Old 07-14-2007, 02:06 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by rustyrail
I work in an office situation, and I am fortunate that I never have to worry about such things; however, if someone came up to my desk and started to take pictures in my face without my consent I wouldn't care for it.
You understand there's a world of difference between someone taking pictures outside on public property and someone going on private property such as an office building, right? Sitting in your office building, you have an expectation of privacy. When you're outside and can be seen by anyone from public property, you have no expectation of privacy.

I know this from personal expirience. As a photographer for a TV station, people are very interested in what I do. Just today, I was shooting two 20-something models -- it's a tough job, I know -- and a well known recognizeable reporter. Two kids wanted to see whatwe were doing. They were a little over zealous, let's say, and wanted to get in our shots. Not known for my patience, I was getting irritated. But there was nothing I could do except ask that they stand beside me, thereby getting out of the camera eye.

(We were actually inside a store at the store's request.)

Running a live truck is also an expiriment. People want to kow how they work. And they will come up to me when I'm setting up a shot or tearing it down. I think of myself as being a public servant. No one has to watch the station I work for. So I'm more than happy to show them how it works and answer their questions about the truck or the on air talent. Almost without exception, people are kind and seem to know when to leave me to do my work. But the way I see it, if I'm out in public doing something like shooting a live event or setting up a live shot, I should expect curious onlookers to come up and ask questions.

Now if you think about it, train crews could go way overboard really easy with this. Most trains carry hazmats even if it's nothing more than the fuel in their tanks. Most tracks are near sensitive areas even if it's thre miles from an oil refinery. Taken to the next logical step or two, we could therefore say that all train tracks are sensitive and no photography should be taken anywhere near them.

Sometimes I think we're not too far from that now.


Joe

Some railroaders are more than fine with photography (GOD BLESS THEM!), and others want their privacy. All I'm saying is that we should be more mindful of our actions, and in my opinion there's nothing worse than a railfan with a militant "My God given right" attitude. Yes, we're photographers and we have rights, but not EVERYONE likes getting their picture taken, whether or not it's on public property, and whether or not they think their face is recognizable.


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Old 07-14-2007, 02:20 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Joe the Photog
You understand there's a world of difference between someone taking pictures outside on public property and someone going on private property such as an office building, right? Sitting in your office building, you have an expectation of privacy. When you're outside and can be seen by anyone from public property, you have no expectation of privacy.
This I realize, but what keeps my coworkers from shooting pictures of everyone on their camera phones? What if I brought my dSLR into work and decided to start my own "the Office" sitcom? It wouldn't fly. What I'm saying is that railroaders and anyone who works in easily accessible area shouldn't have to contend with unwanted photographers just because their work happens to be in a public area. I'm not surprised that you work for the media. I should have known.


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Now if you think about it, train crews could go way overboard really easy with this. Most trains carry hazmats even if it's nothing more than the fuel in their tanks. Most tracks are near sensitive areas even if it's thre miles from an oil refinery. Taken to the next logical step or two, we could therefore say that all train tracks are sensitive and no photography should be taken anywhere near them.
You've got a point, and I've already thought about that. But how many times do you think crews see someone standing along the tracks knowing that they have a sensitive manifest, and they wonder what this guy's going to do? Granted, if they're hauling coal or empties, they probably don't have as much to worry about, but if they have something dangerous, there's no need to make their blood pressure rise. I'm not saying to abstain from all railfanning activity, I'm just saying (again) that we should be mindful of others. I'm sorry if that's too weak of a standpoint for you to comprehend.

Are there any railroad employees that would like to comment? I'm curious as to what they think.
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Old 07-14-2007, 02:40 AM   #28
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Ach! I guess we're lucky to not have experienced what that news crew did!
I think that what we need to do is learn to draw some lines. If there's a big fear of terrorists, rational or not, it would just be easier to go to another photo location down the line from the place right next to a refinery, right? It's a lot easier, and you can still get your photos and have an enjoyable day. If anyone wants to go on a rant about their constitutional rights over this, I'd like to say first, have a little understanding! If both sides could have that, it'd be a lot easier on everyone. The same goes for law enforcement. Don't bug a group of obvious foamers for no good reason other than terrorism! Unless they're really being suspicious or dangerous (Which I admit real railfans are on occasion!) leave them be!
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Old 07-14-2007, 02:42 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by rustyrail
I understand what you are saying, but even had 9/11 not occured, wouldn't you think that most railroad crews would be a bit spooked by some strange person taking pictures in an unusual location where hazardous materials (and highly flammable in this case) are being transported? We have to keep those who are working in dangerous situations best interests in mind. I'm sure that they realize they are working in a higher risk occupation, but there's no need to exacerbate their concern.

