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MidEx216
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Problems With Authorities

Wed Jan 31, 2007 7:25 am

I was curious, does anyone here have problems with any sort of authorities when taking pictures? I have had a very hard time trying to get anything, because everywhere I go, they say I'm not allowed to be there (even if the person before that told me to go there). I have been stopped twice at a road at the end of a runway, once by a fence (which they claimed was trespassing), and once inside the security zone (legitimately). Does anyone have any input or advice?

P. Valenstein
 
JakTrax
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Wed Jan 31, 2007 8:01 am

Funny you should bring up this topic, because after recent experiences at home and abroad I too was going to start a similar thread.

I'll detail my experiences...

The first happened on Sunday 21st January at East Midlands Airport in the UK. I had checked in for my flight to Malaga, Spain, had cleared security and was waiting patiently in the departure lounge when Ryanair's Cable & Wireless logojet appeared. The light was lovely and, always carrying my camera as hand baggage, I started snapping away at the taxiing airliner through the clean glass. No sooner had I taken my fifth and final snap when a woman (some airport official, no doubt) hurried up to me and asked rather rudely, "Sir, what do you think you're doing?". "I think I'm taking a picture of that plane", I replied, putting my camera away. She then said I'd committed an offence and told me she would have to call the police. "It's illegal for the press to take photo's in here", she said. I explained that I was an aviation enthusiast and even showed her the pics, which she asked me to delete. I refused and explained that, as far as I was aware, there was no law stopping me from taking pics in the departure lounge. "It says no photography in the security check", she screamed. I said that that rule applied to customs and immigration areas only, and that I was sure it didn't extend to the lounge. Even if it did, I told her I would expect to see 'no photography' signs plastered over every window. She insisted I'd commited a crime and phoned for the police, then told me that 'she wouldn't have minded if they'd been holiday snaps of the kids in front of the plane'. Eh? What the hell? Can you really differentiate between the two types of photograph like that? I think not!

I sat calmly and waited for the police, who arrived after five minutes. He immediately asked to see the camera and the pictures and told me that, to take photo's, I had to ask permission from the airport. News to me. I explained that they were for a personal collection and he understood (sort of), but still insisted I'd done wrong and had been 'impolite'. He said that it was obligatory to ask permission before shooting and that I had posed 'a security risk'. Yeah, right. How many planes have been downed with cameras? Surely the fact that I'd passed through the security check dictated that I had nothing which could be deemed a threat? I asked the officer if I had acually commited a crime, i.e. done something against a particular law. He hesitated before answering, "No, you haven't". He did state, however, that the 'no photography' rule was written into the bylaws of the airport. I asked to see these bylaws, but of course he made up excuses and couldn't provide them. Needless to say, I was released without charge but my relaxation in the lounge was ruined by the uninvited visit.

Aggro number two came the following day in Spain, while I was shooting at Malaga airport. I was in a public place, surrounded by other watchers, dog-walkers, etc. In fact, the camera hadn't even come out of its case (which in turn hadn't yet left the hire car), when I was approached by 6 police officers who'd just sprung from a patrol car. They asked what I was doing as they'd had a report of a suspicious guy loitering. My Spanish isn't the best but I explained I was watching the planes and wished to take the odd photograph. At this point, they demanded my car keys and did a full (and I mean full!) search of my hire car. They then moved onto my camera case, which they treated like sh*t. Understandably, I began to get a little un-cooperative at this point, stating that it wasn't a crime to watch planes with a camera tucked away in my car. They began to get very abusive and demanded to see the camera and the entire contents of my three memory cards. I explained that they were private pictures taken in the UK and they had no right to harass me like this, however they just threatened me with jail. I showed them two cards, which they were satisfied were the UK, but refused the last card because it too was the UK and did actually have some very private images on it. None-the-less, the threats continued and I had no choice, especially after one of the group tried to snatch my camera, telling me, "Give it to me now!". After 3/4 of a hour's hassle, they left me alone, but said I must leave the airport area immediately or risk arrest. I asked why and demamded to know where it would be alright for me to take pictures. He pointed to a spot at the other end of the runway (useless with the runway usage that day) and said it would be alright there - "...But not today. You go there in a few days, but not today, otherwise trouble", he said. "If we catch you, prison!". I left the area and rather cheekily set myself up for the remainder of the day in a nice, secluded spot with good vegetation for cover (I'd found it last year and though It'd be a good spot); determined to carry on shooting aircraft. I really would like to know what the Spanish law system would have to say about all this, as I feel I was heavily harassed for no good reason.

