The one sure way to get me to photograph something is to tell me I can’t photograph something.
On Saturday night, as I walked down Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, one of the most visited pedestrian walkways in the United States, I came across an area run by Camel where they were apparently giving away cigarettes.
It was one of several promotional booths lined up along the sidewalk that were catering to the Super Bowl crowd. The only reason it drew my attention was because they had hung up a sign that read “no photo or video.”
I asked if this meant inside the booth, where they were drawing pedestrians behind closed doors to charm them with their spiel, or did this “rule” apply outside the booth as well.
“Both inside and outside,” one of the vendors replied.
I immediately pulled my camera up to my face and snapped a couple of photos to rub their arrogance in their own faces.
And to my surprise, they both walked towards me as if they were going to physically stop me from taking these photos.
Then they stopped in front of me, perhaps realizing that a physical confrontation wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do.
I asked them where they got off on ordering people not to take photos from a public sidewalk.
They replied that they are “just asking people not to take photos.”
I told them that didn’t appear to be a mere suggestion but a direct order. And I asked them what they had to hide besides the obvious; which was the fact that they were trying to entice young adults into a lifelong habit of smoking cigarettes.
One of the guys muttered something about how they had to protect their “branding.”
Situations like this make me realize that I desperately need to get the Canon 5D Mark II which would allow me to switch immediately from still photos to video in less than a second to fully capture the intimidation tactics.
But the TX1 was tucked away in a belt pouch, which meant that I would have had to unzip the pouch, pull out the camera, open its view screen, turn the camera on, point it at my subject and begin filming.
And the fact that I first thought I was going to have to defend myself from these two Camel buffoons made it that much more inaccessible.
The best example of why the video mode is crucial when street shooting with a digital SLR comes to us from Rob Hurlbut, the San Diego man who had that run-in with those overbearing San Diego trolley guards.
This is how he explains it on his site.
Here is what I have learned from this experience. If an authority figure challenges you while taking photos or shooting video, be polite. Ask them if you are violating any law, and KEEP ROLLING during the transaction.
As a photographer, I hate to say it, but this would not have made the evening news if I wasn’t shooting video, so make sure to switch to video mode as soon as yo see an authority figure approaching you.
Now we know why video mode is important to us photographers… Not to add a bullet to your wedding photography resume, but rather to protect yourself and to show in HD quality just how your rights are being violated.