Old 03-01-2009, 01:24 AM   #1
iuganda
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Default "Detailed" pictures of trains and humiliation

Hello everybody!

I really need your help and opinion. I was taking pictures of Tri-Rail trains in Davie, FL the other day and when I was getting into my car, supposedly a police officer approached me as I was about to leave and told me that "the train crew radioed him and told him that they were concerned about me because I was taking detailed pictures of the train/locomotive". I should mention that it was already dark and I had to use a flash on my Rebel XSi. Anyway, the guy asked me if I am a train fan and asked me for an ID. After he copied my info, he also copied my license tag and took my phone number. Honestly, the whole process made me feel very uncomfortable - I felt like I did something wrong and that I was a criminal. I also explained to the guy that I am a school science teacher and I am interested in anything related to the transportation equipment and especially trains. He said that he "understands" but that "we should be careful" nowadays because of the terrorists. IMHO, a terrorist would not be caring around two foot-long cameras and would not be taking pictures with a flash at night in front of two policemen/guards (whatever they are) at the station.
It had such a profound affect on me that, as of today, I am still not able to pick up the camera and I am still mortified after the incident. As far as I know, taking pictures of public property, including trains, is not illegal - could someone please confirm or repudiate it? Also, is there any way I can file a complaint against the actions of the guard or take any similar steps that would clarify my name? I need to do something to make sure that it will not happen in the future.
Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
Regards,
Vitalik
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Old 03-01-2009, 02:04 AM   #2
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public property, including trains
haha, whooops.
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Old 03-01-2009, 02:18 AM   #3
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It had such a profound affect on me that, as of today, I am still not able to pick up the camera and I am still mortified after the incident. As far as I know, taking pictures of public property, including trains, is not illegal - could someone please confirm or repudiate it? Also, is there any way I can file a complaint against the actions of the guard or take any similar steps that would clarify my name? I need to do something to make sure that it will not happen in the future.
Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
Regards,
Vitalik

If you really are so mortified by this simple and really an easy going incident with an authority figure you probably should not be taking photos anyway.

Whether it is legal or not, whats wrong with an authority figure figuring out what you are doing? Are you hiding something? Believe it or not, photographing trains is not something "normal" that people do, unless its at a theme park with a train in it. Many people will find it strange that you are photographing such a subject.

I personally do not mind if a cop or authority figure asks what I am doing, I am glad they are doing their job. The majority of people out there will make sure that you are in fact doing something innocent and then leave you alone. This is not just an occurrence about railroad photography, but can also happen in many other situations.
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Old 03-01-2009, 02:31 AM   #4
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It sounds like you were treated quite respectfully. I've certainly heard of bad incidents, but this does not sound like one. Perhaps the "humiliation" came more from within you than from the behavior of the officer?

Matt, I think Tri-Rail is a commuter operation, which could certainly be public property (which is not the same thing as saying trespassing is allowed!).
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Old 03-01-2009, 03:44 AM   #5
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With all do respect, the officer was doing his job and judging by your thread, at no time were your constitutional rights violated. So, if you are parked along a highway waiting to photograph a train and a state or local cop stops and asks what you are doing, will you not be able to drive a car again from the " traumatic " experience?! Sorry. no pity here!
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Old 03-01-2009, 04:14 AM   #6
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I strongly urge you to pick up the camera and get back trackside. The same thing happened to me after being threatened at the Princeton Junction station on the Northeast Corridor back in 20007 by an NJT conductor. It was the first time in my life I had ever been told that I'd have the cops called on me. Since it was the first incident of course I didn't want to deal with that and had no idea what they'd do, I simply left. I wish I could go back in time and simply take a photo of said conductor and have a nice conversation with the West Windsor or NJT/Amtrak PD.

Just today, an NJT engineer leaned out the window at the same station and said, "You guys need to stop taking pictures." to my brother and I. Now I just laugh knowing full well I have the right to be there, ticket or not, camera or not. When shooting commuter/passenger railroads, I guess its just something that is going to happen in today's paranoid society.