In a nutshell, it appears that officials are taking the law into their own hands and are guilty of bullying on a grand scale - and it's not confined to just a few rogue states! I never expected to be harrassed the way I was at East Midlands. Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Italy maybe, but not the UK!

Cheers for reading,

Karl

[Edited 2007-01-31 00:07:38]
 
AirMalta
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Wed Jan 31, 2007 8:14 am

It happened to me last summer when I arrived in Ireland.I was waiting at the domestic area (departure) to catch my Aer Arann flight when I took a shot of my daughter with planes behind her when 2 'Garda' officers approached me and asked what I was doing when I told them I take photos of planes they asked for an identification and when they saw my passport they wrote my details on their small portable computer.I asked them what I was doing wrong so I wont do it again 'trying to look innocent' they told me ''You can continue taking photos but just in case we took your details''.

Malcolm
 
flybhx
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Wed Jan 31, 2007 8:15 am

Karl,

Not teaching you to suck eggs but can you confirm that the East Mids one was a proper PC from Leics police and not one of the Securicor wannabees. They have a major attitude issue.
 
JakTrax
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Wed Jan 31, 2007 9:00 am

Yes he was definately a member of the Leicestershire constabulary. He came with his little black body-warmer and his tall black hat. I've had dealings with the Securicor guys before (you're right, they act as though they've achieved world power!) but that's always been landside by the fences at the ends of the runways. I tell them to politely get lost these days as I've had confirmation from the Leicestershire force that I am allowed to photograph from the mound just to the east of the old Aeropark (by the 27 threshold).

I aren't entirely sure what they (the airport girl and the bobby) told me is wrong but I played as though I knew best and it seemed to work. I very much doubt a rule exists whereby no-one can take photo's in the EMA departure lounge. If it does, it should be more clearly identified and produced on request.

Karl

[Edited 2007-01-31 01:01:22]
 
Avsfan
Posts: 246
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Wed Jan 31, 2007 9:05 am

To start off, you might have a look at this thread from earlier discussions about this subject: RE: FLL Public Photography Hazards (by Avsfan Jan 8 2007 in Aviation Photography)?searchid=265850&s=avsfan#ID265850

The way to try and avoid any kind of confrontation is to get with your local airport authority and get their permission to shoot at and around your airport. When I say "airport authority", I do not mean the rent-a-cops that help with security around the airport. I mean the actual airport manager. That individual will have the ultimate say as to whether you can photograph on or around the airport legally. All it takes is either a phone call or e-mail to discuss the situation and then go from there. If the airport manager welcomes you to photograph around the airport, then I would suggest getting some kind of letter signed by the airport manager authorizing you to photography at the airport. That way if some rent-a-cop wanders by and tries to harass you, then you can pull out the letter and show them that you have permission to be there. These are some suggestions as to what should be in the letter:

  • Full name
  • Contact information
  • The locations that you would be photographing from
  • Reasoning for being there
  • Airport manager's signature

If all goes well with the airport manager, and you are authorized to photograph around the airport, then I would strongly suggest giving the airport manager's office a call prior to going out to do your photography. That way they at least know that you will be around the airport and can help smooth things out if one of those rent-a-cops show up.

I will mention that I have already e-mailed the airport manager at the airport where I live and he has said that there is no problem taking photographs around the airport. All that is requested of me is to give his office a call prior to going out.

Just my  twocents worth!