I work in an office situation, and I am fortunate that I never have to worry about such things; however, if someone came up to my desk and started to take pictures in my face without my consent I wouldn't care for it. Some railroaders are more than fine with photography (GOD BLESS THEM!), and others want their privacy. All I'm saying is that we should be more mindful of our actions, and in my opinion there's nothing worse than a railfan with a militant "My God given right" attitude. Yes, we're photographers and we have rights, but not EVERYONE likes getting their picture taken, whether or not it's on public property, and whether or not they think their face is recognizable.


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Old 07-14-2007, 02:42 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by rustyrail
This I realize, but what keeps my coworkers from shooting pictures of everyone on their camera phones? What if I brought my dSLR into work and decided to start my own "the Office" sitcom? It wouldn't fly.
Of course it wouldn't fly since you're on private property and the people you work for can and probably have set rules against that sort ofthing.

As foir the attitude you're showing me, grow up. Yeah, I work for the media. That means I go to a building every day, get my gear and go out and shoot video. I don't need your self-righteous idignation or your condescending tone.


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Old 07-14-2007, 03:20 AM   #31
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As foir the attitude you're showing me, grow up. Yeah, I work for the media. I don't need your self-righteous idignation or your condescending tone.
Likewise, though I believe the self-righteous indignation (please check your spelling) and condescension started on your behalf with the following quote, though for some reason I lowered myself to your level in order for you to understand. BIG mistake on my part...

Quote:
You understand there's a world of difference between someone taking pictures outside on public property and someone going on private property such as an office building, right?
I don't need to "understand" anything.

Hmmmm....who's got the short fuse?
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Old 07-14-2007, 03:30 AM   #32
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What I'm saying is that railroaders and anyone who works in easily accessible area shouldn't have to contend with unwanted photographers just because their work happens to be in a public area.
Why not?

Depending on where I'm at in the world, I have people taking photos of me at work, but I have no expectation that they shouldn't. I understand aviation photography is a huge hobby, especially in Europe. Perhaps if the hobby of railroad photography was as well-known, maybe there wouldn't be a knee-jerk reaction from "sensitive" crews.

Of course, perhaps these crews have had bad experiences or close calls with stupid railfans in the past. Maybe they mistook Nick for someone who doesn't follow "the rules" of railfanning. Who knows?

For me, I'm pretty well-known in my immediate area of railfanning. Alot of the crews recognize me and know that I'm not going to do anything stupid. That "trust" has been built with time and exposure. Same thing with the local law enforcement. Several of them have my personal railfan business card.

But, if you're job has you in the open, you're fair game, like it or not...
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Old 07-14-2007, 03:34 AM   #33
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As much as I enjoy a small fire from time to time, PMs work good too!

On another note, I know railroaders may not like having their picture taken, but most (believe it or not) dont want them to be taken because they are bending the rules a bit. But, the nice and caring guy that I am, has half a brain not to show these images online if I do snap a few.

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Old 07-14-2007, 06:19 AM   #34
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This past Monday evening I was parked in a large open field which extends from the roadside of a major street back to the CSX right of way. I was parked facing the tracks and the front of my car was maybe 40 yards from the ballast.

As I sat in the car listening to the scanner (the magnetic mount antenna was clearly visible on my car's roof) I heard the sound of a motorcycle approaching from behind me. A glance in my driver's side view mirror revealed that a motorcycle police officer was only a few yards away. There are no posted signs of any kind in or around this field, and to this moment I am not sure if it is city land or railroad property.

When the officer got close enough I looked directly at him and waved out the window. He shut off his motorcycle and asked me if I was a "train enthusiast"? I replied that I was, and held up my scanner in one hand and my DSLR in the other for him to see. He smiled and said "enjoy the evening". I replied "Thank you officer, and I promise I'll be good!" He laughed and nodded, started his motorcycle, and drove off.

This is not the first encounter with the law I have had while railfanning, and I have yet to feel threatened, or intimidated, or in any way harassed. Maybe I am just lucky, but my theory is this. Now and days in order to avoid an unpleasant episode with the law while enjoying what we do I think a few adjustments and compromises are in order.

