Quotas on Icon Photography!

Photographic image quotas set for Half Dome, Mesa Arch and other World Heritage Icons… Taxation to follow in 2011.

Yosemite Valley Panoramic

Yosemite Valley Panoramic ©Lon J. Overacker

Dateline: LA Times April 1, 2009
By Nomar Scruples, AP

Washington D.C., Department of the Interior.  At the urging of the United Nations World Heritage committee, the National Park Service has begun implementing a system to limit the number of photographs taken of famous, natural icons such as Half Dome,  Mesa Arch, The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and hundreds of other locations within the National Park system.  NPS spokesperson Deborah Spillman along with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar unveiled the program during a ceremony staged at the infamous Snake River overlook in the Grand Teton National Park.

“…No longer will the face of our nation’s natural wonders be plastered all over magazines, books or posted repeatedly on photography websites…”  Deborah Stillman proclaimed.  “These eternal masterpieces of nature have been exploited for too long.  For too many years, the trees, the rocks and the waterways have had no voice.  We must speak for them now so that their beauty can be preserved for future generations….”

Secretary Salazar was sporting his new government sanctioned digital camera.  These cameras are installed with the new PQChip (PhotoQuota.)  The combination of the established technology of GPS navigation and brand new technology of V.I.R.I.S (Visual Icon Recognition Implant system) now allow government officials the ability to track and limit the number of pictures taken of famous landmarks.

Hundreds of supporters and enthusiast attended the unveiling and with respect and reverence for the Snake River and the Grand Teton, no photographs of the event were allowed.  Joel Boringpic, a member of Photographer’s for the Ethical Treatment of Icons (or P.E.T.I.) expressed his excitement for the new program:  “Finally, we have a means of preventing the saturation and abuse of these treasured icons.  This will now help give voice to the pine needle, the mushroom, the forgotten pebble and the empty prairies of Kansas.”

While complete details of the plan have not been revealed, Stillman did provide some examples on how the program will work.  In Yosemite National Park for example, the number of annual visitors is well over 4 million people per year.  Recent studies by the National Icon Photographic Institute (N.I.P.I.) showed that while not every visitor has a camera, or took any photographs, results indicated some 1.3 Billion images of Half Dome were taken in 2008.  “This number is just way to high,” stated Secretary Salazar.  So after 6 months of studies, number crunching and negotiations, the following annual photographic image quotas (apiqs) were set for Yosemite National Park:

Half Dome: 575,000

El Capitan: 497,000

Yosemite Falls:  228,000

Bridal Veil Falls: 215,000 (waterfalls are only temporary, so the numbers can be reduced)

Tunnel View: 1.1 million (Photographers are encouraged to make this their only photograph, so this value is higher)

All the quotas for every National Park can be obtained from the newly created Department of Photography Exploitation, or D.O.P.E.   President Obama signed his first executive order creating the new department the day following his inauguration.

Although the new quota system sailed through both houses of Congress without opposition, there are still some kinks that need to be ironed out.   A small, grass-roots organization has surfaced in opposition of this new legislation and quota system.  Leroy “copycat” Bushwhacker formed the group called I.P.A.Q or Icon Photographers Against Quotas.  Leroy claims the new quota system is unfair and discriminates against autumn and winter.  He explains one of the reasons why he thinks the quota system is flawed:  “Basically, the quota system runs from Jan 1 thru Dec 31st and quotas are reset each year.   In popular places like Yosemite, the quota for Half Dome will likely be reached by July 1st; thus shutting out a photographer’s ability to photograph “Moonrise over Half Dome” in October.  It’s simply not fair. And photographs of El Capitan could potentially be cut off by early March if people needlessly snap images of Horsetail falls in February.  It’s just crazy.”

Salazar concluded the opening ceremony by acknowledging the unintended consequences of this new system are unknown, “… but we had to act now to protect and preserve the natural look, restore the untired beauty, and stop the ruthless image exploitation of these treasured icons.”

The Canadian Parliment is considering similar legislation that would also incorporate a tiered tax system.  Citing the over exposure of icons such as Mt. Rundle and Lake Louise, the Parliment wants to curb the number of photographs not only taken, but also distributed and published in online forums such as the Naturephotographer’s Network.  It’s unclear at this time how the taxation would be implemented, but anonymous sources say the taxes would certainly be weighed towards the bigger, more expensive digital cameras (dslrs.)  The consensus is that those who can afford the luxury of top of the line equipment would have the ability to pay the higher “fees.”  It’s only fair.  A member of the Canadian Parliment, who wished to remain anonymous was quoted as saying:  “…. with the proliferation of digital photography, we must have a means of limiting the relentless exploitation of our nation’s natural treasures.  It’s simply in the best interest of the people, and for our children’s future.”

In a related story, reports out of Washington indicate legislation is being drafted to also tax pixels.  Bushwhacker was incensed.  “I’m going back to film.  Let’s see them try and put a PQChip in my view camera!”

No animals were hurt during the writing of this story.  Any reference to persons, events or organizations is purely coincidental and/or completely fictional.