Amazon Adventure

This should get the conversation started:

Late 14c., via Old French (13c.) or Latin, from Greek Amazon (mostly in plural Amazones) “one of a race of female warriors in Scythia,” probably from an unknown non-Indo-European word, or possibly from an Iranian compound *ha-maz-an- “(one) fighting together” [Watkins], but in folk etymology long derived from a- “without” + mazos, variant of mastos “breast;” hence the story that the Amazons cut or burned off one breast so they could draw bowstrings more efficiently. Also used generally in early Modern English of female warriors; strong, tall, or masculine women; and the queen in chess.

I don’t know if that’s what Jeff Bezos had in mind when he founded the company, but I have been doing business with the concern for over two decades. Sometimes the adventure is beyond comprehension. Here’s the latest.

I purchased my Canon Rebel digital SLR 13 years ago from Amazon and quickly expanded my lens set by ordering a 28-90 zoom lens, which since then I have been using as my standard lens. When I upgraded the camera body to a Canon 5D, I kept the lens. It earned its keep, making me hundreds of dollars in image sales. And it is a cheap lens. A drawback is the top focal ration: f/5.0. That’s not so good for low light levels. For example, shooting (figuratively) Congressman Beto O’Roarke at VFW Post 76 Sunday night I had to crank the ISO up to 64,000. Makes for grainy images. I decided it was time to spring for a better lens.

Christmas is approaching, and I am sure Barbara Jean mentioned something about what I wanted for Christmas. When I suggested I was going to get the lens, she said OK. This was the same day she was suggesting we get a divorce. And here is where the fun with Amazon started.

I searched Amazon’s inventory, and this had the makings of an ideal choice. $329 plus tax. Shipping is free and also very quick for Amazon Prime members.

Barbara Jean and I were scheduled for lunch with the Free Thinkers on Tuesday, so I waited until Tuesday morning before ordering the lens. I did not want the lens sitting on my front porch while we were off having lunch in Boerne. Amazon promised the order would be delivered by 8 p.m. on Thursday—that’s tomorrow. I suspected it might come sooner, so this morning I checked the order status. Sure enough, the shipment was already in San Antonio and would be delivered by 8 p.m. today.

Some background. I was born in a small town somewhere out west of Fort Worth—even farther west than that. And that was a long time ago, and things were primitive, even for the mid-20th century. Technological progress continued to amaze me decade after decade. And one feature of modern technology I so much appreciate is the ability to track a shipment from beginning to end.

I logged onto Amazon a few minutes ago and noticed my order was out for delivery. Not only was my order out for deliver, but there were two deliveries ahead of mine. If the photo below were large enough you would be able to read the fine print near the top.

That was great news. There was no need for me to take a nap. My order would arrive within a few minutes. I refreshed the page, and the message said the driver had been re-routed, but my order would still arrive by 8 p.m. Isn’t modern technology wonderful?

I was about to check the status again, when the door chime informed me of the good news. I rushed down one flight of stairs and received the Amazon package from the delivery guy. Oh joy!

Of course I hustled back upstairs and unpacked the Christmas package. I pulled the Canon 5D out of its bag and unhitched the 28-90mm zoom. I clicked in the new lens and prepared to see f/1.4 come up on the display. I put a finger on the action wheel and cranked it all the way down. It stopped at 1.8. WTF? Then I gave the lens a closer look. WTF!

My confidence in modern technology was tragically shattered. Despite all the best Amazon has going for it, they managed to ship me the wrong lens.

However, Amazon has recourse for such eventualities. I opened the order page and clicked on the link to return the item, which Amazon will do for free. And I printed out a return label. Then I performed the next logical step. I checked on the specs of the item I had received. Amazon is selling it for $20 more than what they shipped me. So I thought, “Why not?” Some additional digging, and I found the appropriate link and clicked on it. Almost immediately my phone chimed. It was the nice lady at Amazon. I explained the situation. I was willing to accept the lens they shipped and let the matter drop.

Amazon was agreeable, and they kicked in a $30 credit on top. What’s not to like? I may in the future apply the $30 toward the purchase of the f/1.4 lens if the day comes I find I cannot live without it.

Isn’t modern technology just beyond belief?

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The Photo That Got Me Arrested

FireStation

This came up again, and I was drawn back to the story about the photo that got me arrested:

OK, I really did not get “arrested.” It was more like “You better not try to leave, or we’ll come after you.” All right, maybe that’s technically “arrested.”