1) Stay in plain site wherever possible. If you are out in the open it seems you appear less suspicious, and you are certainly safer from the clutches of some unsavory character if you can easily be seen. Not long ag I ventured to an area I had never visited before. It was somewhat secluded and off the beaten path. I was barely there 5 minutes when out from the bushes came a man who was no doubt homeless. Nothing bad came from the encounter, but I was certainly uncomfortable and uneasy about it.

2) Obey all posted signs and when in doubt, ask. Trespassing is trespassing, regardless of intent. Most of my routine railfanning is done in and around Cleveland, Ohio. I have secured permission to park my car and occupy space on several well positioned private properties simply by staying off the premises until I could get the opportunity to very politely ask the owner if it would be OK for me to be on their property. Of course, I explain my intentions and promise that all I will leave behind are footprints. If they say no, then it is no, and I take them at their word and stay away.

3) Make sure the train crews understand your intentions. How can an engineer or conductor in a fast moving locomotive be certain of your plans? If I am trackside I often PURPOSELY move AWAY from the tracks as the train approaches, even if it is just a few feet as I wave toward the locomotive. Since my shot has already been planned and my prefocus point selected it in no way upsets the picture taking.

By moving away I am showing the crew I have no intention of leaping in front of the train to end it all, and the wave is both acknowledgment that I see them and a simple friendly gesture too! I regularly get toots of the horn and return waves from the crew as well. If they don't view you as suspicious maybe they won't call you in as suspicious.

4) If you don't look for a headache you might not get one. In the event someone from law enforcement does approach you do not become instantly indignant, argumentative, or defensive. A wave and a smile might just diffuse the situation right from the start. Even if things don't go well and you are completely in the right and the policeman or security person is wrong, sometimes the best strategy is to lose the immediate battle but ultimately win the war and move on to photograph another day. My attorney charges $220 per hour, and while it is nice to think you can "teach these guys a lesson" in personal freedom you need to ask yourself if it is worth it? The railroads will be around for a long time and so will the opportunities to photograph them. Discretion is often the greater part of valor.

There will always be the overzealous who equate authority with the right to wield indescriminant power as the first poster in this thread has discovered. On the other extreme there will always be railfans who invite problems with their actions, and words, and sometimes overzealous pursuit of a photograph. I intend to do my best to avoid the former and never become the latter. I have been lucky, and I think to a degree I have made some of my own luck as well.
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Old 07-14-2007, 04:53 PM   #35
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How are we being protected from terrorist attacks when toddlers and people who write books criticizing the government are put on no-fly lists?
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Old 07-14-2007, 05:36 PM   #36
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When the officer got close enough I looked directly at him and waved out the window. He shut off his motorcycle and asked me if I was a "train enthusiast"? I replied that I was, and held up my scanner in one hand and my DSLR in the other for him to see. He smiled and said "enjoy the evening". I replied "Thank you officer, and I promise I'll be good!" He laughed and nodded, started his motorcycle, and drove off.
Was this in Indiana? I've had similar experiences, one being at the end of somewhat remote dirt road that ended at NS's mainline through northern Indiana. As I was set up along the tracks with my tripod, a local police officer came down this dirt road, probably just on a routine check of things.

The exchange went something like this:

Officer: "Railfan?"
Me: "Yes"
Officer: "Ok, have a good day"

I guess I don't fit the "terrorist profile" or something (I also NEVER get searched at airport checkpoints when I fly. hmmm).

By the way, have there been any huge caches of pictures found that terrorists have taken to plan their attacks? Just wondering, as photographers always seem to be the target of the paranoia.
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Old 07-14-2007, 08:42 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by JimThias
The exchange went something like this:

Officer: "Railfan?"
Me: "Yes"
Officer: "Ok, have a good day"
Given that the officer used the term "railfan" suggests he is at least familiar with our passion for railroads. This alone might have made a difference in how your exchange with him went.

I think it is a great idea to educate local law enforcement whenever possible regarding what railfanning is and how we do things. Among the regular railfans in my "home" railfanning area are a local police officer and a fireman. These are great allies to have, since they can at least help educate their peers and hopefully make them more aware of the non threatening and peaceful nature of our hobby.
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Old 07-15-2007, 06:11 AM   #38
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The last time I was bothered by anyone while I was railfanning was about a year ago, and that was at a station platform. I was there on a Sunday and was a little surprised to see a switcher working the yard so I took some pics with my tiny point and shoot camera until a RR Security man walked up and said I was making everyone nervous and I had to leave. Well I asked isn't this a station, and he said yes but if I am waiting for a train I need to stay by the shelters only, and he added "usually we just call the cops on you guys". Well I left it wasn't a great photo-op anyway and security doesn't live there so I can and do go back when I want and haven't seen him since. I don't really know what to say to others about what to do when told to leave, it seems to have been addressed already pretty well. I don't trespass, I like to ask permission first if it is at all possible, but a few times I was unsure about public property or what so I set up quick, get my shots and get going (of course this doesn't work if you want to wait all afternoon for trains)!
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Old 07-15-2007, 09:02 PM   #39
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Channahon is very close to the Elwood refinery, but that in no way overrides your right to stand, scratch yourself, and take photos on public property.

