Saturday, September 29, 2007

JMO - When something is not better than nothing

I've been following the progress on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in Congress. I, like all of us, have friends who are part of the LGBT community. Much of what the opposition says about this bill is incorrect. It does not give special rights or protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, but simply ensures they have fair and equal access and protection in their employment.

I have presented essays on my thoughts on gender, and think that while as the saying goes, "Sometimes, something is better than nothing.", this time I think that nothing is better than something. I am disappointed with Rep. Barney Frank. While I respect him, I think is decision to exclude gender identity in the initial version of the ENDA is wrong.

I don't know all the politics around the exclusion of transpeople in the ENDA, it seems unreasonable they were included in the Hate Crime Bill but not in ENDA. And delaying inclusion in a later amendment is simply political-speak for avoiding the real answer, they won't be included because if the initial version wouldn't pass with their inclusion, a separate amendment won't even get out of committee.

I'm angered that Representative Frank would go against the majority in the LGBT community. Some in the gay community don't mind the exclusion of transpeople in the ENDA because it's viewed as the factor for the delay in the passage over the years. And some in the feminist community have longer argued against transwomen based on illogical reasons. But when Rep. Tammy Baldwin sides with the trans community in her anger with Rep. Frank, it's clear to me he considers transpeople politically expendable people.

I think it's time the truth be told to the trans community. It seems to me that the conservative and religious middle and right fear the consequences of accepting transpeople. It's easy to accept LGB people because they're usually not obvious and go about life like everyone else. But many transpeople challenge the view of gender and gender presentation, and "real" transpeople have no choice but just be who they are and hope for public understanding and acceptance.

In my view, and in the view of ENDA and the medical community with transpeople, transpeople aren't about transvestites, drag queens, or even cross dressers. None of them are transgender except in their presentation. A transsexual is someone with the mind-body conflict of their gender, and under the standards of care, transistion into the sex and gender they are. It's not a mind issue, but a body one, and when changed they live very normal and productive lives.

Once someone has transistioned and become physically and legally their sex and gender, they are no longer identified as transpeople, but one with a transsxual past. And there are many successful public transwomen and thousands more live in silence unknown to all but a few friends and family. All of these people need the assurances of our government that their past and present can't be grounds for discrimination.

While Congress gives the rights and protections to lesbians, gays and bisexual people, leaving out transpeople is not what this country is about. Rep. Frank should remove the ENDA from consideration until everyone is covered. I can hope for the best if he follows this path, but I'm not holding my breath. Rep. should listen to the constituency and leave the result to the other repesentatives' decision, and ultimate fate at the ballot box.

You can get more information from the HRC and sign a petition in support of all-inclusive ENDA.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

JMO - Why we are losing in Iraq

I was listening to the story on NPR's Morning Edition about Diyala Province, specifically one small community with the only bridge across a canal for miles. The town survived before the US Forces came to secure the area with the people living with the insurgents, both of whom used the bridge to move back and forth across the canal.

When the Americans came, the immediately took over the only two story building in town. They secured it with bomb-proof barriers. And then they posted an armored vehicle on the bridge and began stopping and searching everyone who used the bridge, including every local citizen who simply used the bridge in the normal work and life. The American say they are there to secure the area and to locate and kill the insurgents.

When the townspeople complained, the American soldiers complained back to say they, meaning the locals, weren't stepping up to take over security of the town and the people. The soldiers say they've done their job and want the towns people to help them by reporting insurgents. The townspeople say they won't without proof and won't until the safety of their families can be secure.

And now the townspeople simply want the Americans to leave so they can get back to their normal lives. But the soldiers say they can't without orders and knowing the area is free of insurgents now and in the future. And this, to me, is the crux of the issue. How can we expect people to step up when we come in, turn their town and lives upside down, impose security measures that inhibits their lives, and then demand the take over?

I'm not arguing things were good in the town before we went in. But I would argue how we can expect their support and help when we act like the bullies. We cause some of the population to emigrate and change the rest to fit our model of security. Then we complain when they complain about our presence. What doesn't the US forces get?

Can we really expect to import our values about life, government, etc., into a country so radically different with a history many times longer than ours, and expect to be like and respected and expect they'll see our way of life better? Maybe they need to reread Pogo?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

JMO - First be a Human Being

I was listening to KUOW's Weekday Show Monday (9/24/07) with the interview of Greg Mortenson about the Central Asia Institute and book Three Cups of Tea. I'm trying to find the book at local bookstore, so I haven't read it yet, but it clearly sounds worth the read.

The whole story is about one man's journey and bringing the rest of many others into Pakistan and Afghanistan to build schools for girls. Why is it that mountain climbers are often some of the nicest and most generous people you'll ever meet? Maybe because the business and sport of climbing requires everyone to follow the first rule? And that is?

Above all else when living in the world, first be a human being and treat everyone else like a human being. We're all human beings, what's so hard to understand? Or do we forget the old adage by John Bradford, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." What's so hard to understand that we are one of 6-plus billion people living today and another 5+ billion who have ever lived, so while we're unique as an individual, we're still one of the many human beings, and by the stroke of luck, who we are right now.

I remember a day at work a few years ago. I liked to take long walks at lunch, usualy 3-4 miles around downtown Tacoma where the office was. I would pick a compass direction and walk for 20 minutes or so, make a loop and walk a different route back. One day on a plaza I saw a transient walking aimlessly in and out of the street into traffic yelling at drivers and people. The drivers were trying to get away fast and people walk away fast.

Obviously someone also called the police as Tacoma has an active police presence downtown and enforce their anti-panhandling and transient laws. Finally the transient crossed the street but not before taking off his tennis shoes and throwing them at cars passing by. He crossed into the plaze threatening people before coming up to me, yelling words or something to that effect I couldn't understand as he walked.

He got a few feet from me, stopped and started talking at me. When he stopped I asked him, "What is your name?" He froze and stood there speechless for about a minute. I said, "How can I talk to you if I don't know your name?" He looked at me, and then quietly walked away, occasionally looking over his shoulder at me with a quizical look. He didn't get far as the police arrived and he quietly got into the police car.

