about this sort of thing, and you don't want to end up arrested (or worse).

I live close to this location and hadn’t heard or seen any information to inform anyone access had changed so regardless of research and planning this info wouldn’t be available which is my point in the article!
I’m all for planning but when one needs to be clairvoyant then that is going to be a problem! Thanks for you comment

We visited Irland more than a decade ago for a two weeks hiking vacation. I wanted to see something else than the beautiful swiss alps we explored since years. Our plan was to see dingle peninsula.

What we experienced was a disappointment: trails onto mountains made straight like a wire, exhausting hikers. Trails blocked stone walls and the plates you show. Farmers not willing to negotiate to pass over their land. Abd the famous dingle hiking trail going on tiny narrow streets. There the cars move quickly and you have to jump to survive.

In DE the Constitution avoids duch issues I never experienced such things in Swiss, Austria, Italy, Slivenia or Czech Republic.
I am not surprised that you suffer on this limitation in the UK. It might be a question of liability and politics to be modified to overcome the issue and thinking.

If it is a loss having no access any longer to well known (photographed to death) locations,I am bot sure. Last year I visited the iconic waterfall Kozjak in the slovenian alps. Yes, it is beautiful. There is made a viewing platform for tourists. You are asked to pay some fees. And as it is iconic it is photographed to death. The web is full of good photographs. The same photographs. You are challenged to find something new, a new not yet seen perspective. If it is possible. I prefer to look out for iconic landmarks in my close narrow environment, not known on the web. It is on me to find and interpret them.