Thursday, September 30, 2010
I'm grateful to all the dog-owners in Plattsburgh who I see carrying around plastic bags or pooper-scoopers, making sure to pick up after their pets. I appreciate civilized people.
Of course, there's always a few that can't be bothered to act civilized. For years the city has done nothing about the dogshit problem. Photographic evidence can be found over at my bad blog, Dogtown 12901. I just added a post there entitled "Morons Can't Read." If images like flies feeding on Fido fudge bother you, don't click on either link.
And if such images bother you, don't blame me, blame the city for not enforcing the law.
Check out this TSA poster:
See that guy wearing a hoodie, camera and telephoto lens in hand? Yes, the Transportation Security Administration wants you report anyone taking photographs of airplanes. Aviation photography = terrorism. It's a scientific fact.
But does this warning go far enough? Maybe the warning about photography, aircraft and terrorism should be extended.
What about a show being put on by hobbyists flying radio-controlled model airplanes? Maybe terrorists want to attack there, knocking a few models out of the sky with stinger missiles. And don't forget about kids and paper airplanes. Imagine the horror when a terrorist grabs Johnny's little folded dart and rips it up. All of this means extensive pre-planning involving photos.
The National Press Photographer's Association raised a stink with Secretary Janet Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security, about the poster, asking for it to be removed because it unfairly depicts all photogs as suspected terrorists. In a NPPA press release it's pointed out that photography is protected by the First Amendment and that law enforcement officers have interfered with "lawful activities by photographers under the guise of preventing terrorist activities."
Of course, in a democracy, all individuals are treated equally, whether one be a citizen or a police officer. Some police vehicles are now equipped with dashboard cameras to record events after someone is stopped for questioning. If the police can record you, then you can record them, right?
That depends. In some cases around the country police officers have been caught engaging in dubious activities. A citizen records the event with a video camera and ends up being arrested for violating the wiretapping law. Apparently the problem is with the audio, not video, portion of the recording, thus the charge of illegal wiretapping.
Recently one such case was tossed out by a Maryland judge, as reported by techdirt.com.
Obviously that judge is a terrorist!
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
As I’ve mentioned before at this blog I’ve been questioned a number of times for taking photographs in public. And on occasion the questioners were police officers.
I wasn’t doing anything suspicious, just out in plain sight, photographing objects like an American flag. I wasn’t peering into window late at night with my camera.
But even in broad daylight I get questions. Sometimes people see a photographer and they suspect his intentions. I don’t mind answering questions but some people believe they can maintain privacy in public, even thought a photographer is shooting a reflection or object, not them.
The law doesn’t work that way. Generally speaking, if it’s in public view, one may take a photograph. And as long as someone isn’t interfering with their work, a photographer can also record police activity
It doesn’t bother me that it’s been announced in the local media recently that the City of Plattsburgh Police Department will be adding more surveillance cameras downtown. I know when I walk into a bank or supermarket that I’m being recorded by cameras. That’s the way it is.
I have no problem with the police recording me as long as they have no problem with me recording them. When it comes to citizens and law-enforcement, publicness has to be a two-way street.
Unless you want to live in a dictatorship.
The Taliban prohibited photography when they controlled Afghanistan. Don’t let this country get Talibanized.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
How can a man grunt monosyllabically when he has no air to breath?
Such a puzzling question was posed Saturday evening at the Plattsburgh Public Library. Those in attendance were treated to a rare erudite event of phenomenological proportions when Professor David Fuller, FoBS, lectured and held forth with his field of expertise. (Indeed, Fuller is a man out standing in his field. Alone.)
Fuller was the honored guest of the movie-critiquing club, ISMST3K, before its presentation of the film d'art, Hercules In New York, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The distinguished scholar provided a dynamic dimension to the film with his short talk on Schwarzenegology.
What is Arnold Schwarzenegger? A man, a myth, or quantum conundrum? How can one safely grok the mind-boggling concept of that steroid android known by the appellative "Schwarzenegger?"
Schwarzenegger transcends reality from his reality-bending use of English, Fuller pointed out, to his primitive one-syllable communications that defy physics. Using PowerPoint to power his points, Fuller showed a scene from the movie, Total Recall, with Schwarzenegger grunting in a vacuum.
