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Can We Change NP Photography Rules?

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Thread started 06 Aug 2010 (Friday) 23:19   
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sidg
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I've followed some of the threads such as Chas Gorden's here about taking pictures in National Parks with "professional equipment" and I've always thought the response by the National Parks was a bit over the top for a public space. A little over a week ago it became personal for me as we were with a small group of photographers in a park with little traffic when a ranger came out to ask about some "professional photographers" who were taking pictures without a permit.
The back story was that an hour or so earlier I had stopped and picked up a hitch hiker who had been hiking back toward the park entrance with two others because they hadn't been able to find the trail head and were trying to get back to their car. We had been talking about what we were doing and why as we drove the 15 miles to their car. She then stopped on the way out at the ranger station and mentioned something about the good Samaritans that had helped her out. Apparently she mentioned in passing that we were photographers.
So the ranger shows up where we are pulled over at a look out site and sees me with my 1Dii and comes over to talk. He proceeds to ask a lot of questions and we proceeded in a very civil way before he finally thanks me for helping out. The more I thought about it the more it bothered me that someone was sent out to pursue the hint of possible "professional photographers" in the park. As I was talking later with some of my friends who were also with me one of them said that it was far from an issolated incident and that he had been in a number of situations where the same kind of thing had happened.
Sorry for the long story but it puts the following question into perspective for me. Is there anything that we can do together as photography enthusiasts to make the National Park photography rules more sane and friendly? Maybe there is something already in the works by another group and if so should we join with them to lobby for change. But I'm concerned that if we just complain about it and refuse to take some kind of action the rules will just become more restrictive and downright silly.
Do you have any thoughts, experiences, or contacts regarding this issue?

Post #1, Aug 06, 2010 23:19:14




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argyle
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sidg wrote in post #10676336external link
...So the ranger shows up where we are pulled over at a look out site and sees me with my 1Dii and comes over to talk. He proceeds to ask a lot of questions and we proceeded in a very civil way before he finally thanks me for helping out...

So what's the real problem? Probably took no more than a few minutes. Are people that thin-skinned nowadays where even a simple, polite conversation is seen as oppression? TBH, I just don't see what the big deal is in this situation (other than your wanting to make a big deal out of it).

Post #2, Aug 07, 2010 06:27:39


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Win
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I don't see any problems with park personnel and photographers. I would think the rangers have a lot better things to do than worry over you taking pictures.

Now, if you're there with an entourage and setting up a model or product shoot you will probably get questioned.

Win

Post #3, Aug 07, 2010 08:27:53 as a reply to argyle's post 2 hours earlier.


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sidg
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Thanks for the replies Win and Argyle. I'm not wanting to make a big deal of this in a way that draws attention to myself or my encounter. If I am the only one who has ever experienced this I will simply move on and forget about it. In fact as I reread my original post I think I overstated my question. The actual rules for photography in the parks are very good for almost all of us.

The National Park Service Digest says:external link
"When is a permit needed?
All commercial filming activities taking place within a unit of the National Park system require a permit. Commercial filming includes capturing a moving image on film and video as well as sound recordings.
Still photographers require a permit when
1. the activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or
2. the activity uses model(s), sets(s), or prop(s) that are not a part of the location’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities; or
3. Park would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity."

What I might have asked in a better way is "Can we as photographers influence the way the rules are interpreted and enforced within the National Parks?" I don't know a lot of landscape photographers personally yet. But of those that I do know it seems like a high percentage of them have had a negative encounter at one time or another around photographing within a NP. Maybe it is simple coincidence and I'll leave it at that. I'll just make a copy of the rules for NP and stick it in my backpack alongside the photographers rights and hope to never have to use them.

Post #4, Aug 07, 2010 10:03:32 as a reply to Win's post 1 hour earlier.




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Lowner
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Here in the UK National Trust have in the recent past taken a very hard line. Demanding that no photographs can ever be used professionally if taken while on NT property. They have just softened that stance to allow competition entries where the organisers demand the right to use a winning image to publicise future competitions. They did this because they were beginning to get negative publicity from the general public.

I see this as a reasonable compromise. True amateurs are not refused and I see no reason why NT should not benefit financially from the publication of an image. Professional courtesy should include talking to the landowners before shooting for financial gain.

Post #5, Aug 07, 2010 10:25:37


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sandpiper
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I don't see the problem with having those rules about commercial photography. They seem to make sense to me, the main aim (apart from revenue raising of course) being to control what might go on, getting in the way of the general public. By which I mean large props, sets and film crews taking up the best spots. If you are a commercial photographer, then it seems only fair that you should help contribute to the upkeep of the park, if you intend to profit from it.

It is also reasonable that, as the rules are in place, rangers should be able to just enquire that photographers are only shooting for there own use and not for profit. It sounds like that is all that happened here.

