A recent court case is serving as another reminder that photographers should stick to breaking the artistic “rules” — and not the posted ones. A filmmaker that traipsed through the off-limits area of the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park was sentenced to five years of probation and a whopping $8,000 fine after pleading guilt to entering a thermal area and disorderly conduct.
The Canadian filmmaker was one of four who were caught on video entering the springs; three others were arrested and pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial after their attorney withdrew from the case. The foursome later posted images of their stunt, but removed them after the outrage — though not before several users had captured a screenshot.
Along with the fine and probation, the first of the group to be charged is also banned from federal land. The initial attorney on the case, Thomas Fleener, said that jail time is a possibility for the remaining three men.
According to the Yellowstone National Park website, the Grand Prismatic spring is ecologically fragile — walking in the geyser’s basin is both illegal and dangerous. The park says that the hot spring is the most photographed thermal feature in the park, known for both the size and bright colors.
Since the incident, several charges have been added, including incidents in national Parks in Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. Yellowstone park superintendent Dan Wenk said that the video team’s actions not only risked their own lives but posed potential harm to the park rangers that had to retrieve them from the area.
While many were outraged over the incident, the group’s initial attorney said that the entire incident was blown out of proportion, saying that the group that frequently travels and shoots their own adventures did not mean any harm by entering the restricted area.
The incident wasn’t the first time the Grand Prismatic Spring was the center of a mishap in the name of photography — in 2014, one park visitor illegally flew his drone over the thermal landmark and crashed it into the lake. The drone was never recovered.