Louis
"Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth...Put out my hand and touched the face of God"
 
EMA747
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Wed Jan 31, 2007 9:19 am

I have been stopped at EMA before. I had been at the airport for a few hours and had walked around a bit to get a few numbers and had taken a few shots at the end of the little road on the terminal side of 27. I was getting numbers of the AN-12s by the maintenance hangers when a cop car pulled up and they told me to get inside. They said I had been seen on CCTV for the last few hours acting suspiciously! All I had done was walk up and down public paths for a few hours! No more suspicious than all the people walking from the offices to the car park! They ask what I was doing and I explained but I think because I am a bit younger than some spotters (I am 23) then were a bit more skeptical and tried on all the legal crap a bit more than they should have. After reading some posts on here I was well aware that what I was doing was 100% legal but I was pleasant with them as they were only doing their jobs and they were quite friendly to me in the end.
It is a bit annoying but I guess I would rather they were vigilant than not as I would hate anything to happen to a plane load of people because they were slack on security however unlikely it is.

Andy S
Failing doesn’t make you a failure. Giving up and refusing to try again does!
 
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dlednicer
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Wed Jan 31, 2007 10:39 am

Its interesting - in the last year, I have visited three countries commonly listed as "oppresive communist" countries, China, Vietnam and Laos. In all three, I shot pictures at airports without any hassle. In China, I went so far as to open the windows in the waiting area and lean out to get clear shots, directly in front of a security guard. He didn't say a word.


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In Vietnam, I was a little more discrete, but I still shot pictures from the stairs as we boarded our flight from the ramp:


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Photo © David Lednicer



In Laos, I stood right at the airport fence and shot over and through it. I also shot pictures on the ramp as we deplaned one flight and boarded another. No one said a word:


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On the other hand, I have been told at several US airports that photography is not allowed or illegal. I have been run through the computer by cops. I have had to dodge roaming security patrols. All this while on the outside of the security fence.

This raises some interesting questions about the label "oppresive".
 
Psych
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Wed Jan 31, 2007 6:15 pm

Although I am not that regular a visitor, I have often come across members of the Greater Manchester and Cheshire police around the perimeter of Manchester Airport (the airport is right on the border of the two counties). I can honestly say that they have been polite and friendly on every occasion - often stopping to chat with photographers.

On one occasion I was asked to give my details, which were noted down, and show the contents of my camera bag, but even then the officer gave me a full explanation of what he was doing, was thoroughly courteous ("Please, Sir....") and reassured me about the process. On another occasion an officer asked me if I realised there was a tailor-made viewing park on the other side of the runway. When I described about the importance of the position of the sun relative to the subject for photography, he actually seemed to understand the relevance of that! I am sure car registrations are noted, and possibly checked, but this is done discreetly, without threat. Their behaviour seems to reflect an acknowledgement that people are standing in a public place and presenting no threat to anything or anyone.

It must be said that at MAN the authorities make a point of seeing the photographer/spotter community as a resource, to work with together, inviting people to contact them should they notice anything suspicious. This seems an eminently sensible move and it would be nice to think that others could follow suit.

Hopefully we will never have any incidents locally - or further afield for that matter - that cause them to question this liberal approach to a harmless hobby.

All the best.

Paul
 
LIPH
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Wed Jan 31, 2007 6:44 pm

I've always thought that the best way to take pictures inside and/or outside the airport is to know someone working in it. With his/her assistance usually there are no problems. Nonetheless I must admit that this is a "mafia like" attitude to deal with harmless people who want to do some good photography.
I happened to be bothered by police officers, security officers and almost by the pub waitress...I simply exaplained what I was doing and immediately put my camera back. I have no problem in showing all my documentation and IDs, but must admit that usually people who has nothing to do is most prone to hassle the "little fish" instead in engaging in real security operations, because they must show how do they gain money. Of course hassleing us photogs is much more easy than hassleing a terrorist.
It's also true that there are spotter friendly airports (see Zurich for example) and spotter unfriendly airport (many...). What I always suggest is to be cooperative and calm. After all, we have nothing to hide.

Ciao
Life sucks. Then you die. Live fast, die young.
 