I can understand the humiliation for getting information taken down but as long as the LEO doesn't put a note saying "suspicious character" than I don't see it as a issue. I've had my information taken twice so far and it hasn't caused me any problems and I don't expect it to. It better not.

Long story short...this probably won't be the last time if you plan on shooting Tri-Rail, which I hope you do. That is THEIR job to protect the public, which yes includes you so as long as they don't use force or get power hungry and 'demand' you erase the shots, I'd roll with the punches as embarrassing as it is. Just think...you see these guys enough they'll eventually stop asking.
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Old 03-01-2009, 02:20 PM   #7
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Just today, an NJT engineer leaned out the window at the same station and said, "You guys need to stop taking pictures." to my brother and I. Now I just laugh knowing full well I have the right to be there, ticket or not, camera or not. When shooting commuter/passenger railroads, I guess its just something that is going to happen in today's paranoid society.

.
I have been questioned a couple of times myself but have not had an issue with it. Just a few nice simple questions an dI am on my way. One thing about railfanning the midwest is the railroads seem much friendlier towards us. I've never had a rr personel issue. The friendliest train crews I have found are in the PRB.
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Old 03-01-2009, 02:57 PM   #8
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At the risk of beating a dead horse here, I'll agree with what the others said; the cops were just doing their job. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I believe that a cop has to respond to a call regardless of how much of a non-issue it may seem to be. I've been questioned before and it doesn't really bother me that much. No one likes having the police questioning them, but most of the time there really isn't any harm done. Just shrug it off and keep shooting photos as Andrew stated.
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Old 03-01-2009, 05:08 PM   #9
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Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I believe that a cop has to respond to a call regardless of how much of a non-issue it may seem to be.
Yes, it is indeed their job, and, if I recall correctly, if they DON'T respond to a call and merely shrug it off as "just being some railfans", and it turns out to be someone with ill intentions who does something that, for instance, takes human lives as a result, that cop would likely end up in prison. As everyone else has said, this is a part of the hobby - the fact of the matter is that we do look suspicious to the general public, and it's all too likely that someone is going to call the cops on us. Every law enforcement official I have ever encountered knows what we are doing out here, and doesn't have a problem with it (they of all people know that there are far worse things we could be doing). Being cooperative and truthful will get you through the scenario quick and easily, and most of the time, they will just say have a nice day and leave. The worst I've had is a polite request by the law enforcement official to pack it up and railfan elsewhere - simply go to the next crossing or another favorite railfanning location of yours (I have never heard of anyone being hassled for this action, as a lot of times, they really don't care that you are there - it is the general public or a nearby landowner who are paranoid that causes them to request that you pack it up and move elsewhere). As you said, you were not doing anything in the wrong, thus what do you have to fear?

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Old 03-01-2009, 05:18 PM   #10
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This looks like a good time to re-post the link to "The Photographer's Right" page:
http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm

Vitalik, you might wish to print that PDF out and keep a copy with you to show to concerned LEOs that you do indeed have the right to be doing what you are doing, just as they have the right to take your information and ensure those assets they are protecting are safe.

If you're concerned that the LEO's actions went beyond his scope of duties, write a letter to Tri-Rail describing your incident and requesting an explanation of the procedures their officers are supposed to take when they observe people photographing the operating equipment.
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Old 03-01-2009, 05:41 PM   #11
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With all do respect, the officer was doing his job and judging by your thread, at no time were your constitutional rights violated. So, if you are parked along a highway waiting to photograph a train and a state or local cop stops and asks what you are doing, will you not be able to drive a car again from the " traumatic " experience?! Sorry. no pity here!
I was parked at the parking lot and he followed me to the car - I did not violate any rules, as far as I know. The suspicion was raised by my taking "detailed" pictures, whatever that may mean...
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Old 03-01-2009, 05:56 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Andrew Blaszczyk (2) View Post
I strongly urge you to pick up the camera and get back trackside. The same thing happened to me after being threatened at the Princeton Junction station on the Northeast Corridor back in 20007 by an NJT conductor. It was the first time in my life I had ever been told that I'd have the cops called on me. Since it was the first incident of course I didn't want to deal with that and had no idea what they'd do, I simply left. I wish I could go back in time and simply take a photo of said conductor and have a nice conversation with the West Windsor or NJT/Amtrak PD.