That was about five years ago (almost to the day) in Anaheim, California. Here’s what’s more recent, but it does not involve me. This is from CNN:

After ordering protesters and reporters to turn off their cameras, police fired smoke bombs, tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters after some threw objects at them Wednesday, according to media accounts. CNN crews have not been ordered to turn off their cameras during the protests.

That was in Ferguson, Missouri, several days after a policeman murdered an unarmed teenager. After authorities failed to place the officer under arrest or even to identify the culprit. MSNBC was the outlet that prominently reported on demands by police that the protests and police action not be photographed:

The scene late Wednesday resembled more of an urban war zone however with residents fleeing in freight, heavy smoke plumes hanging low to the ground and reporters forced to shut off their cameras.

There’s been a lot of controversy over photographing police in particular and public places and events in general. It’s possible the Rodney King beating by Los Angeles police in 1991 was a tipping point. King, a scumbag in his own right, led police on a high speed chase, following which police stood around and beat him while he was on the ground. It’s not that this never happened before, but by the time this happened the camcorder had been invented. Somebody caught the whole mess on video.

That was embarrassing to police, and some cops went to trial and were acquitted (surprise surprise), and there was additional trouble. Since that time additional video clips, some by news agencies and some by bystanders, of police malfeasance have resulted in consternation for the police involved. Police have become touchy about being photographed and especially recorded on video while performing their duties.

Police have countered by arresting people photographing them. Cameras have been confiscated (another English word for “stolen”). Despite that courts have continually ruled for the rights of citizens and especially news agencies to photograph police activity in public, those charged, those arrested, have suffered onerous outlays of their personal wealth to defend themselves. Spending a few hours (a night) in the slammer, being hauled into court to face charges, paying thousands of dollars in legal fees—all of this can have a chilling effect on anybody wishing to exercise his right to look, to see, to record, to report what’s going on in public.

This from The Verge:

Here’s the deal: as a resident of the US, you have the right to record the police in the course of their public duties. The police don’t have a right to stop you as long as you’re not interfering with their work. They also don’t have a right to confiscate your phone or camera, or delete its contents, just because you were recording them.

Despite some state laws that make it illegal to record others without their consent, federal courts have held consistently that citizens have a First Amendment right to record the police as they perform their official duties in public. The Supreme Court also recently affirmed that the Fourth Amendment, protecting citizens from arbitrary searches and seizures, means that cops need to “get a warrant” if they want to take your cellphone. (The ACLU has a concise guide to your rights, here.) And the US Department of Justice under Obama has affirmed the court’s stances by reminding police departments that they’re not allowed to harass citizens for recording them.

My own experience with the Anaheim Fire Department (?) was not so nearly dramatic. I was unemployed at the time. I had an apartment in one of the most pleasant cities in America, just a short walk from Disneyland (Walt’s famous and original theme park), where the weather was almost always peachy. I was spoken sharply to, but nobody laid hands on me. I could have walked away at any time. Although a fireman threatened to pursue and lay hands on me if I did walk away, I think he knew as well as I did that if he did that I would wind up thousands of dollars richer, and the city of Anaheim would wind up thousands of dollars poorer. In the end I had a pleasant conversation with a motorcycle policeman, who likely understood California law far greater than any of the firemen standing around me. I would also like to believe that after I left the cop had a conversation with the firemen about the matter of false arrest and the criminal consequences thereof.

And I got to publish my photos. But they were lousy photos. Try as I could I never got the camera completely level, and I never offered those photos to my stock agencies.

Now for some advice. If you want to photograph public events, particularly public officials in action, particularly police doing their jobs, here are a few things you need to keep in mind:

