Musings of an Aviation Photographer

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Warning for those of you used to my normal posts, this one is a true musing and rant.  I’m not one to get into political debates or really dive into the any sorts of politics domestic or abroad. I have my opinions on things, and I’m always going to be in support of our troops till the end of time.  I’m as patriotic for the country I live in, the good ole’ United Sates, as anyone else if not more.  I have a greater appreciation for this countries history than many people, sadly, do in this day and age; but I’ve started to notice a trend for us photographers in the world of today… we’re being seen as the new terrorists of America.  If you do some google searches for photographers being hassled in today’s world, you find a new article being posted every week it seems.  This whole paranoia that the country has slipped into and this finger pointing at anything that doesn’t seem normal has gone beyond control.  I’m all about keeping us safe, and I’m in support what the government needs to do to keep us that way… but there has to be limits, and common sense needs to play into this.

Case and point is a post I saw on Carlos Miller’s site (a wonderful blog about the rights and freedoms of photographers) the other day of a new TSA , or the Transportation Security Administration, poster that has been popping up among many other types for their new “If you see something, say something” campaign that started. TSA Poster - Bad NewsAs you can see from the shot taken of the poster to the left, it shows a photographer taking pictures outside of an airport with the text right underneath “Don’t let our planes get into the wrong hands.”  Now, anyone who sees this poster will automatically think with a slogan like that ‘Oh my gosh, I see people photographing airplanes outside of airports all the time! I’ll report them to the police and FBI when I see them next!’  Think that’s an exaggeration?  Not in the least.  Taking photos at airports is popular hobby for many aviation photography.  Not only is it fun, but it’s great practice for airshows or testing out new equipment.  I myself have gone out to John Wayne Airport on several occasions to photograph incoming aircraft to test out new methods of shooting.  There’s not an airshow every weekend for me to be able to test them out there, and so airports provide a similar airshow setting for me to accurately test. A lot of fellow aviation photographers go up to LAX annually to take photos outside the airport as just a fun way to meet up, hang out, and talk aviation photography.  There’s no crime in that, and especially since it’s almost always from public locations, there’s no law against taking photos of aircraft.

A Southwest 737 taxis in at Las Vegas Airport

This poster now presents a huge risk for photographers who enjoy the occasional airliner photo shoots, especially the risk of being profiled as a terrorist just because they have a camera and are taking photos of the airplanes.  The general public will see this and automatically profile us all as terrorists, just because we’re taking photos of aircraft.  That means we’ll be hassled more often by security and police (or worse) if we just want to go out and take some photos.  It’s already getting tougher to shoot around airports because everyone has gotten so paranoid with security.  Back before the events of 9/11, I’d always hear about airports that would have everything from lens holes in the fences for photographers to stick their lenses through to get photos without the fence to even observation decks that photographers were welcomed to come up and spend the day taking photos.  Sadly, those days are long gone and now the widespread fear has gripped every institution and turns things from being safe to being paranoid in my opinion.  I understand measures must be taken to prevent horrible events like 9/11 from occurring again, but as many people have been saying at what cost to our freedoms will this be? And in my opinion personally, at what point do we take away so many fundamental rights and freedoms that the terrorists have truly won in this battle for changing our way of life? Besides… terrorists don’t need to take photos of things anymore, they have Google maps, flikr, and a million other websites that I’m sure they can get FAR better photos of what they need over what I could take standing outside a fence of an airport.

A Southwest 737 taxis past at Las Vegas Airport

TSA recently, from all the backlash caused by this whole poster, posted a blog post on their blog (yes, TSA has a blog) in which they address what the photographers are saying and the problem of the general public not being able to distinguish a legit threat from just a casual aviation photographer… and then completely dodge an apology or even support for the photographers merely changing the subject saying that photographers can be a great asset in reporting suspicious activity.  Nice way to dodge the bullet there and avoid what the photographers are actually saying.  Thankfully, many photographers have chimed in the comments of the blog post, and many of them have some very accurate concerns and ideas of how this should be treated differently by the TSA.

A United A320 is pushed out for depature at John Wayne Airport

But alas, I’m not going to get into a political debate here. This is a Musing of an Aviation Photographer at it’s finest, a rant about my freedoms to take photos of aircraft if I want and not be hassled for doing something I love doing for the sake of paranoid gone too far fear. So if you hear someone talking about this poster, or see a photographer taking photos outside of an airport… don’t automatically assume that person is a terrorist. Most likely it’s someone like me just there to take photos of the flying machines they love dearly.

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