Ran into an interesting situation recently. There’s a place nearby where I go sometimes to take in a view. It’s really the only place in town that has elevation, and so it’s been a place where I’ve taken several photos, like this one.
On this particular day I arrived to find the VW bus pictured above pulling around in the dirt under the precise direction of who I instinctively assumed was a photographer. Takes one to know one, right? Sure enough, after finding the right spot, the guy giving directions went back to his car and started getting his camera together. Meanwhile, the driver/owner of the bus got out and waited patiently.
Since I knew what was about to happen, I walked over and started chatting with the owner. I was wearing a Rogue brewing t-shirt and he picked up on it right away asking me if I was from Oregon. Told him I was visiting and it turned out he’s a snowbird from a small town near Mt. Hood. As you expect of any VW bus owner, he was a pretty laid back guy. I asked him what the photo shoot was for, and if he minded if I took a few of my own photos. He didn’t.
So I went back to my car and got my camera. Meanwhile, the other photographer had brought out his, and a step ladder for a vantage point. And as soon as he saw me start taking pictures, he went off. Lots of “stay outta my way”, “these are copyrighted images”, “you better not put these on the internet”, “I’m working with light here”, “I make my living doing this”, and all said in the most asshole-ish manner possible. I informed him that I, too, am a photographer who makes my living doing the same thing, and that I really appreciated him asking so nicely, of course with as much sarcasm as I could muster while handing him my business card. I told him I’d stay out of his way but he was in a public place and had no right to tell me what to do with my own photos.
I started taking a few more at a distance when he started yelling “You’re in my REFLECTION! You gotta move!! You’re in my reflection!!!” The guy was being a real dick. At that point I stopped for awhile so I could observe the master at work.
He had the nerve to ask me to move his step ladder for him at one point since I was standing near it. Being the sometimes all-too-nice guy I am, I did. And at another point he walked over and tried to smooth it out with me, saying he wasn’t trying to be a “badass”, but that he’s had to deal with people shooting over his shoulder before, and that his publisher would be pissed if the images appeared on the internet before his. I told him I understood, but that there’s not much you can do when you’re shooting in a public space. (And by the way, his interpretation of copyright was totally wrong, i.e., he owned the images in his camera, but not mine.) So yeah, he was the “Director of Photography” for some 10-page monthly rag for the NW valley.
He took a call at some point and I chatted with the owner of the bus some more, apologizing to him for causing the trouble. He said he didn’t think it would be a big deal, and I told him how we photographers can get uptight sometimes, and that I understood to a point, but it’s the approach you take with problem-solving that defines you. This knucklehead failed the test embarrassingly.
I guess the point of my telling the story is to provide an example of how people automatically jump to conclusions about the intent of photographers. We see stories of police infringing on photographers’ civil rights all the time. But even other photographers aren’t immune from knee-jerk reactions. I just wanted a few photos of a cool bus, especially to show my buddy who has 4 or 5 of his own. The guy could’ve talked to me respectfully. He could’ve nicely asked me to move. And maybe I should’ve asked him, too, if he didn’t mind me taking a few photos, though I’m betting he would’ve denied me had I done so. You know, because they were “his copyrighted images”. But I didn’t and he overreacted to the whole situation.
Moral of the story: Don’t be a douche. Especially when photographing a classic surfer-themed VW bus!