  • Stay out of the way. Do not interfere in any way with what the police are doing.
  • Make sure you are in a public place. Private property is not a public place.
  • Did I forget to mention stay out of the way?
  • Don’t talk to the police.
  • Don’t talk to any people the police are dealing with.
  • Do not take sides.
  • Do not do anything to attract attention to yourself. Keep your distance. It’s best to photograph from at least 50 feet away.
  • If police approach you, be respectful. Answer all their questions truthfully and in a straight forward manner. If you lie to the police or interfere with them in any way they can arrest you. If requested identify yourself truthfully. Give your name and your address.
  • If you are not driving a motor vehicle you do not need a photo ID. If you think you may want a photo ID, bring something besides your drivers license. A United States passport is always good. Don’t be a smart ass and show the police your concealed carry permit.
  • Do not have a weapon of any kind on your person or in your possession.
  • Do not let the police have (steal) your camera or your images.
  • Keep a spare memory card. Periodically switch out memory cards and save images in your pocket or in your wallet.
  • Make sure you do not have anything incriminating on your person.
  • Keep the phone number of a lawyer on your cell phone.
  • As soon as you can, offload your images and get them onto the Internet. Stuff posted to the Internet becomes set in stone and is almost impossible to erase.
  • Let me know about your personal experiences photographing the police.

After all of that, two accredited journalists were arrested inside a McDonald’s restaurant earlier this week.

Sadly, these rights are not always respected by the police. Even journalists are being harassed in Ferguson in the course of their reporting. Earlier in the evening, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly were arrested in a McDonald’s and later released with no explanation. Washington Post executive editor Martin D. Baron said Lowery was “illegally instructed to stop taking video of officers” and “slammed against a soda machine and then handcuffed.”

LowreyPost

From T.C. Sottek, The Verge

Two journalists were arrested, put in the slammer, released with no charges filed. How many different ways are there to spell
“police harassment?” This is what you may face the next time you attempt to photograph the police doing their job. And you don’t have even the thin protection of a press card.

Y’all be careful out there.

Obamascare

When I go looking for an issue to post on this blog, about nine times out of ten I go to my Facebook feed first. I have a small number of “friends,” less than 100, but these contributors include a cross-section of positions on most matters.

On the matter of Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act, there have been strong expressions from both sides. I generally ignore contributions from the “liberal left.” These people may have their hearts in the right place, but often they don’t make a lot of sense. Neither does the other side, but their comments are more interesting. It was from a conservative contributor I got the inspiration for this post. Here is a Facebook post from somebody vehemently opposed to the sitting president and especially to Obamacare:

Obamacare has sunk to a new low. Advertising campaigns designed to appeal to young adults that portray them as stupid, slutty, drunks who are willing to pay big bucks for overpriced insurance in order to get birth control so they can have sex with strangers. Aside from the fact that birth control is cheaper than than the insurance, on behalf of every young adult I know I am offended at the way our current president apparently perceives them. I know a lot of young adults and every one of them has too much class and intelligence to find this anything but disgusting.

My Facebook friend also posted a headline, including a link:

Politics: Obamacare girl not a US citizen, hasn’t signed up, never got paid for her photo

Obviously that’s just disgusting. I mean, the woman whose likeness is being used to promote a government health insurance system is not even a citizen of this country? She’s a foreigner? Besides that, she posed for the photo and then got stiffed on her modeling fee?

That’s just disgusting.

Unless, of course anybody is interested in getting the facts. This appears to be another case of somebody failing to read to the end of the page. I like it when this happens. In fact, I have an example I love to cite.

Some years back, 1999 as a mater of fact. I worked for a company, and the new year, 2000, was approaching, and some mid-level manager saw fit to remind us that 2000, since the number ended in “00,” would not be a leap year, so we had better not count on an extra day in February 2000.

The problem was this manager was one of those people who don’t read to the end of the page. If she had read the complete instruction booklet on leap years she would have come across the wording, “Years divisible by 400 are leap years.” 2000 was, in fact, a leap year.

What I think is happening is that a lot of people fail to read to the end of the page because that is too inconvenient. Often the truth lies at the end of the page, and the truth is too inconvenient. It’s hard to make political hay when doing so becomes too inconvenient.

And that’s what happened in the case of the “Obamacare girl.” Here readers, is the rest of the story:

The saga of the photo started innocuously enough. Adriana responded to an email from someone at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency responsible for the Affordable Care Act’s rollout, about having photos of her and her family taken for free in exchange for allowing the photos to be used to market the new health care law. She was never paid.

She learned over the summer that her photo would be on healthcare.gov’s main page, but she didn’t realize it would become so closely associated with the problems of the glitchy website.

“I mean, I don’t know why people should hate me because it’s just a photo. I didn’t design the website. I didn’t make it fail, so I don’t think they should have any reasons to hate me,” Adriana told ABC News.