I don't know why he reacted as he did, but it seemed obvious to me that he wanted to provoke people until someone treated him like a human being. By simply being another human being I think he decided I wasn't either a threat or afraid. I wish he had told me his name to talk with him and understand him for a moment in our lives. Our paths crossed and we didn't share our names. The simple act humans do.

And for that moment God graced me another person whose life was so different to remind me I'm just another human being too.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

NPR - Why women have it right

Ok, I know this is sexist, men are one thing and women the opposite. And I know it's not true because an individual's personality and temperament is far more important than their gender. So making such a blatant statement seems ridiculus, but hear me out. It's not about individual gender but about the general view the genders use to resolve issues or solves problems.

The whole thing is about the approach you take to some issue, task, or problem. And in general - emphasizing general as I'll explain, is that men focus more on goals and results and women more on process and organization. These are really human traits and aligning them to one gender isn't correct, but it's simply for the sake of the argument. Except that generalities have some importance and relevance.

But then generalities are also about exceptions, to which I'm one. I'm a process and organization thinker, partly described in connecting the dots. I was great at data and database management because I thought about the pieces and the whole simultaneously and thought about the what and how with the pieces and the whole.

I was able to define the larger task by the elements, the process, the tasks, the organization, and then put it together in the goals and plan. My only problem was the timelines and deadlines. And this is where my boss and I had some interesting discussion. When he would argue about meeting the deadlines, saying redefine the work as you go and even dropping tasks or elements to meet the deadlines, I would argue for the work, saying deadlines aren't important when you want a quality result.

And in senior staff meetings, the generalities showed as most of the men and a few women would argue goals and results irrespective of the resources and staff, where most of the women and a few men would argue about people, quality, cooperation, etc. where the results depend on the resources and staff. It's safe to say in the long run, my view which brought about better products and services cost me my section chief job and duties.

This argument is the old one about quality versus timeliness. There is a balance between the two, but my experience tells me this is rarely done, and managers tend to side on the latter and the staff on the former. Managers like showing results and staff like showing the quality of their work. Throughout my career as a staffer, supervisor and (technical) manager while I managed my work within timeframes, I always followed quality and let time take care of itself.

And my point? Do women really have it right? Well, not totally but mostly, and I'll stay who I am and how I work and go through life. After all the only deadline we have in life is our death, all the rest is the quality of our life.

NPR - What would you say and do

I read 3-5 newspapers several days a week, usually one or more local papers - Seattle has a conservative and liberal newspaper with equally good reporting, the New York Times (NYT), the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and USA Today - haven't figured out why the Washington Post doesn't have a national distribution, along with a few weekly papers. In this week's WSJ there is a story about Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch. During the summer of 2006 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a summary history.

On Tuesday of this week (9/18/2007) he gave his last lecture, similar to the "Last Lecture Series" at Stanford and other universities. The point of the lectures is the simple question, what wisdom would you impart to the world if you knew if was your last chance? So, my question is, what would you say, and then what would you do with your life?

While we can argue about life and life after death, and the different religious and philosophic views of it, in reality these are the two most important questions we are asked of our life. I subscribe to the view that we don't ask the meaning of our life, but we are asked the meaning of our life. We have the responsibility to answer with our words and life. While all the faith in the universe may effect our view of both, it won't change the fact we still have to say and do.

I've spent most of my life trying to be a good Taoist, but I know I never am. I've only read a few books beside the Tao Teo Ching, but mostly I just enjoy the idea of it than the practice, and have made it a personal practice in my life and photography. I use it in my daily life, but I'm not a consistent Taoist. And I don't have an answer to what would I say and do if faced with a life-ending condition.

We've all seen the movies, read the books, or even know someone who's been there. And we all know unless something suddenly happens in our life, we'll all face the moment we realize it's over. Hopefully we'll have some time to think and maybe do some things, but sometimes diseases and their treatments don't accommodate that except some time to be there in life, and the do isn't a choice anymore. It's been made for us.

And in the end I don't have answers, yet anyway. Until then I'll just go about my life as best I know, because it's the thought:

We all do
What we can,
When we can,
How we can,
And the rest,
Just is.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

NPR - Connecting the dots

In 1991 when I tranferred from field operations to data management, I had a boss who was kinda' cool. He wasn't a great one for decisions, but was for his management. I was in charge of the Washington's office of the USGS for real-time data collection, system operation and data processing, production and dissemination. It was a 24/7 job with an off-hours team monitoring the system, and responding when problems or failures happened.

Over the years with my boss, he slowly withdrew his support of my career because I was a fringe person, but initially trusted me and even later often relied on me for who I was and what I did best for the agency. And that was because of the things I did very well, better than many throughout the Water Resources Division in the USGS for basic data. It was about how I looked at the work and the world.

My boss said he wanted me to do four things on behalf of my work and for the office related to that work.

The first was to think out of the box. This meant looking at the whole array of things and exploring even the most innocuous ideas because you never knew how it would improve things. We did a number of innovative and pioneering things with the agency to help other offices. I always thought at both levels, locally and globally.

The second was just that, think globally, act locally. I always tried to find solutions that didn't just help us locally but could be transferred to the whole agency with the easiest effort. We did a lot of the alpha and beta testing of data, technology and applications, which were picked up by headquarters to use agencywide.

The third was think longer term, down the road. I often thought through ideas over the next 3-5 years so the work wouldn't be so short sighted to be useless or require completely redesigning and redoing. I tried to always accommodate the customers' needs, our capabilities, technology (listening to the experts), and the resources.

The fourth was connecting the dots. I was and still am an excellent planner and organizer. I'm good brain storm and free thinker to account for a lot the iterations and variations to anticipate problems and issues, and then develop a plan to get the work done. My only failures were with schedules, something I often misjudged and had to adjust.