No one knows how a cat produces a meow, added Fuller. Such a phonological mystery also surrounds Schwarzenegger. What biological origin could be behind such a power to utter caveman sounds sans vocal chords or air?
Such details were held in everyone's mind during the viewing of the movie like a Hulk posterior vapor emission . But some people in attendance were shouting rude comments pertaining to the action projected on the silver screen. What was that about? A cinematic classic such as Hercules In New York can only be abysmally appreciated by a state of awed silence.
For more information about the movie-critiquing and scholarly research organization ISMST3K, one may avail oneself to contact Caleb Mosher at firstname.lastname@example.org or by checking out the society's Facebook page here. Its meetings are usually held the last Friday of each month at the Plattsburgh Public Library circa 7 PM.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
People gathered yesterday evening below Macdonough Monument in downtown Plattsburgh to pray for peace and to express their belief in a global family.
Sponsored by the Red Hummingbird Foundation the theme was expressed by participants lighting candles of different colors, symbolizing the diverse peoples of the world. The event was synchronized with other such gatherings from 4 PM in California to 9 AM in Sydney, Australia. More details can be found at the website, http://www.earthdance.org/.
Music, dance, fire poi dancers and even a firebreather performed while local artist Gharan Burton worked nearby at his easel, painting an image to commemorate the occasion.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Decades ago the city decided to install a few benches along sidewalks in residential areas. This would help older and disabled pedestrians to sit and rest a bit. The benches faced the street.
And how did some Plattsburghers react?
This comment appeared in the newspaper:
“I don’t want strangers sitting in front of MY home.”
Such provincialism is still alive and well in the Burgh.
Today I was walking by MLD building on Miller Street. Across the roofline of the building’s overhang are large free-standing letters spelling out MUNICIPAL LIGHTING DEPARTMENT. The sign has been there for ages; I find it can be photographically interesting depending upon the lighting that nature provides. I noticed two parked vehicles reflecting the silvery lettering with the sky in the background.
Camera in hand, I zoomed in on the first vehicle’s windows, a car, capturing the image. As I walked to the second vehicle, a van, the car owner who was returning to his vehicle asked me what I was doing, expressing concern. I pointed at the MLD sign, saying I was photographing the reflection in his car window. He didn’t understand so I politely repeated my statement, pointing at the reflection in his car’s windows.
“Is it OK for me to park there?” he asked me.
I told him I wasn’t a police officer, I was just a photographer, photography was a hobby. (I could’ve said I was a writographer but he was already a bit paranoid.)
Then I lined up the reflection in the second vehicle, the van, when its owner appeared. She asked me not to take photographs of her van.
Again, a bit paranoid.
Many people – or I should say many Plattsburghers – don’t understand the law when it comes to photography. For the most part, if it’s in public view, I can shoot it.
If someone is worried about someone taking a photo, then just ask if he’s a student or pro photog. Acting paranoid makes one look suspicious. If I was a cop dressed mufti, I would wonder what the person was trying to hide.
Maybe I look suspicious taking photographs of reflections. But I’m open about what I’m doing. Nothing to hide. (I’ve got the images to prove it.) Now if a photographer is sneaking around, hiding behind some shrubbery, furtively shooting, then I would wonder what he was doing. But standing in the middle of a sidewalk in plain view – sorry, I don’t get it.
I can understand issues of privacy. But photographing the exterior of a vehicle parked in a public area shouldn’t fall under that category. Also, why worry about me with all of the omnipresent security cameras from the street to the bank to the supermarket? You’re being surveilled, like it or not.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been challenged about my photography.
One time I noticed the way the sunlight was side-lighting a gnarled tree across the street so I snapped a few and walked away. Later a pickup truck parked near me and its driver asked me why I was photographing his house. Using my camera’s LCD screen I showed him I was only taking images of the tree near his house, not his home.
Here is a shot of that person’s home (the yellow house):
No, I didn’t take this shot. It’s courtesy of Google Street View. I wonder if the home owner will go after Google for passing by in a van and photographing his house, complete with its address, for all the world to see on its website.