Speculation swirled that Adriana might not be a legal resident of the United States, and therefore not even eligible for the health care exchanges. Adriana said she is a wife and mother who lives in Maryland with her 21-month-old son and husband of six and a half years. Her husband is a U.S. citizen, as is his [sic] her son. Adriana, who is Colombian, said she has lived legally in the U.S. for more than six years, is currently a permanent resident and is applying for citizenship.

Though she is eligible for healthcare through the ACA, Adriana says she hasn’t signed up for it, and is neither in favor nor against it.

The complete story, then, is not that interesting, that is from the viewpoint of a Facebook friend wanting to make a political statement. The woman is in the country legally, married to an American citizen, eligible for insurance under the new law.

But she didn’t get paid.

Really?

Take a look at this photo:

Now that’s one good-looking woman. I took this photo in my living room studio in Dallas a few years back. I have sold multiple copies of this image through various agencies. And I never paid this woman a dime.

My deal was similar to the one made to Adriana on the healthcare.gov site. She posed for the photos, and I gave her copies and also permission to use them in exchange for a model release. The model release stipulated that I could use her photo for commercial and other purposes, within limits. Let me know whenever this becomes “disgusting.”

Nearly 40 years ago there was a crime committed in Berkley, California, involving a famous person. There was a big brouhaha in the news and a lot of comment, and somebody summed it up with, “Rhetoric is cheap.”

And it is. Facts cost a little more, but facts are often not as interesting.

The Power of the Lens

Back in December 2011 I started making video clips of school buses in my neighborhood. There’s a stop sign across the street from me in San Antonio, and I noticed the school buses almost never stopped at the stop sign. So I started posting these videos. Here’s one:

http://specularphoto.com/SchoolBus/bus2011-12-01-01.wmv

I also mentioned in my posts the name on the side of the buses, Northside Independent School District. One reason I did this is I know that search engines can pick up words printed in the text but are not likely to find any language in a photo or video clip. I also know from past experience that major organizations employ people to search the Internet for any references to the organization with the idea to quash bad publicity before it become really embarrassing.

About six months ago I finally threw in the towel and drove home to stay. That gave me additional time to watch school buses roll by on their morning routes, and I quickly noticed something. Every school bus stops at the stop sign every time. Is it possible somebody is watching? I am guessing somebody was watching, and some words were said and a minor problem did not become a major problem. Could this be the power of the lens at work?

Now the bad news. As always, only the school buses stop. Nobody else stops (almost). As the song goes, “They just keep rolling along.”

And the winner is…

The event was tragic, but like another incident 18 years ago, it has produced a sure fire winner for the Pulitzer Prize in journalistic photography.

Photo from Yahoo

This picture has it all. The runner in the foreground has fallen and is trying to get up. Framed behind him in the photo are three Boston cops in action poses that form a pattern from left to right. The one on the left is frozen in a dynamic stance, looking straight ahead, gun drawn. The smoke has not cleared. It’s only seconds after the first blast. In the background, through the smoke, we see the crowd reacting.

Does anybody want to bet me that this photo will not get the Pulitzer?

This is also the cover photo for this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated.

The photo that got me arrested

Several months back I posted an item about the photo that got me “arrested.” As I mentioned, I did not legally get arrested, since the people who technically “arrested” me had no cause or authority to do so. As I also mentioned, I was in a good mood that day and did not file charges against the people involved, and I did not sue the city they worked for. I am still in a good mood.

Since the incident over three years ago I have moved to San Antonio, and I am back to my old habits. I photograph what interests me. And that sometimes causes trouble. Here are some examples.

Also while I was in Anaheim, California, I set out to photograph the fireworks at the Disneyland theme park. There is a mall across the street from the park, and I wandered over to see if there was a good vantage point from the top floor. Also I was hoping to find an ice cream store. No such luck. Instead I was accosted by a mall cop. To make the story short, he threatened to have me forcibly removed from the premises if I took any photographs. In a vague way he cited international terrorism as the basis of his concern. OK.

At a Spanish mission park in San Antonio, operated by the National Park Service, a park ranger threatened me with action if I took photos for resale. He cited a federal regulation that applied. I considered escalating the situation, but Barbara Jean was with me and restrained me, else there might have been trouble. In fact the ranger was in error about the regulation he referenced. There is no federal regulation against selling photos you take in a national park. I post my photos with a number of agencies, and I have sold many images of the San Antonio missions. One agency has sold 13 copies of this image, for example. All the others have sold more.