In the end, my boss discovered it was good to have a few people like me when and where he and we could think out loud and find solutions and answers, and enjoyed the ponderings and wonder of, "What if...", or "How about..." It's also sad agencies don't often support let alone foster these employees. It was part of why I tired of his successors and retired earlier than planned.

For the next series of overall bosses and two immediate bosses, none wanted a fringe person. They wanted a "team player" and a "yes man" to do their bidding. After about five years of being micro managed and realizing I could afford retirement, I left. Not without regret of the possibilities left on the table and the potential I had to do far more, but enough to say I tried and realized it wasn't going to get better.

I like sitting on the fringe seeing out and in, and watching all the inside people not see beyond their own noses, meaning career and agenda. Life has far more to offer than the frustration and anger of being rejected. So from the fringe, I'll keep connecting the dots.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

To capture a moment

I believe in capturing moments in my life. I started in 1969 with a basic single lens reflex camera and two lenses, and over the next twenty-five years I simply used the camera to take photos of the places, friends, family, trips and whatever else passed my eyes to lift the camera and snap a photo. It was on a solo hiking trip I took a photo I felt no 35mm camera, film then but now also digital, could do it justice.

I decided to research and then buy a large format camera system to start a new career when I retired from my first one. But I've never lost the interest to simply take photos. The recent New Yorker has an interesting article on Leica camera by Anthony Lane. In it, as I read it, he describes a little of the history of the loyalty to the Leica M-series rangefinder cameras. It's just the M-3 is legendary among street photographers for it's size and simplicity, and for allowing them to take tons of photos of the moment.

Personally, while I wouldn't mind a Leica M-series of any recent vintage, I like my pair of Minolta XD-Series bodies. Yes, they're a SLR camera, but they're almost as small, almost as quiet, and just as easy and simple to use. And I carry the same few lense that are normal with most Leicas, or even any, rangefinder camera, namely a 28-35mm lens, a 45-55mm lens and a 80-100mm lens. It's just a good street photography setup.

This is where I agree with Leica rangefinder camera, using a small complement of fixed focal length lenses. The goal is to make the camera invisible with you and to the world. That's not always easy, especially some times and places I use my oversized Canon 5D, but there are times the XD is nice with a 45mm f2 lens, called a pancake lens due to its lens design.

Back to the point. What I like about capturing the moment as described in the article is the simple idea it's about the moment, and represented that way. The photographers of the 1940 and especially the 1950-60's with their rangefinder cameras didn't focus on capturing fine art photos or using the darkroom to improve or enhance their photos, they simple took them at face value, the moment.

And this is something I think photography has lost with all the focus on digital technology with cameras, computers and printer to produce saturated or larger than life images. We've forgotten the simplicity of the moment and it's value in representing life as seen by the photographer. This is why I prefer and do what I call walking around photography. I photograph what captures my eye to snap the shutter and capture the moment.

The moment I see, nothing more and just what it is. Like being stuck in downtown traffic in the holiday rush.

Monday, September 17, 2007

JMO - When fear becomes the norm

I was listening to NPR's Morning Edition this morning and the number of stories on fear is a wonder. It's not that politicians are selling fear, as we have seen since 9/11, but they're enforcing fear into our everyday lives. And it raises the question, when does fear become the norm?

We all know the reality of the airline and airport security, and we all realize it's about as efficient and effective as the proveb about, "(something)... on a boar." I haven't seen any terrorist be caught, indicted and convicted from airport screening for all the things we used to normally carry on airlines. It's always been my view that we forgot we're looking for sharp, shiny needles in a haystack in a field of haystacks, and you don't have to examine every piece of straw.

They, meaning our President and his appointees in the White House and Federal agencies, have long tried to convince us it's about terrorism, when in reality it's about power and control, and the simple fact Bush, etal doesn't trust us. Yet, all the terrorists were foreigners, not citizens. We have become the enemy in their eyes and they sold us it's ok to oppress us in the name of the fight against us.

Anyway, the story about terrorist trials in Europe is interesting. They're using ethinic profiling, especially converted Muslims, to arrest three to four times the number of suspects to simply gathter more inforation than actually prosecute anyone. Somehow I don't see that it's any different here in the US because everything is secret under of the Patriot Acts. We simply don't know but I don't doubt it from what little has been published in the media.

The other is about Internet safety with children. While the best remedy is education and helping children understand and be open to talking with responsible adults they trust, some are advocating laws mandating the Internet companies ensure the identity of every adult and every children's parent. What don't they know about the reality of the Internet and databases?

I realize these are simply two small stories in the vastness of stories, but it also seems the tip of the iceberg. Everything anyone fears anymore can be made into fear for everyone and there are zealots for every cause. We've seen how easy it is to sell to legislators and Congressional representatives in the name of fight terrorism or something evil. So what happened to fighting drugs, fighting crime, reducing poverty, providing minimum health care, protecting the environment, improving our national infrastructure, and on and on?

Have we given up on those because we fear terrorsim more? Or are we simply adding it to the top of the list, and eventually fear will be the foremost thing in the news and in our schools? And all the rest will take a back seat in programs and funding, until more Interstate bridges collapse into rivers?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

NPR - Thank you Joan Osborne

It's not an understatement I like music. Almost any genres of music. Well, there are some types I won't buy but I will listen once to a variety. I've been doing this since I was a kid in the 1950's and listened to my parents music. I still have 3 6-album record sets of Glenn Miller music, including the recordings of the radio shows of his band. All the digital improvements don't change the sense these records play, like listening to the radio on a Saturday night.

I used to buy 6-10 CD's a month. When I was working and had the extra spending money. Since retiring my priorities have changed and I buy about one a month despite having a long wish list of ones I would like to buy. This month I bought Joan Osborne's latest CD, "Breakfast in Bed." If you are any fan of good music and a great voice, at least listen to it. She's reaches into your very heart and soul with her voice, slowly slipping into every fiber of your being.

This CD has 16 songs, 17 if you buy it at Borders, of the old rhythm and blues songs many of us heard as we grew up and older in the world. Her renditions are as good as anyones and she adds her own charm and voice which makes them unique to hear. All worth listening while working on my Website on a quiet afternoon to have music to touch the senses and inspire the mind. And all the rest of her CD's are good too!

