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Thread: "Big" cameras, public lands, oversight & nuisances.

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Tonopah, Nevada, USA

    "Big" cameras, public lands, oversight & nuisances.

    Ok, so it's last friday afternoon, I'm in Rhyolite NV., about 7:20 PM, and I've worked my way up what I think is an old RR right-of-way until I've finally got t he angle and elevation I want for a shot of the old Bullfrog and Goldfield depot . I put the 210 G-Claron on and remove the front element and stretch the bellow s on the Z VI out about as far as they'll go. I've got about 3 minutes until th e sun will drop behind the hills behind me and my light will be gone, just enjoy ing myself to the hilt, when I notice an old yellow Honda trail 90 turn onto the right of way and head my direction. 40 seconds later the guy pulls up and he's got a BLM hat on and he says "Are you a commercial enterprise?" So much for th at euphoria, not to mention the light.

    Now I understand that we have designated these folks to oversee our real estate for us, and if 3 vans pulled up with lights and models and products I'd be cheer ing him on. But how do we help them to know that the folks that just happen to enjoy looking at the world upside down should be left alone? I've had similar e xperiences down the road in Death Valley, except they weren't near as nice as th is guy. In fact if you've got a "big" camera in Death Valley, beware.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

  2. #2

    Join Date
    May 2001

    "Big" cameras, public lands, oversight & nuisances.

    The owners and managers of any land have every right to ask about visitors' motives, and their mere asking shouldn't spoil your euphoria (heavens, I'd be perpetually gloomy if I let each such incident spoil my day!). If they have no case, they'll leave you alone; if you're on land you shouldn't be, you can't blame the messenger for telling you so.

    When I have these encounters, I always just smile and cheerfully say, "No, just a hobbyist." A smile can go a surprisingly long way.

    Fwiw, I've had no trouble with view cameras in Death Valley, in a wide variety of locations. Again, though, I keep smiling when I encounter anyone and if they ask what I'm doing, I reassure them that I'm not a commercial enterprise--just a nature lover trying to get good pictures.


  3. #3
    tim atherton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 1998

    "Big" cameras, public lands, oversight & nuisances.

    Try going here for starters and hunting around:

    Looks to me like you dont really need a permit....
    You'd be amazed how small the demand is for pictures of trees... - Fred Astaire to Audrey Hepburn blog

  4. #4

    "Big" cameras, public lands, oversight & nuisances.

    Dear Jim

    Look on the 'home page' of this forum under 'Travels' and you will see that Q.-Tuan Luong has posted an article about shooting in national parks and on public lands. I live next to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and have my regular encounters with rangers who do not understand that more than one camera or accessory does not necessarily constitute a commercial endeavour! Read the article, review the links and pay attention to the one published by the National Park Service which covers the real rules of photographing in national parks.

    Often the rangers and other employees think they are doing good, but do not understand what the rules say. The intent seems to be to regulate the big production types of photo shoots where there are lots of crew, perhaps wandering into restricted areas and potentially damaging the park whether intentionally or otherwise. This forum had a lengthy discussion of an incident where damage may or may not have occured last year. Maybe they have just encountered too many 'figure' photographers using those areas and they believe they are upholding the public morals.

    My advice is not to lie or be deceptive. Perhaps, print out the rules and carry them in your bag-I do. As long as you are in public areas where anyone is allowed to walk at reasonable times when the areas are open to visitors, you have the right to photograph provided you are not interfering with other park visitors. This is true even if you are selling the images later. What they do not want is the impression that such and such park or park employee is seemingly endorsing a product.

    I would be pleased to hear other observations and discuss this further.

    John Bailey

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Feb 2001
    Los Angeles

    "Big" cameras, public lands, oversight & nuisances.