My house in San Antonio is in a new neighborhood; it was completed in 2010. Construction is still going on, and I always try to get photos of the construction. I want to track the progress. Also, there is a potential for photo sales through my agencies. In fact, I have sold multiple copies of images of my own house under construction, including one that features only the SOLD sticker on a front window. It’s just crazy.

Earlier this year Barbara Jean and I headed downtown in the afternoon for dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse. We were gone two or three hours, and when we got back a neighbor told me that his house had been burglarized, in the middle of the afternoon. Somebody had kicked in the front door and many items were taken. The thieves had simultaneously done the same to two other houses, all within a few hundred feet of each other. We all considered this would have been a good time for me to have been walking around with my camera instead of lallygagging around at Spaghetti Warehouse. Since that time I have made a habit taking my camera with me on my walks around the neighborhood. Some people do not like this. And they are not my neighbors.

This morning a crew started pouring concrete for a new house across the street, and I took some photos. I even took one from the window of my computer room just for fun. Here it is:

Rear Window

Anyhow, all this time I have figured that somebody, sometime was going to object, and I ran through my mind what would go down. I got melodramatic. As mentioned, I did not tell the firemen in Anaheim “Up your nose with a rubber hose.” I was thinking I would not be so polite in my own neighborhood. I was thinking of what I would do or say. One thing I thought of saying was, “Would you mind taking your concerns to somebody who gives a fat rat’s ass?” I also considered pointing out the sign recently posted at the entrance to our neighborhood (one way in, one way out) that alerts visitors they are on candid camera. Today the time came.

This afternoon I was taking a walk to see how things were going in the neighborhood, and a pickup truck stopped nearby. The driver got out and asked me if I was “in charge” here. My thinking is that I am not in charge even in my own house, so I told him no. The driver told me he did not like for me to be taking photos of his stuff. He said some of his stuff had been stolen.

OK, if you have had your coffee today, you are by now thinking what possible connection there could be between my taking photos and somebody stealing his stuff. Possible the same connection with international terrorism and photos at an outdoor mall. I did not laugh. I did not tell the driver to take his concerns to somebody who gives a fat rat’s ass. I did point to the sign, a few feet away, and I told him that everything in this neighborhood gets photographed. I told him that if he had any complaints he needed to take them to the police. I am 100% sure he will not take any complaints to the police. Then I photographed his license plate as he got into his truck. I have blocked out part of his plate number, even though I am not legally obligated to do so.

Obscured license number

I suspect his concern is not that my photographs will relate to any of his stuff being stolen. I suspect that my actions make some of his workers nervous. I suspect that some of his workers are in this country illegally. My thinking is there is nothing that causes his problem to translate into a problem for me. I am not the I.C.E., and if he has a problem with photographs he needs to take his concerns to somebody who gives a fat rat’s ass.

Call of the wild

This is going to be a slow weekend, so look forward to more hummingbird stories.

So, Barbara Jean phoned on Thursday night asking what I did with the other packets of hummingbird food. I told her I had thrown the box away and stuck the last packet behind the cereal in the cupboard.

The Sweet One had already given up finding it and had mixed hummingbird food from water and granulated sugar, which many claim is better all around. And much cheaper.

But what she wanted to tell me was that the little buggers were really going for the home-made stuff, which is clear, like the sugar solution it is and not colored red, which is what you get in the packets. As she called the play by phone it became apparent there was a hummingbird riot getting at the feeder. The sun was going down, and these flightiest of little birds were getting their last drink of the day.

The birds seem to live in the woods along the creek behind the house, and they dart periodically in from the wilds to the comparative urbanity of our back yard for a drink. Hummingbirds need to do this several times an hour just to stay alive. They weigh about as much as a penny, and they burn energy at a tremendous rate for their size, which is typical of warm-blooded creatures of small size. For these birds, a strong solution of sugar water is an energy main-line, and they either get it from flowers, or they get it from feeders, such as ours. Small insects and such provide the proteins and minerals these creatures need to build meat and bone.

Anyhow, when I got home on Friday we determined to fire up an additional, larger feeder. Barbara had mixed up a jug of the good stuff and stored it in the refrigerator. Now we had two feeders going on the back porch hangers, and the summer heat quick brought the refrigerated stuff up to daytime temperatures. And the back porch became hummingbird Grand Central Station.