Thank you Joan. As a fan who has followed your music, it's all good and gets better each time. I wish you the best in your career and life.

JMO - Dear Mr. Bush

Dear Mr. Bush,

After listening to the hours of testimony by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker and listening to your speeches this last week, I have some questions and comments about your position on Iraq. I have followed the war in Iraq since your January 2003 State of the Union address when you pronounced Saddham Hussein and Iraq one of the axis of evil. And over these last four and a half years of your speeches to the American public, it's time you owed the American public some honesty.

First, I would like to know why you have kept changing the basis for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. You keep saying about not dwelling on the past, but it's clear to me, and likely a lot of the American public, the past has caught up with you as every word to date has proven to be false at best and a lies at worst. We know that the premise for the invasion and occupation was built on politically created information which you told Congress, the American public, the UN and the world.

Over the years of the occupation, every milestone and benchmark you have said should and will be met hasn't really been met by us and especially the Iraqis. None of them have been met more than the minimal threshold, and nothing near what you promised with each of the annoucements about them. So, are all your words really only your hopes and prayers telling us about promises likely can't and won't be satisfactorily met?

Now you and your advisors are promising more of the same. So what evidence can you show that these goals will be met, or are we beginning to see the truth to "your war"? I mean, the whole plan was about oil and you knew in reality we would be in Iraq for decades? Did you or any of your advisors understand the history of the region and the people? And our history there?

Did you really believe after our failures after the first Gulf War, the Iraqi people would really put the trust in a country that has betrayed them over the last 25+ years? First, when we supported Saddham Hussein after 1979 in their war with Iran and second when we asked for them to fight Saddham in 1991 but we walked away when Saddham attacked his own people? Or was that the plan, set the stage to attack him as a brutal tyrant you said he was? Didn't we help him then by simply not doing anything to protect the very Iraqi people we made promises?

In January you promised the surge would work to stablize Iraq and bring a strong, united national government. Has it? You established the benchmarks for "success" but then after only 3 of the 18 were met, you declared it a success to provide a space for the Iraqi government to start working on a national government. And now you're saying the continuation of the surge will help set the stage for accomplishing the very same benchmarks over the next 9-12 months. Why should we believe you now when we know it's all been a trail of misinformation so far?

Or is your plan now simply to stall? After all once we get to the fall of 2008, all you have to do is say you'll leave things for the next President. You can say you did your best and it was everyone else's failure if they didn't meet your demands to make Iraq a safe place for democracy. I certainly hope this isn't your plan and it will surely convey to the American people that you aren't the President you said you were. Remember the "I'm a uniter." words?

I don't expect answers to my questions. I'm just another citizen, and a Vietnam-era veteran, who has concern for the damage your decisions have done to my life and future, to our position in the world community, and especially to Iraq and the people of Iraq who deserve better. But most of all your betrayal to the American people.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mt. Rainier NP Photo Guide

After getting my Photography Guide for Mount Rainier National Park started last year, it has reached a point I needed to organize it into something easier to use and update. I have done this and it's available at the link above. This guide is still incomplete, as some of the Park area quadrants are currently just shells for information as I find the time to research information, which will eventually lead to even more detailed information on photography in the National Park.

It is my goal over the fall and winter months to work on those Web pages so by the spring photographers will have some basic information for their trip. This guide is a long term project, which I estimate will take another 2-3 years before I have sufficient information for a book. In the meantime I will be converting some of the Web pages into PDF files so they can be downloaded and printed for trips to Mt. Rainier National Park.

In addition to the guide, I update the Latest News once a month, and sooner when I find news worth adding before the routine update. This includes an updated Access Guide. And I will be working on new photo galleries as I get to the Park with both my digital and large format camera systems.

The photo is the one that restarted my interest for a photography guide for the Park. I found it on the Mazama Ridge trail from the Paradise Visitors Center. I liked it because it showed that nature isn't always about life, but also death. I visit this tree every few years and it does continue to grow as the broken top reached the ground and regrow as does the lower part of it. It's a story in nature, always resilant to seek life. Something we should remember in our own life.

So please enjoy the guide, and please feel free to contact me if you have some experience in Mt. Rainier National Park you with to share on this Website, have suggestions or questions.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

NPR - Excuses and reasons

We all do it. Make excuses why something wasn't done, finished, or worse even started, as they say, "on time." According to my handy dandy Oxford American Dictionary, which it is because it always sits next to my computer desk, the definition of each are as follows.

Excuse.-- "an attempt to lessen the blame attaching to fault or offense; seek to defend or jusify."

Reason.--"a cause, explanation or justification for an action or event."

How often do we confuse the two using them interchangeably? I used to, and may still on occasion, but I try now to separate the two in my mind and speech. Why the interest?

Well, for one at work over my 27+ years I was a staff employee, supervisor and technical manager. As a staffer I was always held to deadline and schedules for field work and data production. That's expected and reasonable in most cases, and I had the occasional good boss who understood things change and to be flexible.

And I had some bosses who weren't micro-managers, only outlining the work and overall time frame, and left the rest to you to organize and manage your work and time. Unfortunately, the USGS is like many organizations, who don't have enough of these bosses and an abundance of ones who overschedule and under estimate time to put staffers in constant speed mode - the do more with less theory that never works. But that's another story.

For about seven years I was also a section chief and supervisor. And yes, I did learn and was thought to be a good boss who did what worked, meaning outline and delegate, and then get out of the way. Part of my job was to represent the staff to management, accept blame when things didn't work out and praise always went to the employee, something else I learned to do from being a staffer. And again, that's another story.

After my supervisory time I became a senior technical manager. And that's where I learned excuses and reasons. You see my job was about thinking, planning, organizing, and writing, with do work as time permitted. I didn't supervise anyone but often guided others. Some of the tasks were strictly mine because we lacked the staff, and that's where I had to learn office politics more than at any time before.

