February 7th, 2010

Why the video mode in the new digital SLRs is so important 0

By Carlos Miller

Camel did not want to be photographed or videotaped enticing young adults into a lifelong habit of cigarette smoking.

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.

That night I had my 5D, the original version that has no video, along with my Canon TX 1, which is what I used to shoot the video from that night.

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.

February 7th, 2010

One of the most powerful photos I've seen in a long time 0

By Carlos Miller

As far as we know, the photo first appeared on The Agitator, Radley Balko’s excellent blog.

From there, Coyote Blog turned it into the above poster and dedicated it to Photography is Not a Crime. And from there, it’s getting picked up by other blogs.

Although we don’t yet know the full story behind this photo, the image speaks for itself.

It shows that the crackdown against photographers is an international issue and that the right to take photos is one of the keystones to a successful democracy.

February 7th, 2010

The Saints come marching into Miami 0

By Carlos Miller

In hosting its 10th Super Bowl, the most ever by a city, Miami has fully hopped on the New Orleans Saints bandwagon, erecting at least one billboard and dedicating several bus stops in honor of the Who Dat Nation.

It is only fitting considering the Magic City and Crescent City are practically sister cities.

Both are hurricane-prone coastal cities built by immigrants that maintain a strong cultural flavor. And both party harder than any other city in the country, with the exception of Las Vegas, but that city has no soul.

As Doug E, a New Orleans native who lived in Miami for several years, explained on Miami Beach 411:

The mood of a city, like the mood of a song or an age in history, has a way of altering these habits and perceptions, if even for a moment, affecting those who fall under its spell, producing a culture in which the residents become mere players expressing an unseen regional rhythm.

Perhaps two of the most captivating cities in the US today are New Orleans and Miami; they’re very much alike, but the particular mojos they’ll cast on you are very different.

It is not surprising that Saint fans outnumber Colts fans about 50 to 1 in Miami. And it’s not surprising the Colts and their fans decided to stay in Fort Lauderdale. That city suits them better with its more mellow atmosphere.

Last night, Ocean Drive on South Beach reminded me of Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, with the exception nobody flashed their tits for beads.

Maybe that will happen tonight after the Saints beat the Colts 38-31.

What’s your prediction?.

Be sure to check out my photo gallery and video from last night.

And if you like New Orleans style music like the street band in the video, check out the Miami Street Band.

February 6th, 2010

US Marines seize camera from Haitian journalist 0

By Carlos Miller

In what is looking to be more like a military occupation than a humanitarian relief effort, a group of United States Marines confiscated the camera of a journalist who was photographing a demonstration outside the American embassy in Port-au-Prince this week.

The journalist, Homère Cardichon, was on assignment for the daily Le Nouvelliste. He was photographing a demonstration by disgruntled Haitians in the wake of the January 12 earthquake. This is how he explained it to Reporters Without Borders.

“Six marines come up and surrounded me,” Cardichon told us. “Then they took my camera in my opened work bag and left with it. An hour later, one of them came back and photographed me. Then he returned my camera to me. I saw that the soldiers had erased some of the photos.”

The incident has enraged Reporters Without Borders, the international organization that documents, defends and financially assists reporters around the world whose journalistic rights have been trampled upon ( They even called me after my arrest in 2007 and were satisfied to learn that the Society of Professional Journalists had taken up my cause).

This is what Reporters Without Borders said about the incident in Haiti.

There is growing discontent in Port-au-Prince with the countries involved in the humanitarian relief effort, including the United States. In this case, the US soldiers reacted in the worst possible manner in an attempt to protect their image. Aside from being a flagrant act of censorship, it has done further harm to their reputation in the eyes of the Haitian population. The government has a right to expect an explanation from the US military and to hope that such an incident will not recur.

The incident needs to be investigated by the Marines because it contradicts its own honor code. At least the one outlined in the Marines’ Hymn.

From the Halls of Montezuma,
To the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country’s battles
In the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marine.

February 5th, 2010

Virginia man fights speedtrap with camera and website; irks local news station 0

By Carlos Miller

Anybody who has driven through Smalltown, USA knows the probability of getting pulled over for speeding is high.

After all, these little towns scattered across the country depend on speeding tickets for revenue. And they prey on out-of-towners who rarely bother to challenge the ticket.

And then there’s Scott Colley, a former Air Force flight officer who began challenging his ticket from the moment he was pulled over in La Crosse, Virginia last month.

With a video camera, nonetheless.

And the surprising part is that even though the cop initially ordered him to stop filming, the cop ended up ignoring the camera altogether after Colley stood up for his right to film him.

In fact, Colley filmed him for almost 20 minutes as he debated the accuracy of the cop’s pacing method that was used to pull him over. The videos are below.

Although it appears he was lying about Colley’s speed, the cop comes across as a decent guy.

But that hasn’t stopped Colley from making an issue over the ticket,  launching a website highlighting the speed trap in La Crosse, a lonely town of less than 600 people in south-central Virginia.

Colley’s beef is that the officer used the pacing method to pull him over instead of a radar gun, which means the cop supposedly followed Colley’s car using his calibrated speedometer to determine his speed.

The cop told Colley he was driving 64 mph, 14 miles over the posted speed limit. Colley insists he had his car set on cruise control at 50 mph.

Colley swears the officer never paced him, but kept gaining on him from the moment he passed him in a Walmart parking lot.

The exchange between Colley and the officer is interesting because the officer even agrees to clock him using the radar gun to determine whether Colley’s cruise control is working. The radar gun clocked Colley traveling at 52 mph. Colley had his cruise control set at 51 mph.

The question is, why didn’t the cop use his radar gun the first time around?

I think we all know the answer to that question.

After Colley launched his website, he began contacting the local media about his findings, including sending an email to WAVY 10, an NBC affiliate in Virginia.

He received an email confirming they had received his message. And shortly after, someone named “Jeff” left a comment on his site, stating the following:

The only thing annoying on that video is you.

The officer should have kicked your dumb ass.


The IP address on the comment matched the IP address on the return email from the TV station. Click on the image below to see the details.

Colley called the station for an explanation and received an apology from the station manager seven days later, informing him that the matter had been “handled internally.”

It probably also means they are not going to report on the speed trap story.

Meanwhile, a local newspaper called the South Hill Enterprise that has an extremely difficult to navigate website wrote a story about the speed trap, discovering the town of La Crosse brought in more than $79,000 in traffic fines during the last six months of 2009, a significant number for a town with a dwindling population of 589.

Colley cut and pasted the story on his site, which is good because it’s impossible to find it on their site.

The December La Crosse Profit & Loss Budget vs. Actual report presented by La Crosse Clerk/Treasurer Tina Evans shows that from July 1, 2009 through Dec. 31, 2009, the current fiscal year, that the town collected $79,703 in fines.

During that same time period the town also collected $1,935.02 in Selective Enforcement Income. The town has in its budget to collect $94,300 through fines, this fiscal year.

The report shows the town is currently $180,045.25 over budget for this fiscal year, when anticipated revenue and expenses are subtracted from the actual thus far. There are additional revenues expected over the next six months.

Check out the videos Colley shot during the traffic stop.

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