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acontador
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Wed Jan 31, 2007 9:53 pm

Here at SCL things seems to be still much more relaxed than in the US or Europe. That is not to say that we do not have police patrolling the outside perimeter and security the inside of the airport, but people are very respectful and friendly, and as long as you calmly explain what you are doing, they probably will quickly forget why they were asking you questions and start talking about planes or football!
Then again, 'spotters' in the real sense are only very few here, so the security guys get to know you very quickly. Once I was asked some questions, and after explaining the security guard told me that he was also into photography (not planes), so we went on talking and eventually he invited me to take a tour inside the airport!!! Needless to say that I accepted gladly...
So, if you are planing to visit SCL for photography, you can expect a spotter-friendly and secure place.
Just sit back, relax and have a glass of Merlot...enjoy your life!
 
JakTrax
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Wed Jan 31, 2007 10:58 pm

Quoting Psych (Reply 8):
I can honestly say that they have been polite and friendly on every occasion - often stopping to chat with photographers.

99% of the time this is the case at MAN. There is one individual (regulars will know who I'm referring to if they've ever been collared!) who likes to make it hard but the majority of police around MAN are very friendly and understanding. Quite often they will approach me not to suss me out but to simply ask if I'm getting a good day's haul. On occasions, they even tell me about any delays or unexpected visitors.

If only the police at EMA were as courteous. Mind you, I have come across one decent and very chatty Securicor bloke there, who told me about the arrival of an Antonov later in the day. If it hadn't been for him, I'd have gone home pretty empty-handed that day.

Regarding China, I was arrested there (at Shanghai Hongqiao) in 2000 for photographing planes. The day before the incident, I was shooting happily from around the perimeter, in front of guards who didn't mind. I think it all depends on who you get on duty that day and how they initially take to you. At Beijing, for example, a couple of guys even opened a gate and let me step a few feet out onto the ramp so I could get a shot! Similarly at Pudong, the guard (who had a grasp of basic English) allowed me to clear the fence by standing on my suitcase, while pointing out the aircraft type and operator of eveything that moved.

In my opinion, the best country to shoot in has got to be Germany. Been many, many times and never once been hassled, apart from one incident where I'd parked my hire car illegally.

Karl
 
MidEx216
Topic Author
Posts: 552
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Thu Feb 01, 2007 12:42 am

Hmm...interesting stuff. I figured since I'm asking you, I should perhaps share my stories...

I shoot at MKE. My first encounter came in April, 2005. A friend and I were at an aviation career fair, and afterwards, we drove to a road off of the end of one runway, and sat by the fence eating lunch and watching the planes fly over. After about 45 minutes - 1 hour, (as I was walking back from getting my best shot of the day) I saw a cop car. Luckily, we had already talked to that officer that day, at the career fair. They told us we couldn't be parked there, which was understandable. We left, and that was that.

Next year, at the same career fair in March, we stopped there again for a few minutes (I saw a plane in the pattern I wanted to get a shot of quick). After about 3 minutes, a cop car pulled up again, and told us that we couldn't be by the fence, and that we had to leave. They said the only place we could be was at the observation area at the north end of rwy 1L/19R (the pattern was flying 7R/25L). After this time, I decided it was time to find a new place to shoot from.

Next time I was there was on the way back from ORD, and I parked in a nearby parking lot, and walked to the fence where there is a tunnel under 7R/25L. I shot there for about 30 minutes, with no problems. A few days later, I was heading back to ORD, and a friend and I stopped in the same place. After about another half hour of some nice shooting, a cop came by, took our names, said the tower and called us in, and she said we couldn't be there. She went on to say that we might get fines for trespassing, which had me completely perplexed, because we never went on the wrong side of the fence. Perhaps she was just pulling our legs? After that, we walked back to the car, and headed on to ORD.