Just today, an NJT engineer leaned out the window at the same station and said, "You guys need to stop taking pictures." to my brother and I. Now I just laugh knowing full well I have the right to be there, ticket or not, camera or not. When shooting commuter/passenger railroads, I guess its just something that is going to happen in today's paranoid society.

I can understand the humiliation for getting information taken down but as long as the LEO doesn't put a note saying "suspicious character" than I don't see it as a issue. I've had my information taken twice so far and it hasn't caused me any problems and I don't expect it to. It better not.

Long story short...this probably won't be the last time if you plan on shooting Tri-Rail, which I hope you do. That is THEIR job to protect the public, which yes includes you so as long as they don't use force or get power hungry and 'demand' you erase the shots, I'd roll with the punches as embarrassing as it is. Just think...you see these guys enough they'll eventually stop asking.
Well, I'm happy to know that I'm not the only one who went through this I've been approached by the police on multiple occasions before (especially, when I was taking pictures of the airplanes) but all I had to do is explain why I was there. In the case of Tri-Rail, I felt like I climbed over the fence of the White House (once again, just to make it clear, I didn't climb any walls at the Tri-Rail station). Anyway, I'm sure I'll get used to them and them to me. Again, thank you for your support.

Last edited by iuganda; 03-01-2009 at 06:05 PM. Reason: Clarification
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Old 03-01-2009, 06:01 PM   #13
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Yes, it is indeed their job, and, if I recall correctly, if they DON'T respond to a call and merely shrug it off as "just being some railfans", and it turns out to be someone with ill intentions who does something that, for instance, takes human lives as a result, that cop would likely end up in prison.
Convicted of what??
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Old 03-01-2009, 06:09 PM   #14
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I meant to say "public place" - thank you for bringing my attention to this...
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Old 03-01-2009, 06:30 PM   #15
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This looks like a good time to re-post the link to "The Photographer's Right" page:
http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm

If you're concerned that the LEO's actions went beyond his scope of duties, write a letter to Tri-Rail describing your incident and requesting an explanation of the procedures their officers are supposed to take when they observe people photographing the operating equipment.
Thank you very much for the info - I already printed out the letter to Tri-Rail and I will be mailing it on Monday.
I also printed out the pamphlet and I will make sure that next time whoever wants to get my info will read it first.
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Old 03-01-2009, 07:33 PM   #16
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Thank you very much for the info - I already printed out the letter to Tri-Rail and I will be mailing it on Monday.
I also printed out the pamphlet and I will make sure that next time whoever wants to get my info will read it first.
I see that you have written a letter. That is fine, of course, you are completely within your rights, but I am curious as to what you are going to complain about? I still haven't read anything in this thread that says anything other than an officer showed up and did his job, and in a respectful manner as well. What is the nature of your complaint?
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Old 03-01-2009, 07:39 PM   #17
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I see that you have written a letter. That is fine, of course, you are completely within your rights, but I am curious as to what you are going to complain about? I still haven't read anything in this thread that says anything other than an officer showed up and did his job, and in a respectful manner as well. What is the nature of your complaint?
It is not a complaint - I simply asked who and what kind of checks EXACTLY they can perform and based on which articles and regulations. I also asked them to inform me of the specific actions on my behalf that may trigger such behavior/actions of their personnel (so that I can avoid them, if possible). I think I deserve to know
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Old 03-01-2009, 07:45 PM   #18
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I was parked at the parking lot and he followed me to the car - I did not violate any rules, as far as I know. The suspicion was raised by my taking "detailed" pictures, whatever that may mean...
The officer in your situation had every right to question you, that is all that I am saying, nothing more and nothing less.
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Old 03-01-2009, 07:50 PM   #19
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It is not a complaint
Glad to hear it!

