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Attention Joe Pries And Royal King  
User currently offlineRsmith6621a From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 194 posts, RR: 4
Posted (13 years 2 months 2 weeks 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 2980 times:

Joe and Royal,

Over the past weekend there were several post of forum members including myself that were approached by the local airport law enforcement agency's. I can see these increasing as we approach a conflict in Iraq.

As persons who have affiliations with a international aviation publication who better knows what the rights of individuals as it pertains to photographing than you two.

Could you two share with us all some words of the wise as it pertains to our passion of aviation photography. I personally would like to better understand how to go about establishing a positive protocol with these authority's.

Thanks So Much


Did You Ever Think Freedom Could Be this Bad
10 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineClickhappy From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 9823 posts, RR: 64
Reply 1, posted (13 years 2 months 2 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 2937 times:
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Well, there are some GREAT shooters on this board who can offer a ton more wealth on this subject than I can, but I will try to offer some prespective.

The first thing I would say is use common sense. I know that sounds silly, but it is so true. You don't want to pull your car up to a fence and stand on the roof or the hood to get a shot. If I am using a ladder, I keep it folded up and away from the fence until I need to use it. Don't just stand by a fence...I usually stay 20 yards away or so until I need to get closer, then I do my business and go back to where I was standing.

I also do my homework before I go out, and I carry a scanner with me. I use an air-only model, cheap, smaller, and not a threat to police. If The Man rolls up and asks you what you are doing, you tell the truth..."I am waiting for a Sun Country 737 that is flying in from Portland, It will be here at 10:20 and then I am leaving..." Something like that.

A lot of times I will "check in" with someone in authority before I start snapping away. The quickest way to avoid the local law is to head into the terminal and ask someone from TSA to speak with the duty officer. They can help your or point you to someone from the airport authority. Tell them who you are, offer your ID, don't make them ask for it. When they tell you it's cool, remember their name. When someone calls you in later and you get a visit, you can say that you already talked to Mr So and So. You go from an unknown threat to someone with a weird hobby.

Also, each situation/airport is different. If you shoot digital, offer whoever is questioning you a chance to look at your pictures thru your cameras LCD. Know how to use this feature, it is a big help.

Most of all, be respectful. The law is just doing their job. If they tell you you can't be somewhere, find out who to talk with. No police office is going to back down if you start screaming "private property" or "what about my rights."


User currently offlineBigphilnyc From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 4077 posts, RR: 51
Reply 2, posted (13 years 2 months 2 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 2919 times:

These tips are excellent.

Checking in with TSA or local port authority police can go a long way and make your spotting adventure a lot more peaceful and mentally comfortable.

I would also consider what you are wearing as well. Bulges in your clothing look suspiciious. If the weather allows it, only wear a t-shirt and shorts. Baseball caps that shade your face create some suspicion. I would also recommend not showing up after not shaving for two days. An a.net shirt doesn't hurt either!

Oh, and don't use a shoulder-fired camera that takes picture by lighting a fuse.

Phil Derner Jr.
User currently offlineCarlos Borda From United States of America, joined Dec 2000, 538 posts, RR: 42
Reply 3, posted (13 years 2 months 2 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 2856 times:

And that's the truth Royal.... one thing I learned a long time ago is that if you stand there and argue with "the law man," your just screwing yourself (and believe me I know because I'm the argumentative type). Chances are good that in the future you will run into that same cop again and he will remember your attitude and lack of respect for authority from the first go around. Best thing to do is try and explain your hobby and remain friendly... in some rare occasions I have come across cops here who also had an interest/understanding for the hobby and as a result let me go about my business that day. The next time that cops sees you again, he'll remember you and know your not a threat. Of course, this is all assuming your in a somewhat legit area (like a parking lot, side of road) and not gorilla shooting in an area you really shouldn't be in.


Royal writes:

>>No police office is going to back down if you start screaming "private property" or "what about my rights."<<

User currently offlineJoe pries From United States of America, joined May 2000, 1957 posts, RR: 51
Reply 4, posted (13 years 2 months 2 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 2823 times:

The comments made by the others are quite good, I would echo what they say. Sometimes though, no matter what, if the guy had a bad day at home the night before he's gonna take it out on whoever is available and if its you, its you.


User currently offline2912n From United States of America, joined Oct 2001, 2013 posts, RR: 7
Reply 5, posted (13 years 2 months 2 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 2768 times:

Here are a couple of hints on how to avoid major headaches...

