• Railfans aren't the only photographers getting hassled ...

  • Discussion of photography and videography techniques, equipment and technology, and links to personal railroad-related photo galleries.
Discussion of photography and videography techniques, equipment and technology, and links to personal railroad-related photo galleries.

Moderators: nomis, keeper1616

  by pgengler
Salon runs a weekly column called "Ask The Pilot," and this week, it focuses on photography of planes and airports. (If you're not a subscriber there, you'll have to sit through a short ad to get a "Day Pass" to read the article).

It's interesting because it covers a lot of the same issues that many railfans run into while trying to take pictures of trains; in particular, police and security officials who insist that taking pictures is somehow "illegal" but can never cite a statute for it.

Some choice quotes from the article:
There's a shiny new airport in Manchester, and I'm there to take pictures as part of an article I'm working on for that mouthpiece of liberal fascism, the Boston Globe. I've shot about six digital pictures, and I'm working on the seventh -- a nicely framed view of the terminal façade -- when I hear the stern "Excuse me." A young guy in a navy windbreaker steps toward me. It says AIRPORT SECURITY in block letters across his back. "You can't do that. You need to put the camera away."

"I do? Why?"

"Pictures aren't allowed."

"They're not?"


"Sorry what? I don't think that's true, actually. I'm pretty sure that it isn't illegal to take pictures at an airport."

"You'll need to talk to a deputy, sir."

I slip the camera into a pocket as the guard, who despite his crested cap and cocksure understanding of the rules, is a private security guard and not a law enforcement official, quickly summons over two members of the Rockingham County sheriff's department, which administers the Manchester airport.
The following afternoon, at T.F. Green Airport in Providence, R.I., the very same thing happens. Again I'm taking pictures for the Globe story, and again I'm detained by an airport policeman. The conversation unfolds almost identically, with similar confusion over whether my activities are in violation of a law or statute. And this time, it winds up taking an absurdly long 45 minutes before I'm allowed to proceed.

"I understand what you're doing, and why you're doing it," I say. "But can you tell me: Am I breaking a law or statute?"

"Well, no, I don't believe so," he answers, sounding less than confident and maybe a touch annoyed that I'd phrased things so directly. He's professional and polite -- a young guy, maybe an ex-Marine, all arms-akimbo and barrel-chested in that way of cops. "But," he asserts, "there are certain things you can't take pictures of."
The million-dollar questions are: Is it a violation of law to take photographs at airports? And under whose jurisdiction does the matter fall?

"No, it's not against the law," says Anne Davis, a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokeswoman.
[Logan Airport media relations director Phil Orlandella] warns that yes, individuals snooping around with cameras might be approached and questioned, but photography itself is fully within a visitor's rights. "A passenger is free to take any picture he or she wants," he says, "in any public area of the airport, end of story. If you're not deemed a threat, you're free to click away."

  by Ken W2KB
I took photos of the planes, etc. at Newark Liberty (NJ) inside the terminal in full view of TSA, police, etc. a few months ago when waiting for a flight to Houston. Ho hum. They didn't give me a second glance.

  by Ken W2KB
Here's the TSA-approved "Airport Watch" program for general aviation airports (essentially everything that flys except airline and military). Note that it only flags "out of the ordinary videotaping" and other activities that are cause for concern. Basically, it strikes a balance between security and allowing folks who enjoy looking at planes to do so. A rule of reason allowing for ordinary photography, etc. Something along these lines adapted for railfans would make sense:

"Use your eyes and ears to keep our airports safe

Here's what to look for:

Pilots who appear under the control of someone else.
Anyone trying to access an aircraft through force — without keys, using a crowbar or screwdriver.
Anyone who seems unfamiliar with aviation procedures trying to check out an airplane.
Anyone who misuses aviation lingo — or seems too eager to use all the lingo
People or groups who seem determined to keep to themselves.
Any members of your airport neighborhood who work to avoid contact with you or other airport tenants.
Anyone who appears to be just loitering, with no specific reason for being there.
Any out-of-the-ordinary videotaping of aircraft or hangars.
Aircraft with unusual or obviously unauthorized modifications.
Dangerous cargo or loads — explosives, chemicals, openly displayed weapons — being loaded into an airplane.
Anything that strikes you as wrong — listen to your gut instinct, and then follow through.
Pay special attention to height, weight, and the individual's clothing or other identifiable traits.
Use your common sense.
Not all these items indicate
terrorist activity.

When in doubt, check it out!
Check with airport staff or call
the National Response Center
at 1-866-GA-SECURE!"

  by Gilbert B Norman
It appears that photography of any industrial facility is becoming a "suspicious activity'.

While Mr. Ken was able to photograph aricraft from inside EWR (being a pilot himself, he of course was carrying credentials establishing a degree of "vetting' by law enforcement agencies), a favorite Sunday pastime was 'setting up shop' along IL 19 on the perimiter of ORD intersecting runway heading of 22L (or approach to 4R as the case may be).

I would "uh, not exactly' consider such activity today.

Shipfanning was a pastime of mine and others (some here have surely noted my posting of maritime related material at other Forums). In the past, I have photographed vessels such as cruiseships both docking at and sailing from Miami and Port Everglades (FLL). Previously both had unrestricted public access to 'the action' - be assured not so anymore.

If someone were an electric utility fan, I would suggest thinking twice.

However, I guess one of my daring photo stunts in this life was taking one of an electric utility generating station near La Guaria Venezuala. This was during December 1981, when I guess the Venezulan government was considered to be "our friends'. Even "our friends' down that way sort of have a habit of shooting first and maybe asking questions later. I took the photo without incident, but only after setting my f stop and shutter speed sitting inside my rented auto and doing several looks over my shoulder.

My now-deceased girlfriend was of the "must we do this?" mindset.