Not too long ago there was a major story printed in Pittsburg's largest newspaper regarding the incredible vulnerability of America's tank car fleets. The journalist cited the recent devestation caused by bomb-laden chlorine tanker trucks in Iraq, and then noted how unprotected chlorine tankers roll through the downtown areas of most North American cities everyday. There were several senators and congressmen that took the story to heart and this may be part of the fallout from the newstory. Or it could be another innane Homeland Security policy. I don't know.
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Old 07-16-2007, 12:54 PM   #40
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Channahon is very close to the Elwood refinery, but that in no way overrides your right to stand, scratch yourself, and take photos on public property.

But that's a two-way street, just because someone is standing on public property bordering the property they're required to safeguard does not obligate the security/law enforcement type to simply leave you alone. It is their right and requirement to at least stop by and see what you are up to, even if it's sitting on their own property 20 feet away and running your license plates through the various national databases. We all know that if they didn't, and something bad were to happen their ass would be in a sling later.

Do they have any right to throw you off of public property? Of course not, but that doesn't stop some of them from trying to stroke their own ego. There are all kinds of people out there, but by and large, I think most of these people are just trying to do a job they're trained for.
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Old 07-16-2007, 02:23 PM   #41
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Rick K.,

Post #34, WELL SAID!!!


NicTrain,

I missed in your post if you were shooting in the direction of a refinery or whatever the case may be in that location? If not, you can disregard this. If so, would that be any different than someone standing on the sidewalk in front of your house and taking pictures of you sitting at your computer looking at railpictures.net? The sidewalk is also public property, but I'll be damned if I want someone shooting through my windows at me. Even though it may be a refinery, business, or whatever, it is no different.
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Old 07-16-2007, 03:28 PM   #42
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That's not a fair comparision at all. First, if you don't want someone shooting you looking at RP, then close the door or shut the blinds. If they are on public property, they have that right. As a photographer, you should fight for their right to do this. As soon as we start allowing the forces behind the scenes to ban photography in some public places, then it becomes much easier for them to ban photography in other public places.


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Old 07-16-2007, 03:51 PM   #43
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Originally Posted by Joe the Photog
That's not a fair comparision at all. First, if you don't want someone shooting you looking at RP, then close the door or shut the blinds. If they are on public property, they have that right. As a photographer, you should fight for their right to do this. As soon as we start allowing the forces behind the scenes to ban photography in some public places, then it becomes much easier for them to ban photography in other public places.


Joe
Careful Joe, I agree that the comparison isn't quite right. But standing on public property does not preclude anyone from laws banning photography of private property without the owner's consent. It's one of those wonderful legal "gray areas" we've all come to know and love.

You can take all the photos you want by happenstance, but if you're intentionally taking photos of someone or their private property, that is written black and white as "Invasion of Privacy". This is an offense which is voluntarily enforced, in other words, the property owner/individual have to press charges, but the "I was on public property" argument will not hold up.

Precedent: We had a local press photographer in my hometown area sued last year because he took photos of a soldier's private funeral without family consent. The photos were plastered all over the local newsrags, and the family successfully sued for invasion of privacy. The award wasn't much, like $65,000 but even a train photo wouldn't be worth that much.

I'll look and see if I still have the article in my e-mail archives with the details.

Railroads for the most part give railfans free reign to shoot their trains and property "from safe distances on public property" (more generally non-railroad property). But frequently the railroads do not own the industrial spurs that they service, they are normally owned and maintained by the company using the spur or siding. The railroad may maintain the switches and the track, but they bill the company for the maintenance.

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Old 07-16-2007, 04:56 PM   #44
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That's not a fair comparision at all. First, if you don't want someone shooting you looking at RP, then close the door or shut the blinds. If they are on public property, they have that right.
And what if someone continues to photograph your property even though you don't want them to, even after you close your blinds, lock up the house, and post those lovely neighborhood welcoming "NO TRESSPASSING" signs? It's called harassment, and when you're sick and tired of being harassed, you call none other than the police; which is exactly what the railroad and/or refinery did.

