All for a photo – risks some people take

What is it about a camera lens that makes otherwise sensible people behave completely irrationally when they stare at it?

Take these people I saw last week at the Everglades :


 That little gray thing that he is posing in  front of ? It’s an adult alligator.  Here is a closer look of the other guy posing :


Is this really a good idea?  That alligator may be basking in the sun, seemingly obliviously.  But it is awake, and can (and will, as we have seen) move very quickly if it feels disturbed.  Do these people feel brave because the alligator is tolerating their presence?

A few years ago, at the Grand Canyon, I saw a man climb behind the railings to stand at the rim of the Canyon near the Abyss, where there is a steep drop-off.   Not only was he standing at the rim, but he was cutting a pose that made me fear he would lose his balance at any moment.

I could not help thinking about these incidents when I read about the climber who had a fatal fall into the Mount St. Helens crater a few days ago.  Why, why do people do such things?

This was an experienced climber, and I am sure he would never take unnecessary risks while climbing the mountain.  Given his familiarity with Mt. St. Helens, he would have known the crater rim was unstable.  Yet, in the heat of posing for the picture, he took a tragic risk.

It may be subjective, and vary from person to person, but there is a dividing line between calculated risk and foolhardiness.  As in business, or everything else, it comes down to the risk-reward ratio – you would not take a huge risk for an insignificant reward.  There is definitely a thrill, a challenge in taking risks, whether in climbing a mountain  or walking down a canyon, but there is also a sense of achievement.  What is the big achievement in taking unnecessary risks for a photo?  And even if you wanted a “cool” picture, why not take a trick shot which makes it seem as if you are closer, instead of actually standing on the rim?

The ultimate irony is that after all this, these people will most likely file away the photo in an album and never see it again.


16 thoughts on “All for a photo – risks some people take

  1. At least the guy who died in St Helens died doing something that made him happy in the moment he fell to his death. Besides doesn’t everything involve taking some risk? Everyone picks their own. Some pick photo opportunities, other pick drugs, yet others pick speeding in a clanger, and some others pick dangerous thought experiments. If it makes us queasy we don’t have to look, do we?

    • That’s how they are rationalizing it, but it’s not true. If he had died while climbing St. Helens, yes, he died doing what he loved most. But the fact is, he died while posing for a picture 😦

    • I agree photo journalists and war photographers take a lot of risk. They do try to be cautious – when war photographers are not “embedded” with the military, they try to shoot in groups. But it still is a lot of risk. In their case the reward is not a trophy photo but informing the world about what is happening in the war – given that theirs will be the only independent eyes to view it. So I’m sure they believe the risks are worth the greater cause.

  2. Stupidity is all I can think of…maybe they want to show off..
    Still remember when a monitor lizard came toward me on a golf course in Malaysia…I was on the cart in double time..they are supposed to be harmless but why take chances 🙂

  3. // The ultimate irony is that after all this, these people will most likely file away the photo in an album and never see it again //

    Not always. If the person is my Facebook friend, he/she would put it up on FB (the first thing after coming back from the holiday) for all to “like” and then keep commenting on it repeatedly so that it pops up on everyone’s feed time and again. Times are changing & behind every daredevil (read:moronic) photo pose, there’s a FB motive 😀

    • Oh! Clearly, I am behind the curve on such, er, innovative uses 🙂 Let’s hope your friend is not reading this – or should we hope instead that she is, and gets the message ?

  4. Well, it’s the thrill a person gets while doing the job that defines his passion. If there weren’t people who had this ‘devil-may-care’ attitude then we wouldn’t be having many fabulous photographs in the netspace. Imagine the kind of risks NatGeo photographers, war reporters, Volcanologists and natural photographers go through to deliver visual treat to us. I don’t wanna use the term ‘stupidity’ for that.

    • Granted, they all take a lot of risks. But as I said to Mallika, I believe that (a) the reward in those cases is not a look-how-brave-I-am photo but reporting and informing people about important events they will never see otherwise and (b) they take informed and calculated risks. NatGeo photographers, for instance, know to look for signs an animal is getting agitated (like flattened ears, snorting) and when to back off. So no, I am not talking about those kinds of professional photographers at all, but the average tourist.

  5. I’m always terrified of such idiots when I’m in potentially dangerous places… and should it come as a surprise that it’s always men who feel the need to be macho? I truly dont wantanybody to get maimed or die while I’m in the vicinity! Cliff edges and mountain paths are my particular area of discomfort – I’m scared of heights and won’t go within 2 metres of any drop, esply if there arent any railings.

    • People have fallen down and died from the Canyon rim. And clearly the railings are there in particular places for a reason 😦 I don’t get why it’s always men either 🙂 In the case of this Canyon guy, his girl friend was egging him on, though 😦

  6. Thought I won’t go anywhere around that Alligator still have to admit that I have taken some risks (or foolhardiness)for pictures just for the heck of it. It is just a spur of the moment thing.

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