The next month, I got a job at the airport, and I thought it would be nice for some photo-ops as well. In my training class, everybody knew I took pictures, and my trainer said that it was fine to take pictures inside the security zone, but just try not to take any of our own planes. Later, I ended up going around after work at night, taking a few pictures. I did this a few times, and with time, nearly everybody (including my supervisors) knew I did it. I even met a few people who spend a lot of their time here on A.net, and nobody had any second thoughts about it. Then came one night, I was walking by E Concourse, when a man came up and asked me what I was doing. I explained to him the whole thing and he said that it would look suspicious and I should at least ask the members of the airlines if they had any problem with me taking pictures. I had done so before, and I told him that if I ever saw anyone, I would ask them, to which he replied "Well....ok" and walked off, and I continued shooting. A few minutes later, a sheriff came up to me, and took me aside. He called his buddy, who was practically having a hemorrhoid. "You were taking pictures of planes?!" "Yes..." "Inside the security area?!?!" "Yeah" "And you put these pictures on the internet?!?!?!". They ended up calling someone from Airport Ops, who was very polite, but said that I shouldn't take pictures of other airline's planes at the gate, but if they were taxiing / moving around, it was ok (huh?). He said that I'd either have to delete the pictures, or he'd take my camera until I got permission. I voted for permission. However, before I got permission, they came back to me and said that the TSA had looked at my pictures and there was nothing wrong with them, and that my company has no policy on taking pictures, but that they would now be implementing one (no update on this). The thing that bothers me about this incident is that everybody I talked to said something different, from it being a matter of permission, to a security issue, to they can't be at the gate, you can't be inside the security zone, etc...

So now...I just do it incognito - the people at work know I do it, and support it, but supervisors no longer know, and I no longer go around taking pictures of other airlines.
 
JakTrax
Posts: 5179
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Thu Feb 01, 2007 1:31 am

Quite true - wherever in the world you are, you always get different members of officialdom (and not so officialdom) telling you totally different things. This sways me towards the belief that they make it up as they go along and, half the time, they have absolutely no idea what they're talking about. Strikes me as they really don't know what the law says about our activities but, to save grace, they make something up and start bullying us - which somewhere along the line counts as police harassment, I'm sure.

In exercising common sense one would hope the authorities would act likewise and learn to distinguish between a genuine threat and a harmless hobby. Those at East Midlands on 21 Jan should have used their heads and realised that, by photographing aircraft from a departure lounge, I was in no way a security threat, even if that had been my intention. I had passed security, who'd obviously deemed my camera harmless, and wasn't carrying anything else besides the necessary documents, i.e. passport, boarding card, etc. For that woman to call the police was an over-reaction and a waste of police time. That copper could have been doing something much more constructive than giving me a hard time. Next time, while he's confronting me with his trivial arguement, there may be a real nutter aiming a rocket from the perimeter fence! These folks sometimes need to get some sense and re-arrange their priorities.

Karl
 
MidEx216
Topic Author
Posts: 552
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Thu Feb 01, 2007 2:20 am

In the words of Lewis Black, since 9/11, we've become stupid, when it comes to security... "GAahhhhh! We gotta do EVERYthing! We'll have someone reading a book about security while people are going through. And another person will sing a song about it!"
 
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dlednicer
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Thu Feb 01, 2007 2:32 am

Quoting JakTrax (Reply 13):
This sways me towards the belief that they make it up as they go along and, half the time, they have absolutely no idea what they're talking about.

YES!

My theory is that guarding an airport is extremely boring work. Hassling photographers (and anyone else doing something out or the ordinary) gives the guards the feeling that they are doing something and have some importance.
 
ranger703
Posts: 141
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Thu Feb 01, 2007 4:01 am

I always find it ludicrous that photographers at most Military airfields in the UK,the likes of Lossiemouth,Coningsby,Cottesmore etc never get hassled,yet at some civil airports they seem to go overboard.
 
dcrusafon
Posts: 330
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Thu Feb 01, 2007 6:43 pm

Quoting JakTrax (Reply 1):
Aggro number two came the following day in Spain, while I was shooting at Malaga airport. I was in a public place, surrounded by other watchers, dog-walkers, etc