Hummingbirds are understandably skittish, they are barely a cat’s mouthful, and they barely tolerate our presence. However, I have found that if I am willing to sit very still, and not blink, at the back porch table, they will come. The will flit around for a moment, keeping their distance. Then they will lurch in closer to the food, like miniature helicopters, always keeping an eye on me. Finally they will lunge for the food, take a quick drink, back off for a moment for another look at me, then back for another drink. They will do this until their little bellies are full or else they have had their fill of my presence, then in a flash they are gone, back over the fence and into the trees by the creek. Or else into one of the ten-foot twigs we call live oak trees in our back yard.

After my presence has been discounted, what seems to matter most to the hummingbirds is other hummingbirds. They are very territorial, especially where food is concerned. Most likely natural selection has shaped their instincts to chase other hummingbirds from a selected food source. My reasoning is that a bird that accomplishes this most successfully will find his genes alone in the pool following year.

The presence of two feeders presents a problem to the hummingbird hoarder. He will now try to defend both feeders, sometimes wasting his chance to drink while chasing an intruder. I have been told that two is the limit. A hummingbird will not try to protect three watering holes and, I am told, this presents a situation where birds feed without interference.

I can get photos of the birds, but I have to be patient. This morning I sat out back eating my bran flakes, and the birds overcame their distaste for me enough to dart in for frequent feedings, and even to chase rivals away. That is, as long as I did not crunch too loudly when chewing. It was fairly straightforward getting pictures with the 100mm macro, but when I brought out the 200 the birds became very shy. The 200 has more the appearance of a 105mm howitzer, which must in previous history have gained the birds’ respect.

So, standing still, barefoot, watching through the viewfinder, not breathing, I was able to get some first few photos. I left the tripod out on the patio when I came inside, so the birds would get accustomed to its presence. Hopefully the result will be that the additional presence of my hulk will be less disturbing when I go back out later for some better shots. Here is one of the first. More to follow if my luck holds out.

The Photo That Got Me Arrested

OK, I really did not get “arrested.” It was more like “You better not try to leave, or we’ll come after you.” All right, maybe that’s technically “arrested.”

So I was beating the bricks in Anaheim, CA, looking for photo opportunities. I walked all the way down to State College Boulevard, because I needed the walk, and also because the train tracks are out that way. Sure enough, I got some train photos. The coastal express comes along fairly regularly, and it’s almost a sure bet to get photos of cars waiting at the gate while the train goes thundering through.

On the way back I passed the fire station just as their phone rang. If you know fire stations you know that they have a phone with a very loud bell (what fireman wants to say later “I didn’t here the phone ringing”). Anyhow, I know what it means when that phone rings. It means the truck is going to be pulling out soon.

I was across the street, so I got the camera ready. No tripod, I braced against a tree. Sure enough, the firemen took the call and started up the engine, and the truck came rolling out along with an ambulance. So, I got the photo, and here it is, the photo that got me arrested.

I took several photos, but this is the one I like.

So far, so good. I had my images tucked away on the flash memory card in my camera, and I had my camera in my hand with the strap wrapped around my fist. And I was walking on toward my apartment on Santa Fe Street. About time for some dinner. I thought.

There was a voice. Somebody was saying “you.” Something there is about it when somebody is saying “you.” It’s usually not good. Then I went into this mode. “You talking to me? You talking to ME?” My plan was to ignore this whole business. I was on my side of the street, and they were on the other side of the street. And never the twain shall meet. That was the plan.

I decided (big mistake) not to ignore the voice. I am sure I did not say, “You talking to ME,” but I walked over and said simply, “Yes.” They were talking to me.

“What are you taking pictures for?” (Surely not an exact quote, but close.) I explained that I was taking photos for my stock agencies. “Oh yeah, what agencies?” I rattled off a few names. “You have a business card?” I gave the fireman one. “Let me see some identification.” I pointed to my business card. “This doesn’t have your address.” I told them my address. “Show me some identification (like a driver’s license).”

It was a nice day in July, and I did not want it to turn ugly, so I was not my usually snarly self, and I did not say, “Up your nose with a rubber hose.” I just said, “No.” I may have even said, “Absolutely not.”