You see bosses like definitive answers, but my work was always fluid and dynamic. We had the gamut of work in terms of resources, time, money, etc. so I had to fit everything in so nothing was lost. Well it works until you have 150% workload to fit into 100% of the time. Everything just doesn't fit, but my boss had these ideas it did. And since he hadn't really done the work to know, he had difficulty accepting either excuses or reasons.

I wasn't alone as someone who reported to him, so we all had to learn reasons matter and excuses only gets you in trouble, especially on your performance evaluations. In effect you have to shift from excuses they want to hear to blame you to reasons that they were the cause. This creates the pause you need to make them think, which you can they turn into excuses they must make to you.

Nifty huh? Well didn't always work, as I learned my last year, and my boss just ignored the reasons since they pointed to him and not me. But he lost when I appealed his decisions and won. But that's really another story altogether about life in the USGS. Anyway, I retired remembering the difference.

Except in my personal life, I'm a great procrastinator, especially in retirement because it only effects me, and If I don't see any harm, I can simply put something off into the future. The underlying cause is another matter, but I can explain it away. It's really self-delusion, but works sometimes to simply put aside something that isn't important or won't hurt anything if delayed.

In short, you have excuses for inaction but you have reasons actions or events that inhibited your inaction. Excuse is about the inaction itself and reason is about actions around the inaction. Excuse is about the why of the inaction and reason is about the why of the other actions.

Photographs and Images

There's a difference? To many people, not very much as they likely use the two words interchangeably, but to the small world of photographers who make it a difference, it's a big difference. Especially if you started in film, long before digital cameras were an idea in someone's mind. Why should there be a difference? And why should there be a reason to distinguish between them?

And before I start wandering on the subject, the difference? To me, photograph is the film image, originally captured on film. An image is the digital version of film from a scan or originally captured digitally downloaded from the camera. While some argue this, to me it makes a clear distinction in the discussion. The difference continues when you print a photograph using the traditional darkroom technique and you print an image using the digital printer technology. So a print from a photograph using the traditional method and an image is a print from a digital file using the new print technology.

I make a difference because I started with film in 1969 with a Minolta SRT-101. In the days when Kodachrome 25 was the film of choice. I know a lot more photographers can talk about what photography was like then, I was just starting having found a passion behind the camera to capture what I saw. Over the next few years I would learn, work in a lab for film, and enjoy both the images I captured on film and the slides when they were ready for viewing.

And over the years I've taken hiatuses from photography for work, life and other things and events that come along, but I always came back to pick up the camera. This is especially true approaching and after retirement in December 2005, adding both a digital camera system and a large format system to learn to become a serious photographer and to work on building my photography into a small, personal business.

It was after getting the computer system for scanning the best of my slides and downloading images from the digital camera, after which the production and printing is the same using Photoshop. But this is where I started to see the difference in two respects. I think this because I'm one of those photographer who focus on the original image in the camera, and strives to capture it they way they see and want it.

First, with film I noticed the difference between the slide and the scanned (digital) image. While I try to scan and process the image to replicate the slide I noticed it's rarely achievable. Sometimes I like the image even it is different and sometimes I can never get the digital image to look good.

Second, digital. I noticed digital images have a different presentation than film. Like this is new? I know it's not, but it's our personal experience that flavors our (display or print) images. I find digital images have a crisper look to them, especially the color rendition and sharpness.

I realize some of this is due to the scanner and scanning I use with film, but some of it goes back the fundamental differences with the original capture with film or sensors. They record differently and they create different original images. And any photo processing has different effects on the results even if their the same type of digital file (format).

What does it all mean? I don't really know for sure other than my observations to date between the two, and to say I like both. And it's why I still use film. The image above was taken with film (I never write down what film anymore) on a fall afternoon in Seattle. It's one of those happenstance photos where you're walking down the street and see the light on a tree growing along side a building.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

New book by Rod Barbee

The photographer Rod Barbee has his first solo book out, "The Photographer's Guide to Puget Sound and Northwest Washington", by Countryman Press. And, my thoughts, being an ordinary photographer having lived here the last twenty-plus years?

Well, I bought a copy for myself and I plan use it for my photography and borrow notes as I work on my just getting started Photography Guide to Mt Rainier NP - ok, it's in its infancy which I expect will take a few years. I like this book and will recommend it for any photographer visiting the Puget Sound or Western Washington. You can easily sit down with a map and this book and outline a good photo trip.

The book has an excellent overview chapter on his recommendations for photo equipment. Some of it is personal experience, and who can argue with this work, and a good photographer can make the appropriate adjustments with the equipment to their interests. I can only add my two personal comments. First, I like UV, Skylight or haze filters, especially useful at higher elevations or to reduce haze. Second, while reflectors are useful, be careful they're not allowed or appreciated in some places or under some circumstances.

While that's a good section, the best part of the book is the individual sections on areas in the Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula. The areas include the diverse photo opportunities for nature, landscape, city, parks, etc. Each area, the South, Middle and Northern Puget Sound, San Juan Islands and the Olympic Peninsula are well covered and described for excellent photo ops. I think it wouldn't be hard to add places, but that's the nature of our beautiful Western Washington, we're not lacking for photo ops.

Aside from that, it's well worth the $15 or so if you plan a visit and especially a photography trip here. And if you like that and plan a trip down the Oregon coast, he also has Photographer's Guide to the Oregon Coast with David Middleton. Having done a lot of road trips up and down the Oregon coast for four years, it's also a great book. The only problem with this one is that you could easily spend a lot of your life there as here.

JMO - War against terrorists

I was reading the papers I normally do several times at week, especially after listening to the full six hours of testimony by General Patraeus and Ambassador Crocker yesterday. Interesting stuff. And USA Today has an interesting summary of the different reports on Iraq. It's worth cutting out and reading.

Anyway, while reading the USA Today front section I noticed a full page ad by FreedomWatch. Well, they need someone to explain the facts and reality to them. It's not a war against terrorism. According to my American Oxford Dictionary, which I keep by my desk, the definition of terrrorism is, "the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims."

