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Like Ansel Adams, minus the effort

Tourists’ cars lined the road in Yosemite National Park.

file 2012/Michael THURSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Tourists’ cars lined the road in Yosemite National Park.

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Want to follow in the footsteps of Ansel Adams, but without doing any actual walking? Yosemite National Park, the site of many of Adams’s iconic photos, has attracted imitators of the legendary photographer for years. But now some Adams wannabes are skipping the grueling hikes he made, instead deploying drones to capture the scenery for them.

Put aside the gut reaction of purists — that’s cheating! — and imagine how annoying the small unmanned craft can be to wildlife and other park visitors. A gem of the National Park System, Yosemite already tries to strike a difficult balance, seeking to promote public access without allowing visitors to detract from the valley’s natural splendor. As drones become better and cheaper, there’s a serious debate unfolding about their impact on privacy, and about which laws should govern their use. The situation at Yosemite is simpler than that. Technology doesn’t change the rules of basic etiquette, and cluttering the park’s airspace, not to mention its views, is no better than littering.

Luckily, the National Park Service recently made Yosemite the first national park where drones are banned. This action should be understood in the same spirit as existing rules meant to preserve the park’s natural character, not as mere resistance to new technology. And for disappointed photographers: L.L. Bean sometimes has sales. Go buy some boots.

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