I had a similar experience a few weeks back. I was taking shots inside one of the cathedrals in Liverpool, the rules are the same as your parks in that a permit is required for commercial photography. I was with a friend and we had tripods, big lenses etc., so obviously stood out amongst the normal tourists with p&s camera.

Part way through our shoot, an official approached and enquired as to the use we intended to put the results to. We told him that we were just amateurs shooting for ourselves and had no intention of selling the shots. They were fine with that and wished us well, and even helped out by allowing us access to an upper level balcony that was closed off.

Had we been shooting with the intent of selling the results, we would have been happy to pay the fee for a permit so, again, the rules would not have bothered us.

It seems the OP wasn't hindered by any rules, forced to buy a permit or stopped from taking the shots he wanted. All that appears to have occurred is the ranger was told that a group of professional looking photographers was shooting in the park, he went to check it out and, after a quick chat to ascertain that it was not commercial in nature, left again. Apart from losing a couple of minutes of the day, where is the problem? The OP goes on to say that he was ' bothered that someone was sent out to pursue the hint of possible "professional photographers" in the park '. Well, as the ranger would likely know if there were any permits issued or not, it seems perfectly reasonable that he went out to check on the situation.

So, to the OP: Which rule are you concerned about and how / why would you change it?

Post #6, Aug 07, 2010 10:32:34 as a reply to sidg's post 29 minutes earlier.




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JennGrover
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I just returned from a trip where I shot at 8 National Parks out west. Although I am not a pro, I have a lot of gear that tends to draw attention. Not one park official inquired as to the nature of my photography. Plenty of park guests asked if I was a pro (it became a joke between me and my friend) but the rangers left us alone.

Post #7, Aug 07, 2010 21:18:34


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argyle
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sidg wrote in post #10677788external link
...I don't know a lot of landscape photographers personally yet. But of those that I do know it seems like a high percentage of them have had a negative encounter at one time or another around photographing within a NP. Maybe it is simple coincidence and I'll leave it at that. I'll just make a copy of the rules for NP and stick it in my backpack alongside the photographers rights and hope to never have to use them.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during their so-called "negative encounters". Maybe they were doing something stupid or unsafe and the Ranger stepped in provide a warning? Or on a full-blown commercial shoot (as in the thread you mentioned) without the proper permits? All Rangers that I have ever interacted with have always been polite and professional when doing their job, and often willing to fill me in on some heretofore "unknown" spots that are off the beaten path. Problem nowadays is that too many people get their panties in wad much too easily and just gotta have something to *itch about, no matter how minor.

Post #8, Aug 08, 2010 06:45:08


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sidg
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Thanks everyone for recounting your positive experiences with NP rangers. I have had many of them as well and do not doubt the rangers commitment to the public lands. As I tried to say (but maybe not very clearly) if this really isn't an issue I'll drop it and move on. I'm not going to avoid the NP because something might happen. It very well could be that the people I have talked to encountered someone on one of their less than great days and took it personally and then made broad generalizations. I've learned several things about rules for photographing in NP because I've asked the question. If there isn't an attempt to begin squeezing out those of us who might happen to take a picture that someone else wants to purchase and hang on their walls or use in other ways then I'm all good with it. Some of these things you just don't know until you ask the question and I would rather be set straight then assume I'm correct and be all wrong.

Post #9, Aug 08, 2010 15:44:22 as a reply to argyle's post 8 hours earlier.




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Naturalist
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Found this at the NPS website: When is a NPS Photo Permit Neededexternal link

Post #10, Aug 08, 2010 16:03:38


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Naturalist wrote in post #10683509external link
Found this at the NPS website: When is a NPS Photo Permit Neededexternal link

About as reasonable as it could possibly be IMO...

Post #11, Aug 08, 2010 16:10:43


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neil_r
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We have no problems in our National Parks, not exactly helpful to you guys, but you could always come over and visit and take loads of pictures.

Post #12, Aug 08, 2010 16:13:16


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JennGrover
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neil_r wrote in post #10683558external link
We have no problems in our National Parks, not exactly helpful to you guys, but you could always come over and visit and take loads of pictures.

That's because all of the Europeans are over here shooting in our parks. :-p

Post #13, Aug 08, 2010 16:19:38


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neil_r
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JennGrover wrote in post #10683587external link
That's because all of the Europeans are over here shooting in our parks. :-p

LoL you make a good point. Interestingly I have been taking pictures with professional gear in your national parks for over 20 years with no problems at all. Perhaps being armed with a British accent worked in my favour (before BP screwed it up for us of course)

Post #14, Aug 08, 2010 16:23:26


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argyle
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FlyingPhotog wrote in post #10683549external link
About as reasonable as it could possibly be IMO...

I agree...perfectly reasonable and understandable, and no ambiguity.

Post #15, Aug 08, 2010 17:37:10


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