Got that? Terrorism is used by every nation in and out of war. That's every nation, and especially the United States. We fire bombed Dresden into the ground in WW II killing almost all of the civilian population. We dropped two nuclear bombs on Japanese cities. We tried to bomb North Vietnam and Cambodia into the Stone Age. We dropped tons upon tons of Agent Orange on the jungles of Vietnam irrespective of the civilian population.

And for what? Victory? It was anything and everything in the name of political victory. Remember it was a war against Hitler and then a war against communism. It woudn't suprise me if the U.S. is one of the biggest killers of innocent civilians in modern warfare after Hitler and Stalin. But we did ours in the name of democracy and we won so we can claim the right it wasn't terrorism?

In Iraq we fighting terrorists. Plain and simple. A bunch of different groups with their own agendas against other Iraqis and against occupying forces - remember we invaded, attacked and are occupying Iraq in the name of something - I forget because George Bush keeps changing the reasons since January 2003. We would be or do anything different if we were an Iraqi?

And now we have partitioned off and isolated every part of Baghdad, and we control the access to each of the areas with checkpoints requiring residents have cards to be detained, or worse, arrested. We're using isolation and intimidation against a civilian population to "save and protect them." Somehow, that sure sounds like terrorism to me. But we're not terrorists?

I don't question terrorists attacked us on September 9, 2001, but they also killed innocent civilians from 87 other countries, not just the US. So, let's get off our high horse and be a part of the world. We don't seem to understand what's is like to be the oppressed anymore, and we treat everyone like the enemy because they're not "like us."

But does that give us the right to claim our acts aren't terrorism and theirs is?

America isn't about flag waving and preaching "values" while oppressing another nation's innocent people. America is about democracy and working with nations to be a partner for them to become the nation they want, not what we, meaning military-industrial complex, want. It's about their freedom, not ours.

And before you go ranting at me, read my thoughts on patriotism. I'm a Vietnam-era vet and having served my country, I can say what I want. And I'll defend the right of everyone, even those disagreeing with me, the right speak their mind, and not oppress the words of anyone, especially if you don't like them.

You can't call yours patriotism and mine not because I disagre. We're all partriots because America is about that, the rights of the individual and their freedom of speech. Especially if you serve to defend it.

Monday, September 10, 2007

JMO - Too Much News

We're in the age of communications. Ok, that's a "Duh!" statement, and we know it's been on-going for the last 25+ years as technology has improved from satellite communications and all its spinoffs to the media. I can now get newspapers overnight from almost every major world and US city. I can buy the New York Times and Wall Street Journal or have it delivered to my door. And the on-line news sources are simply mind boggling, updating every 15 minutes. It's a world in continuous real-time.

But somehow I feel it's getting out of hand, too much too fast for the mind to begin to comprehend. So, have we exceeded the point people absorb and understand to a sufficient point to make good decisions? And the opposite, or have we been immune from the events of the world that the news never became available? And we've reached the point where all the events of the world are simultaneously happening and available to us to see?

And I just got this concept? Wow, I'm quick. Not even close. I was reading the Sunday New York Times, which I look at every page and read many of the articles. But I realized the whole enormity of the articles about the world, along with the often divergent ads, such as selling expensive products next to stories of proverty or disasters in third world nations. But here's the list of articles.

F.B.I. Data Mining Reached Beyond Initial Targets
Boys Cast Out by Polygamists Find New Help
At Street Level, Unmet Goals in Iraq
A Fugitive Political Fund-Raiser Leaves a Shadowy Money Trail
Hagel Will Retire from Senate in '09
In 2000, a Streetwise Veteran Schooled a Bold Young Obama
Cuba, a Rebel Group's Birthplace, Becomes a Refuge
Sierra Leone Hold Presidential Runoff
Mali's Farmers Discover a Weed's Potential Power
Thousands Celebrate Pavarotti's Art and Humanity
Qaddafi in Darfur Role, U.N. Chief Says
Pope Lauds Austria Catholics for Faith in a Secular Society
Suicide Attacks Rising Sharply in Afghanistan
Bomb Leaves 28 Dead in Algeria
Bomb Kills 15 in Shiite Area of Baghdad
Bush Irks Australians, but They Can't Look Away
Pacific Rim Nations Agree on Global Warming, Without Targets
With Signs of Resistance Continuing, Myanmar Offers Rare Concessions
Taking the Guilt Out of the Death Penalty
Forewarned but Angry, Florida Democrats Weigh Primary Penalty
Storm Heads to Carolinas, Prompting Warnings
Suspect in Phoenix Killings is Convicted in Sexual Assaults
Laura Bush Has Surgery for Pinched Nerve
California's Ambitious Health Plan Stalls
Sinking Kansas Town Will Fill Old Mines
Thompson Linked to Work for Libyans
For Mexican Trucks, a Road into the U.S.
Catching up on True Tales of the Summer
Financial District Reborn as Affluent Bedroom Community
Sounding the Alarm About New York's Lifeguards
Fugitive Scandal May Pose a Hurdle for New School

And that was pages A-1 to A-32, with the ads, obituraries, etc.

It make me wonder how to make sense of it all and where it all fits into the world, the nation, my locality, and my own life. And if you want to learn and know more, you have to read even more. Everything has a history and has been written extensively about. So to really understand, you have to read an order of magnitude more simply to put it all in perspective this day in time in the world.

And that was only section one of the entire Sunday paper too, all 404 pages cover to cover, magazines included. It's why I only scan every page and read the interesting articles. And add to that I can get all this sent to me via e-mail too along with forums, bulletins boards, blogs and various other Web pages. And to your Web phone too.

It's why I don't subscribe to anything on-line - well, a few selected news sources - and buy the real paper versions to read on the table with the sunshine coming through the window and a cup of coffee on the side next to the scissors and notepad. It's the way I deal with the world.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

JMO - What is patriotism

I was reading an article in a Sunday newspaper magazine - you know like USA Today, Parade, etc. - about country music singers, and the local fan base. In one photo for the article they showed a country music singer wrapped in the "red, white and blue" with an American flag behind him on stage. They spoke about how country music is patriotic. And we all remember the story about the Dixie Chicks experience expressing their view and the reaction of the country musicians and radio stations.