So far images of MLD and other Miller Street buildings aren’t available through Google Street View, just a satellite shot. But give it time.
If you’re worried about privacy, live deep underground in the middle of nowhere. And drive an invisible car.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Was teleportation involved?
* * *
CUMBERLAND HEAD -- One man is in stable condition... after a one-car accident Saturday evening...
Shawn J. Burnell, 21, of Plattsburgh was emitted to CVPH Medical Center, where officials said he was in stable condition...
--Press-Republican, POLICE LOG, page A9, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010.
* * *
NOTE: Years ago the PR canned its proofreader. Since then the quality of its product has improved.
I paused at the state fair, people flowing around me, as I adjusted the strap on my Domke camera bag. I assumed the strap was sticking with my shirt due to the profuse sweat being produced by the blazing sun and high humidity.
Later someone would notice the black marks running diagonally on the back of my shirt like tire tracks from a toy car.
Two ways to carry a camera bag: hanging from your shoulder or over-your-head -across-your-chest bandolier style. For safety reasons I prefer the bandolier carry; it's hard for the bag to fall and also for someone to grab it and run off with my equipment.
Domke designed its strap for those who like to let their bag hang off their shoulder, inserting two parallel strips of rubber along its length. Good design until years pass and the rubber breaks down, especially in hot weather.
Checking the strap, I noticed pieces of the strips falling off. I ended up spending some time removing the remaining rubber -- it just rubbed off -- and then gluing a fabric strip over what remained to prevent another shirt from being ruined.
Unlike the bag, the shirt was beyond fixing, despite soaking it with laundry detergent. It was one of my favorites, a button-down summer short sleeve, cool and comfortable, that will be buried in the landfill.
No more rubber strips with my camera straps. I don't need the extra grip -- or the toy car tire marks.
For the first time a bed race was held as part of the Battle of Plattsburgh events. City Hall Place had already been blocked off from traffic, making it easier to set up the contest on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 11th.
Among the entrants was a Flintstones-themed race bed, including Dino the pet dinosaur. The cavemen competitors called themselves the Rock Eaters, a reference to a Saturday Night Live skit that mocked Plattsburghers by calling them by that name.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Spectators were scarce this evening for the Battle of Plattsburgh fireworks. There was a crowd downtown near City Hall, enjoying the the bands. But along Bridge Street and in the No-Hotel parking lot I saw just a few scattered souls.
Maybe everyone thought the fireworks would be tomorrow, Saturday evening. Or maybe there just wasn't enough promo by the city to make the public aware of the pyrotechnics. Also, it was somewhat cool tonight, especially by the lake.
The previous fireworks displays this year -- July 4th and Mayor's Cup -- had sitting people and parked cars lined up all over. There is a "secret" spot way off Bridge Street that gives me a great view over the water so that I can catch the bursts reflecting off the water. Last time I carefully worked my way to that spot only to find others already there, relaxing in fold-up lawn chairs.
Tonight no one was around. Plenty of room to set up my tripod. And when the show was over, no throngs of people on the sidewalk or cars backed up on the streets. I could amble along with my equipment, not worrying about bumping into someone or trying to make my way across a crosswalk.
But, of course, this is Plattsburgh. There has to be at least one annoyance. As I was walking home some jerk in a car had to yell at me, spotting me lugging my camera and tripod bags.
"Hey, you with the bag. Get a life!"
It's far from the first time that some asshole had to yell a moronic comment my way while I was minding my own business.
It's amazing that I visited the state fair in Syracuse, mobs of people, thousands milling around, and not once did I have a problem. I really enjoy coming back to experience typical Dogtown rudeness and dumbness. Small town, small minds.
It's one of my favorite spots to visit at the NY State Fair. The Raptor Project features birds of prey -- hawks, owls, falcons, eagles -- on display inside a large tent. The light tan color of the tent helps to filter the bright sunlight, making it easier to take photos, no bright spots or deep shadows.
The birds have been rehabilitated after suffering serious injuries like a broken wing. They are handicapped, unable to return to the wild, trained to be comfortable around the public. For more info, here's a link to a video and The Raptor Project's website.