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I simply asked who and what kind of checks EXACTLY they can perform and based on which articles and regulations. I also asked them to inform me of the specific actions on my behalf that may trigger such behavior/actions of their personnel (so that I can avoid them, if possible). I think I deserve to know
Fair enough.

I hope you also took the time to educate them on railfan photographers, what they are interested in, how prevalent they are (you could mention that one can buy Trains magazine in any bookstore), what is interesting about night shooting - maybe provide examples? maybe provide copies of magazine articles featuring night photography? - and in general take the time to make it a two way street and to show them the value in your pursuit of your (our) hobby.
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Old 03-01-2009, 08:02 PM   #20
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Convicted of what??

I don't know about ending up in prison. That probably depends on the severity of the situation that they do not respond to. It is a form of due negligence. I know of a cop in my local area that got suspended because he "had better things to do" than respond to a medical call in his jurisdiction when he was dispatched to it.

It's just like we have addresses that we don't want to respond to for EMS calls becsause it is the same old B.S. abuse of the system call every time, but we have to respond or we can be charged for neglect.
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Old 03-02-2009, 12:47 AM   #21
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I don't know about ending up in prison. That probably depends on the severity of the situation that they do not respond to. It is a form of due negligence. I know of a cop in my local area that got suspended because he "had better things to do" than respond to a medical call in his jurisdiction when he was dispatched to it.
As I said, if it ended up being someone with ill intentions that took human lives (and said officer responding to the call decided not to bother), for instance, I doubt a law enforcement official in that situation would walk away with a slap on the wrist.
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Old 03-02-2009, 01:01 AM   #22
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also asked them to inform me of the specific actions on my behalf that may trigger such behavior/actions of their personnel
Ummm...are you not paying attention to these posts? Just being a railfan is enough. Standing near the tracks with a camera is suspicious to some people. When they call it in to the cops, they tell them there's a "suspicious person" near the tracks. The cops have to show up to see what's so suspicious about you. It's their job.

Personally, I think you're overreacting to the situation. Imagine if someone was outside your house taking pictures. How would you react? But what if he was on the public sidewalk? Would you still be suspicious of him, even though he has the legal right to be there taking pictures legally? Would you still want to find out what he was up to? What if it turned out he was just taking pictures of some flowers?

You were treated with respect. I think the letter is not necessary and it may backfire against you (i.e. they may bother you even more since you're now perceived as a 'troublemaker.'). But, it's your choice...
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Old 03-02-2009, 07:44 AM   #23
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You were treated with respect. I think the letter is not necessary and it may backfire against you (i.e. they may bother you even more since you're now perceived as a 'troublemaker.'). But, it's your choice...
That backfire may also affect other railfans in the area. I agree with the posts.. You are overreacting. If I may suggest, carry some photos, rail magazines and make some noise in the future along with a delightful personality. The officer doesn't know you, he gets a call out with minimal information, and at the end of the wants to go home, not to a morgue because he relaxed. Sorry no sympathy here for you.
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Old 03-02-2009, 09:33 PM   #24
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Personally, I think you're overreacting to the situation. Imagine if someone was outside your house taking pictures. How would you react?
I was standing in a public place and not even near a private place or property, whether they like it or not...

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You were treated with respect
I absolutely agree - I was humiliated in a very respectful way.
Once again, since I don't think I violated any laws or regulations, I deserve an explanation of the actions of their employee(s) (or police officer - whoever it was). For some people it might be OK if their car gets searched as a result, just in case - might be not a big deal for some people, but not for me. I hope my "overreacting" will help keep the train station employees and engine crews where they belong - withing the guidelines.
Regards...
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Old 03-02-2009, 09:38 PM   #25
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Sorry no sympathy here for you.
At the beginning of my post, I respectfully asked for help and opinion, not sympathy... And have been assisted.
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