While I may agree with this statement about country music, I disagree that this is the only patriotism. Waving an American flag, showing the colors and talking about their America isn't the only patriotism, in my view, that country music likes to claim it is. This has been a long expressed view going back over 40 years and the hippies of the 1960-70's. Country music hated rock music and especially the musicians, and they really hated that anti-war movement and especially us who expressed our views.

It's ironic country musicians have adopted a lot of the rock culture we expressed back then. Just look at the history of country musicians clothes, speech, songs, etc. But it's also ironic they haven't learned about the first Amendment. They praise God, the flag and the country, but they don't praise civil rights and liberties, except those expressed by people who agree with them or they agree with. They have never learned America is about everyone and everyone's rights. But then I don't ever expect them too either; they just don't get it.

And yes, while I don't listen to the Dixie Chicks routinely - only occasionally -I still like their music as I like most music. I supported then and still support their right to express their opinions. I loved they spoke out and have kept their defiance against the norms country music likes. I've been against the war in Iraq from the time Bush sold it to the nation in his January State of the Union address, especially based on falsehoods and lies. Yup, I'm one of those.

But I'm as patriotic as anyone. How many of the country musicians have served their country? Not that they went to Iraq or Afghanistan to perform, but due the time? If you haven't, why not? If you're so patriotic, serve your country with your time and life for 4-plus years. I did, from 1969 to 1973. And you? And after getting my BA and MS degrees on the GI Bill I spent nearly 28 years with the federal government, serving the public. And you? Oh, I'm sorry, you wanted to make money writing songs and singing. You wanted to be famous, not a good citizen serving your country and its people.

I know this is harsh and unfair, but it's how has country music treated people who they don't like because of their views. Patriotism to me is supporting the Constitution and our freedom to be and say what they want, regardless of our reaction or view. It's not just about tolerance, but about understanding and acceptance. We don't have to agree with others' views, but we're patriotic when we say they have the same rights.

That's what I served my country for then and it's what I stand up for now. It's about an America that honors everyone.

Friday, September 7, 2007

JMO - One for the people and one not

Fridays are one of my two favorite days for reading newspapers, Sunday being the other one. I get between four and six national and local papers, sit down with lunch, and read them cover to cover, and with scissors and a notepad. I like to read about the world. I remember a professor in one of my graduate classes several decades - seems eons, but isn't really - coming in with a stack of articles (it was a water resources class) and asking the question after handing each student one article, "So, what does this (article) have to do with the water resources of Lynden?"

Lynden is a small town outside of Bellingham, Washington where I was living and attending graduate school. The town is a blip on the map. It's water resources are small but also big. It sits near the US-Canada border and shares the aquifer of rural lower British Columbia. It's an area of dairy farms on both sides of the border with (then) development encroaching with the addition of new wells and the problems of depleting aquifer and water quality. So it was always interesting to find ways everywhere else in the world related to Lynden.

And the point? Well, The Washington Post reported that a federal judge has struck down the controversial portions of the USA Patriot Act on warrantless searches, especially silencing the recipents of the warrants from saying anything to the individual in the warrant or to the public. This is a really big, Woo Hoo to me. The return of our civil rights and liberties on our privacy and against illegal searches.

According to the article under the Patriot Act the number of warrantless searches have risen from 9,000 in 2000 to nearly 50,000 in 2005, and likely higher in 2006 and 2007. It's an FBI being big brother in our lives, intruding without any real justification and only a whim of reason. And while I agree some people under suspicion by the FBI is appropriate to be under investigation, there is this thing called a court. And if they are serious, they can always get a FISA warrant.

The reality is that, as reported elsewhere, that 90+% of the warrants aren't for suspected terrorists but are for criminal investigations, for background investigations or for related or incidental individuals to a primary suspect or investigation. In short, in many of cases the FBI is simply fishing. And it's very easy you or I to be the person they're fishing for information. Ordinary, innocent citizens who would never know.

So, I'll take heart moderation is winning against oppression, so far at least. And the "one not"?

Well, it seem the Government Accountability Office has issued an assessment saying the Homeland Security Department we've entrusted to keep us safe and secure from terrorists and whom has consumed so much of our tax dollars haven't succeeded very much beyond beginning. We're no more safe than on September 10, 2001. And that's news?

To me, no it's not because I always thought it all was a shame or scam - take your pick - to sell us fear and get money to aly our fears in the name of fighting terrorism. The problem has to do with the assimilation of many other federal agencies into one massive agency under Bush. Many then said it wouldn't work and shouldn't be done. I argued to simply improve people communications and data sharing (legally) between the agencies would be better, simplier and cheaper.

I'm for dismantling the Homeland Security Department back into smaller agencies with specific purposes and missions. They're more efficient and effective that way. And just improve the electronic and human resources between agencies and you'll be better off and doing a better job of protecting America and Americans. It's the case that bigger isn't better. The federal government isn't Walmart.

And so, one good note and one bad note. Now if the bad guys in Washington will get their proverbial heads out of the sand - yeah, it could have been differently said - and solve the second issue, we could actually have a safe and secure America, one that terrorist fear than laugh.

Update to WSF photos

I took my routine ride on the ferry this week, but only walked around looking than photographing anything - this is an old photo of the same ferry I rode this week. While in the passengers deck I saw a pamphlet by the Washington State Ferry entitled, "A Passenger's Guide to System Security at the Washington State Ferry." It's a 3 x 9 inch folded brochure describing everything they're doing to keep the ferries safe and secure. But one paragraph caught my eye.

In the Section they ask passengers to play vital role in this effort they write:

"Report suspicious persons, objects or activities immediately to a crewmember or law enforcement personnel. This includes unusual photography of ferry operations; people displaying heightened interest in restricted areas or taking notes while observing ferry operations; and suspicious waterside activities on or around the dock and ferries."

