Nature Tips #5 Trespassing and Public Access Land


Trespassing in Maine

All the photos in this blog are from times when I was trespassing or on public access land.

Trespassing comes up every so often when I'm out photographing with someone.  Often times they find it astounding that when I am out in the middle of nowhere I just wander out onto some guys land to make photos or I slip into some abandoned building to take photos.  While trespassing is indeed illegal and I can't recommend that you do it, there are some basic rules that can help you stay out of trouble when doing it.

1) Don't take anything from the area and don't leave anything behind.

2) Don't break or destroy anything, keep your presence low impact.

3) Anything you open, like windows, doors, gates, etc you should close as you go.

4) When possible, just ask them if they care you're out there.  More times than not they won't care in the slightest and often enough they're delighted someone is out photographing their land.

5) If you get caught, don't act like an ass.  You're just a photographer doing your trade.  Hand them off a business card if they want one and tell them straight up that you liked the lay of their land and so you went out to shoot it.  If you didn't ask them hopefully it was because it wasn't obvious who owned the land or that your light was fading fast, just explain yourself.

6) Stay away from livestock.  Regardless of anything just don't go near them, like stay a few miles away at least.  Even if you've told them you're going to be out there just stay clear of them.  

Following these rules you should be able get access to what you want without getting in trouble.  Landowners get burned by people (usually weekend warrior hunters) not following just basic ettique rules like these.  If they can't tell you've been there, there's no harm in it.

Now if you're just not comfortable with trespassing or talking to landowners but state and federal parks are just not working for you, you have another option.  For those of us in the USA each state should have a handy dandy Public Access Atlas (


) that will list and show on maps every single piece of land that you can legally wander aimlessly around in.  You can find them on the state's Park and Rec page or you can find them in some sporting good stores like Cabella's here in Omaha tends to have them.  These are put out each year for hunters to find areas in which to practice their sport.  Keep this in mind when you go to these places and mind the seasons (listed in the front of the atlas).  I would stay away from most of these places during deer season for example and I would wear hunter's orange near those seasons as well.  Unfortunately the best hunting times are often the best times for photography so there are chances you will overlap.  Regardless, the atlas is an excellent and detailed resource.