1. Be in a place you have a legal right to be in.
2. Don't make yourself out to be the problem. (Don't climb up on fences etc...)
3. Carry valid ID with you.
4. If contacted by the police be cooperative. A great deal of the time your attitude will guide the contact. Act nice you will probably be treated that way. Act like a jerk, even if you are in the right, and you will probably be treated like one.
5. Understand why the cops are there. EVERYONE is and should be concerned about security. Sadly there are people who get paranoid and as soon as they see someone with a camera taking photos of an airplane they think it is suspicious...so they call the police and the cop has to come out and check. (I think that is part of the negative attitude we see with some cops...they know it is a BS call, but someone called so they have to deal with it. They get enough calls it gets old and the spotter gets the short end of the stick. Fair it ain't but thats life....)
6. Carry some of your photos with you. You can describe your hobby in a way that makes sense. Everyone likes to look at cool photos, and if the cops work around the airport they probably like airplanes anyway...
7. If you are forced to leave and you are certain you were in the right call the police and ask to speak with a supervisor. If time is not on your side write a letter. Explain your situation in a calm and lucid manner.

Understand that sometimes you will run into idiots. I hesitate to give this example but...I was trying to take a night photo at my local hangout. It was about 3 in the morning and the ramp was deserted. (small GA type airfield.) At this time I was wearing a uniform and was about 20 feet away from a black and white car (ugly one with funny lights on top and a grumpy dog in the back...) The security guard walks up behind me and starts yelling at me that I can't be on the ramp, I am in a secure area, I am violating the law by photographing an airplane....Lets just say it got uglier from there.

99% of life and avoiding trouble is common sense.


User currently offlineApuneger From Belgium, joined Sep 2000, 3036 posts, RR: 10
Reply 6, posted (13 years 2 months 2 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 2767 times:

Those are some excellent tips guys. I sure am going to remember this for my next visit to, let's say, LHR. Over here at BRU there aren't too many problems when you want to take pics of aircraft.


Ivan Coninx - Brussels Aviation Photography
User currently offlineBigphilnyc From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 4077 posts, RR: 51
Reply 7, posted (13 years 2 months 2 weeks 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 2608 times:

I'd like to elaborate on something 2912n said; remember why the cops are there to begin with.

When police come up to me, of course I maybe get a little nervous that it might escalate into a large misunderstanding. That's a given.

But a part of me is also relieved that the police, or the public who is watching the area surrounding the airport, is keeping an eye on anythign that they find to be "strange".

What if some guy is assembling an anti-aircraft rocket near the end of a runway. If no one is watching, he'll get away with it.

These cops approaching us shows that they are doingt heir job to protect the airport. It makes my mind easier when I fly, and as I'd hope that everyone would agree, airport safety is more important than us enjoying our favorite hobby.

Phil Derner Jr.
User currently offlineMikephotos From United States of America, joined Oct 2000, 2923 posts, RR: 52
Reply 8, posted (13 years 2 months 2 weeks 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 2587 times:

What if some guy is assembling an anti-aircraft rocket near the end of a runway. If no one is watching, he'll get away with it.

Well if that cop wouldn't have thrown the 10 spotters out of the end-of-the-runway spot they would have seen the guy assembling the anti-aircraft rocket and called 911...  Smile


User currently offlineJeffM From United States of America, joined May 2005, 3267 posts, RR: 50
Reply 9, posted (13 years 2 months 2 weeks 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 2516 times:

I agree with Phil. It is strange to be out on the end of a runway for hours and not be approached. Makes you wonder what could happen. I much prefer to see random checks, and don't mind getting questioned. It's their job, I make it easy for them by cooperating.


User currently offlineJcs17 From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 8065 posts, RR: 36
Reply 10, posted (13 years 2 months 2 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 2509 times:

A few more tips

-Allow the cops to run your ID.
-If you are driving your car, allow the police to search it.
-Dont stay in your car and only get out to snap a pic, that only draws more attention to yourself. Make sure you are outside and have your camera in plain view (do not keep your bulging camera bag in plain view though...keep that in the car).
-If you are certain that you have the right to be on the piece of property you are taking pics from, politely ask the policeman for his name and badge number, so you can contact his supervisor.
-However, do not be afraid of the policeman (they cannot arrest you for explaining your point-of-view to them), and do not accept a feeble explanation on why you cannot take pics from a place where you legally have the right to be. Explaining things to the policeman can do a lot of good, especially for future spotters.
-And like someone else said, if you have a digital, show the cop your pics...just to show them that you are not full of b.s.

America's chickens are coming home to rooooost!
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