    I have never had a problem using a view camera in Death Valley in 30 or more trips. I have had several other "conversations" with official persons in other locations. They start off with feigned nonchallance (sp?), then they strike up a conversation, then they work in a question designed to find out if you are a "professional photographer." This has happend many times, exactly the same technique used, and I think it is trained. I'm not a professional, I answer the question directly and without an attitude and they lose interest in me. Comments like: "I like old wooden cameras" early on help get them off the idea that fancy/weird equipment means you are working on a commercial venture. My impression is that if you are not on a commercial assignment per se, they don't care. If somebody some day decides to buy one of your pictures, they don't care. At least this is what I've heard from the ones who relax and talk about the issue. I've never seen a BLM person or anyone else official at Ryolite. Pity the area was not better protected over the years, check out the way it looked for Edward Weston in California and the West. Some of the buidings he photographed are rubble now. I don't think the photographs do much damage, it's the people who don't photograph they should worry about.

  6. #6

    "Big" cameras, public lands, oversight & nuisances.

    Hi All,

    Shooting in National Parks here in Oz poses some of the same restrictions - albeit, usually, policed in a more relaxed fashion than I see in this thread. What is really annoying, though, is that local Municipal Councils will impose "shooting fees" for photography undertaken on beaches such as Bondi, outdoor attractions like the Darling Harbour precinct and the Sydney Opera House forecourt.

    This has absolutely nothing to do with upholding moral values or preserving the environment - it is a blatant and capricious means of sharing in the spoils of Commercial endeavour. As an example the Sydney Opera House Trust requires a full declaration of the nature of the assignment and will then impose what they consider to be an appropriate fee for the scale of the shoot. Others just have a flat fee - $500.00 for Sydney beaches or $ 1,800.00 for Darling Harbour.

    Where it gets really stupid is that most of the 'Professional' photos taken in places like these are done on 35mm tranny or digital. The shooters are invisible in a sea of tourists. But take out a large format camera and there's a lot of explaining to do - with mixed results.

    Surely, in most of our western democracies the law of "innocent until proven guilty" should apply. If we explain our purpose in a concise and civil manner we should be taken at face value. Sadly, however, this is a fading memory with the introduction of armed security personnel, often with the IQ of a fence post and the culture and aesthetics of yoghurt, whose sole endeavour is to flex their authority.

    Walter Glover

  7. #7

    "Big" cameras, public lands, oversight & nuisances.

    Walter, you hit it right on the head with "Sadly, however, this is a fading memory with the introduction of armed security personnel, often with the IQ of a fence post and the culture and aesthetics of yoghurt, whose sole endeavour is to flex their authority." It's the same attitude many of us have run into at airports, trying to get hand inspection without having some idiot open the box of exposed sheetfilm.

    I console myself with the realization that such people are not hired for such low-paid positions because of their brains.


  8. #8

    "Big" cameras, public lands, oversight & nuisances.

    Walter, that was a very interesting post. However, I spent the better part of two days photographing the Sydney Opera House (the world's most beautiful building IMHO) with a 4x5 monorail and was never questioned. The only place I was stopped was in the Royal Botanical Gardens. But this was three years ago, and maybe things have changed.

  9. #9

    "Big" cameras, public lands, oversight & nuisances.


    You can be in luck; as I said at the head of the post these matters are policed in a somewhat relaxed fashion at times, but the Botanical Gardens, Mrs Macquarie's Chair and Centennial Park are all under the jurisdiction of the Dept. of Agriculture and they are very keen on fiscal fertiliser.

    I hope you liked what you saw and captured, anyway.

    Cheers ... WG

  10. #10

    "Big" cameras, public lands, oversight & nuisances.


    Somewhere up the posts someone recommended printing out the National Park Service regulations on photography. I carry copies of these with me in the field. They clearly state that a license or permit is not required for the kind of work you were doing. One thing to be careful of is whether your location is national or state land. Nevada has stricter regulations regarding photography on state parks and sites and generally large format photographers would require a permit (with a small fee) to be on location. The Nevada State Parks website also provides regulations on photography.

    Good Luck,

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