Post By Dave Cross There has been a number of well-publicized stories about photographers having run-ins with the police. In a number of different cases, photographers has been detained, questioned and in some cases, threatened with arrest. Here’s a couple of examples of recent cases, as reported on the Digital Wedding Forum. After watching those videos, I must say that although the police did seem to push things a little far and were pretty harsh, in two of the videos I watched, the photographers were being pretty hard to get along with and in one case, they almost seemed to be looking for a fight (Um, I think I’m going to take a photo of some cops while I happen to have my friend with me video taping). I’ve had a couple of discussions with people about this whole situation and agree with the concern many raise that law enforcement people often seem to take things a little too far, a little too quickly. So imagine my surprise when I had my own photographer/law enforcement encounter in San Jose. Here’s what unfolded… I was walking along a downtown street with my camera over my shoulder, at this point really just walking, not really thinking about shooting. I crossed the street at a point where the lightrail system runs, realizing as soon as I got to the other side that I probably shouldn’t have walked where I did. About 30 seconds later, in my peripheral vision, I saw a sheriff’s car stop, the deputy getting out and I hear “Excuse me Sir. “Oh boy”, I thought, “I’m going to get a jay-walking ticket.” Instead, the officer asked, “What are you taking pictures of?” As my mind raced, thinking about harassment stories I've heard, I find myself becoming defensive, saying, "Nothing really. Just looking for interesting things to photograph. Haven’t taken many photos actually.” He gets closer and after a brief pause, he says, “Well, you might want to check out City Hall – it has won awards for architecture and it’s a really interesting spot to photograph.” Now, I’m pretty much speechless until he asks, “What are you shooting?” (pointing at my camera), to which I mumble “D300.” Officer: ”What lens?” Me: “18 – 200.” Well, very quickly it was clear that he was a photographer whose “real” job was a Deputy Sheriff. We chatted for about 10 minutes about studios, lighting etc., at which point he mentioned that he was still trying to learn more. So I told him about D-Town TV and our other podcasts, and he pulls out his pad to write down the name (I realized later that observers probably thought I was about to get a ticket). Here’s where it gets even more interesting, from a small world perspective: I tell him all our podcasts are on KelbyTV.com to which he responds “Oh, I just bought a couple of Scott Kelby’s books and joined NAPP.” We exchange business cards; he invites me to shoot at his studio next time I’m in town and I walk away thinking, “How cool was that!” So thanks, Deputy Sheriff Robert Eng for making my law enforcement encounter have a much different ending then I imagined when I heard “Excuse me Sir.”
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