Anyhow, I have done a bit of reading in my life, and I recalled reading about 15 years previously of a case that went to the Supreme Court, and the case was out of Los Angeles County just to the north. A cop stopped a guy who was running while black and demanded some identification, and the guy said, “No,” and the Court agreed. No crime, no probability of a crime, no probable cause, no identification is necessary. I did not bring this up with the firemen.

One, who seemed to be the lead fireman, indicated to me that he had a badge as a fire investigator, and I asked to see it. I also asked him if he had a gun, as well, because, as I told him, I have a great respect for guns. He said he had a gun, but he never showed me a badge, and he never showed me his gun. He indicated it was his public duty to be aware and to be vigilant and proactive. He mentioned that “things were a lot different since 2001.”

“Oh, shit,” I thought. “Not this crap again.” I reminded the fireman that things were not different since 2001, and this country (and I) had seen a lot worse in the form of Hitler and Mussolini. I forgot to mention Stalin, Tojo, and the Japanese Emperor. But this was not the capital of enlightenment I was in. This was Orange County, where they named the airport after John Wayne.

The upshot was they offered to call the police if I did not produce any identification, and they also offered to keep me around until the police arrived. I did at this point mouth the words “false arrest,” but I let it slide. Besides, I wanted to meet the cops.

While we waited I conversed with a burly fireman, and while I did this I volunteered that even though he owned me by twenty years, I was sure I could leave him in the dust if he decided to pursue me. Once again I decided to just let things play out.

Eventually two motorcycle cops showed up. I knew where they came from, because my apartment was right next door to the station. Anyhow, one of the motor cops talked to the firemen and got their story and asked me to show some identification. I gave him a business card and no more. When he wanted more I gave him my Dallas address and my phone number. And no more. I was thinking about the Supreme Court. I also reminded him that my fingerprints are on file with the FBI, due to my having been in the military and also to having a security clearance issued by the U.S. government.

When the policeman became insistent I told him he was going to have to be very insistent. He was going to have to make it something besides a polite request. I told him I was fully ready to obey any order from the police. But he was polite, and I finally decided to be polite, as well. I showed him my driver’s license and told him were I was staying in Anaheim, and I went on my way.

As I said, it was a nice day in July, and I was in a good mood. I did not cause the firemen to physically restrain me, and I did not sue the city of Anaheim for many thousands of dollars, and the firemen were able to keep their jobs. Like I said, I am a nice guy, and I want everybody to be happy.

And I will take photos wherever and whenever I please, and if you don’t like it then up your nose with a rubber hose.

Life After Marriage

Not mine. Somebody else’s.

Saturday I woke up hoping somebody would kill me before I left the house. It was one of those days. I was scheduled to photograph a wedding.

Now I make a little money peddling stock images through various agencies, but the real profit is from portraits and especially weddings. That is: soul-searing, gut-wrenching wedding photography.

One thing can go right shooting a wedding. You can get all the photos you are supposed to get, and they can all turn out perfect.

There are about a thousand things that can go wrong.

Let me tell you what will happen if just one of these things goes wrong with a wedding shoot: You will have to sell your house, change your name and leave town. Your name will be never again be mentioned without a sneer, and the bounty on your head will grow by day.

And you can get sued. One photographer did an expensive wedding contract (Are you aware that the average wedding photography contract is $5000?), and after the wedding the bride’s family noticed the photos of the bride showed her tiara at the wrong angle. They sued to recover the entire cost of the contract plus assembled damages. It can get worse. One photographer finished a wedding contract, got his fee, and went on with his life.  Years later he was contacted with lawyers from the groom. The groom wanted not only a refund, but he also wanted the photographer to pay for shooting the wedding all over again. This included the cost of re-staging the ceremony with all its attendant expenses. Expenses included bringing the bride back from her native Latvia, where she had retreated after divorcing the groom some years back.

These things were on my mind as Saturday morning broke cold, dark and rainy, with threats of thunderstorms. The wedding was going to be held out of doors.

I was praying that somebody would put out a contract on me to be delivered before I had to head out into the storm.

To conclude the story: Piece of cake. No sun? No problem. A little fill flash took care of the light balance. The covered outdoor venue did not blow away, and there were absolutely no equipment failures.

The bride and groom are now happily married (they were already happy to begin with), and everybody had a wonderful time. The food was wonderful, and I had some when taking a short break. Also two Shiner Bocks. Images have been uploaded to the bride’s Shutterfly account, and DVDs with 332 images are safely in the mail.

What, me worry?