I'm very suprised about your experience in Malaga Airport. In Malaga Airport they know that there are lots a planespotters as we did an spotting meeting inside the airport: we very shooting next to the RNW having airplanes rotating at 2 meters from us.
Maybe you were in the "military zone" where sometimes they can ask you to move.
What kind of police came? Guardia Civil or Private Security? If it is the private security of the airport, you can go directly to the police office and put a "complain" (I don't know the word in english)  Smile

Best regards,

DARIO
 
JakTrax
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Thu Feb 01, 2007 9:39 pm

I was shooting from Churriana, which is just north of the zona militar. The Guardia Civil drove past several times and said nothing - the policia aviacion were the ones who stopped me. They called the policia local, who came to my side of the fence and busted me.

I love shooting at Malaga and would like to sort this out - Any of you Spanish spotters got any ideas? Should I contact the airport manager?

Gracias

Karl
 
JetJock22
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:40 pm

I have a SIDA badge and I am a GSC here in Columbus and I even get funny looks and the occassional what re you doing questions from cops.
 
portcolumbus
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:46 pm

I've never been hassled by police at CMH.
 
dcrusafon
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Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2004 1:54 am

RE: Problems With Authorities

Fri Feb 02, 2007 7:33 am

I don't know who is the aviation police honestly...are you sure they weren't private or the militarys?

In any case, when the local police came you should ask them to call Guardia Civil which has more authority.

If you want you can contact the airport manager, he must know that there are spotters around the airport. You can also send a letter you the museum: they help us for the ramp tour we did a couple of years ago.

DARIO
 
JakTrax
Posts: 5179
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Fri Feb 02, 2007 11:10 am

Thanks Dario. The vehicle that called the policia local was dark green and had 'policia aviacion' written on the back in white. The driver and passenger seemed to be wearing military-style uniforms. Do they have the final say in these matters or are the guardia civil better qualified?

Cheers,

Karl
 
JetJock22
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Sat Feb 03, 2007 6:21 am

Quoting Portcolumbus (Reply 20):
I've never been hassled by police at CMH.

I get it every now and then because I take my camera back to the gate with me alot and take pix from C50 sometimes.
 
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AviatorG
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RE: Problems With Authorities

Sat Feb 03, 2007 6:27 am

Its really frustrating in many parts of the Caribbean to get shots around any airport perimeter. My feelings exactly JakTrax. irked 

Quoting JakTrax (Reply 1):
I had posed 'a security risk'. Yeah, right. How many planes have been downed with cameras?
 
Avsfan
Posts: 246
Joined: Sun Aug 13, 2006 12:37 pm

RE: Problems With Authorities

Sun Feb 04, 2007 1:11 pm

I never get hassled at the airport I shoot at. Oh yeah....I shoot from my office...either from inside the control tower or outside on the catwalk.  biggrin 
"Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth...Put out my hand and touched the face of God"
 
MidEx216
Topic Author
Posts: 552
Joined: Tue Jun 14, 2005 12:19 am

RE: Problems With Authorities

Sun Feb 04, 2007 5:09 pm

Quoting Avsfan (Reply 25):

Jerk.
 
dcrusafon
Posts: 330
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2004 1:54 am

RE: Problems With Authorities

Mon Feb 05, 2007 8:12 am

Quoting JakTrax (Reply 22):
Do they have the final say in these matters or are the guardia civil better qualified?

Malaga Airport has a military zone so maybe you were in that location...In any case, if you have any problem in the future in any spanish airport, you may contact Guardia Civil...and not the local police...

La Policia de Aviación it looks like a military police...

Brgrds

DARIO
 
OlegShv
Posts: 604
Joined: Mon Mar 06, 2006 7:22 am

RE: Problems With Authorities

Mon Feb 05, 2007 10:21 am

Quoting Portcolumbus (Reply 20):
I've never been hassled by police at CMH.

I was taking pictures from inside the terminal at CMH last May. The cop with a dog approached me, I kinda glanced at the cop, and she said: "Don't worry, you are fine." So I went back to taking pictures through the glass.

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