Just because the street is public property, you're on their turf and they want to know what you're up to. Anyone who denies they would do the same thing these businesses did or at least go out and personally question someone standing around taking photos of their house and personal property is lying.
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Old 07-16-2007, 06:50 PM   #45
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Just because the street is public property, you're on their turf
I get what you're trying to say here, but you can't really be on public property and be on their turf at the same time. If I'm on the sidewalk, I'm on public property. Period.

Now about that case, I'm guessing there's something we don't know. Either he was not on public property when he shot the funeral or there is more than we know at this point. In five years in this field, I've been very fortunate in that I've never had to shoot a funeral. I can't imagine a more uncomfortable shooting atmosphere. But I know co-workers and competitors have shot them and sometimes the family allows you inside the church and sometimes they ask you to stay away. When the latter is the case, we stay across the road on public property.

In this case, I'd be interested to know if it's an urban legend, or if the people who employee the photographer just figured it was easier to settle or if the photographer was trespassing.


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Old 07-16-2007, 07:00 PM   #46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rustyrail
Anyone who denies they would do the same thing these businesses did or at least go out and personally question someone standing around taking photos of their house and personal property is lying.
And just so we're clear, I'm totally fine with LEOs, security guards or property owners coming to ask me what I'm doing when I'm on public property. They're not infringing on my rights by asking questions. It's when they tell me to leave or detain me, like the case in California with the TV crew, that a problem will arise.

A favorite story to tell is when I was at my last station. My reporter and I pulled over to the side of the road to get some video of a torch run coming our way. The reporter stayed in the car while I got my gear out and set the shot up. About the time I pushed record, someone pulled out of a driveway and asked what we were doing.

I was pretty nonchalant about it and told them I was just trying to get some video of some runners coming our way. I put my head back down in the view finder thinking the conversation was over. The man told me I had to leave, that I couldn't be there. I said I wouldn't be there long, that in fact the runners were coming now.

By now, the man was rather irate and told me that I didn't understand, I had to leave. By now, my reporter had got out of the car and said, no, we didn't have to leave and asked the man to let us get our video. By now the man had pulled out a cell phone and informed us he was going to "call the cops."

My reporter said, and I quote, "Don't bother. They're leading the procession." A few seconds later, the first police car pulled up, saw us, gave us a nice wave. He was th same man we had interviewed prior to him getting in his car and us getting in our car. The neighbor now had to sit there while the police-led runners -- most of the runners were either Special Olympians and LEOs -- made their way and I got my video.

No real point to that story, but it still makes me chuckle when I think about it. Truth is that when most people ask what I'm shooting video, they're just curious and want to know when it might air. Somehow it's the still photography that gets more people worried.


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Old 07-16-2007, 08:55 PM   #47
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No real point to that story, but it still makes me chuckle when I think about it. Truth is that when most people ask what I'm shooting video, they're just curious and want to know when it might air. Somehow it's the still photography that gets more people worried.


Joe
Point or not, good story. And the guy was made to feel like a jackass.
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Old 07-16-2007, 11:55 PM   #48
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Originally Posted by Joe the Photog
In this case, I'd be interested to know if it's an urban legend, or if the people who employee the photographer just figured it was easier to settle or if the photographer was trespassing.
For the life of me I can't find the e-mail with the article in it, but the photographer was on a village sidewalk which bordered the cemetary and intentionally shooting the funeral with a telephoto lens. It's the photographer who paid the family, it caused quite a heartache with the local media for a while as I recall.

Bottom line is, just using the "I'm standing on public property." will not protect you from questioning every time. And very well may not protect you against civil penalties if you're knowingly shooting sensitive material or subjects.
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Old 07-17-2007, 12:01 AM   #49
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Originally Posted by hoydie17
Bottom line is, just using the "I'm standing on public property." will not protect you from questioning every time.
True, so true. I've been questioned and asked to leave areas so many times that I'm just about done with photographing anything anymore. It gets really tiring constantly having to explain yourself everywhere you go. This is a real shame, but it's just a fact of life in the big city anymore. Heck, now that I think about it, I was questioned by some guy in a small town, too.

Getting hassled really takes the fun out of railfanning, that's for sure.
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Old 07-17-2007, 11:15 AM   #50
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Originally Posted by Ween
Be polite, answer the questions, and if you were on public property, I'd go back railfanning there tomorrow!
One word for you: Newspaper!!

5 words for cops: "I have nothing to say." Don't EVER let them in the house.

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