To me this is a really big, "Huh?" What exactly is "unusual photography"? I wrote an e-mail to the security address in the pamphlet along with a cc to the State Governor's office asking for an answer along with two conflicts I see with photography on ferries.

The first is that while they're asking people to report suspicious photographers they will invite or allow journalist, specifically photojournalist for newspapers and magazines and videographers from television stations into the restricted and ship control areas of ferries, and then publish the photos or show the footage. I don't know about you, but something seems amiss here with this logic. The media is ok but the public is considered suspect?

The second is that while they're asking people to report suspicious photographers, there are no laws prohibiting the very same photography - namely public areas of ferries, both car and passenger deck, and there are no posted notices at the docks or on the ferries on what is unusual or unacceptable photography. This means while they may or may not know what is suspicious, they're willing to leave it to passengers' judgement. And all this time every part of the ship is visible with overhead cameras, so they're also watching everyone.

My interest in the photography of ferries is the simplicity and obviousness of the workings of ferries for the work, operations, and repairs of them and for emergencies. Everything is in plain sight and clearly marked, including all the information about the ship and the procedures in the event of an emergency. This means you can see and read it, but you can't take take too long, take notes or photograph it. Does this seem contradictory to you?

I'm not sure how all this will play out, but I want an answer and the freedom to pursue my photography on ferries without being detained and questioned. And while I agree with those who have posted or e-mailed responses that the law enforcement folks have no legal right to do that as well as examine the images, it's not something I'm really interested in spending money on. Being innocent and exercising your rights shouldn't cost you time or money.

This is why on both occasions I did hand my camera over for them to view the images. I understand their interests for the safety and security of a ferry, but there isn't anything there that isn't already published or shown. I agree with the notion of questioning people asking questions and trying to get into restricted areas, but I'm not doing either while the two in the recent incident walked off the ferry - and riding four ferries in two-plus days - without being stopped.

But in the end it may be the legal life preserver that I need. The power of the State versus as Mr. McCulley described me, "Another stupid professional photographer." And I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

JMO - Call for Moderation

After reading the summer's news about the war in Iraq, and all the politicians, especially the President, I have to say I'm fed up with it all. Not just the rhetoric but the hype and bravado the politicians are putting into their views. And again, especially George Bush. Can we get some moderation here?

I for one would like some calm and reality in the discussion. Not the extreme right view of it's either stay the course or nothing, and not the left view of it's time to come home. The reality and the answers are in the middle, in moderation about the choices which are now the lessor of evils. The reality is that there is no win in Iraq, and you can discuss why all night in a tavern over pitchers of microbrew (hey, it's the Pacific Northwest and only real beer are microbrews or northern European).

The answer to Iraq isn't here in America, least of all Congress and last of all the White House. The answer lies with the Iraqi people. We can't do anything except kill people anymore to save our soldiers. Cruel? Really? Or who are we saving there besides ourselves? What's the difference between the jungles of Vietnam and streets of Baghdad, other than the landscape? Nothing, the soldiers fighting to stay alive against a very versatile enemy.

And much against what any politician tells you, the "enemy" won't follow us home. They simply want us out of Iraq. They'll settle for our departure so they can fight each other there. After all, it's their country, not ours or a territory of the US we seem to treat them as most days. We can't solve their problems, we can't even build the infrastructure, make the streets safe - only as long as we're there in the streets, or build the economy.

Have we failed? Almost, but it's redeemable with some intelligent discussion about real solution, not rhetoric. It's not about being patriotic or saving America - something the politicians haven't learned now, which often makes we wonder if they're really that smart or just good sales people. It's not about terrorism or terrorists. We've gone down this track too far to realize the blindness of this view about Iraqis.

They're not the enemy. We didn't see that in Vietnam, so why are we repeating ourselves in Iraq? Me thinks the problem is the same as the famous Pogo cartoon. Change the junk and the word "forest primeval" to Iraq.

Remember Iraq is the center of civilization. And what is it now? What have we done, the proverbial "bombed it into the stone age?" So what's the answer? Or Answers?

And that's the clue. It's not staying the course until it's so obvious it's 1975 again. It's not leave within a year or so - besides we can't anyway with 150,000 troops and equipment. But it's time we looked in the mirror to recognize we are the problem and it's time to look at the world and ask for real help. It's time to listen. Not with intent to use and keep going, but with real heart and mind to find solutions.

We need to say the obvious, this was stupid and we've made things worse for everyone, including America and Americans. What's wrong with that? Are we so vane or dumb we can't admit a mistake? How about at least about 3,600 to the dead soldiers' families? It's one thing to die for your country when there is good reason, but to die for politics and a President's personal agenda?

As I've said I don't have any answers, but I do know where to start. And it's time to start a new rethink with realistic, pragmatic answers as the goal for the Iraqis. Or at least I can hope with a new President we can discuss things with moderation in mind.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Support Fair Value

There are bills before the House and Senate in Congress about artists' deductions for their work to nonprofit institutions such as museums, organizations, etc. Currently the Internal Revenue Service only allows photographers to deduct the cost of the production of their images, which is simply the cost of materials, and not their time or related costs. This means photographers are not allowed to deduct the fair market value of their work, which is interesting since museums often insure the same work at market value since they have to account for the replacement cost in the marketplace.

The full text of the bill is available, identical in both chambers of Congress, from the House and the Senate. You can write your representatives or through the Advocates for the Arts Web page for this legislation. Why should you voice your concern and interest to help artists and, in my interest, photographers?

Well, I'm still in the long learning curve of becoming a serious photographer and making it a small personal business. It's a long road, and in reality, it's a financially losing situation. When I license my business later this year, it's clear I won't have any real income for awhile, but I'll have a lot of expenses working to develop images, products and clients. The average time to generate a minimal income, from what I've learned from other photographers, is three to five years, depending on your interests and energy.

For me it will be longer, but in the meantime I plan to continue producing photo cards and prints to donate to friends, family and others, some of whom will be nonprofits. It's a way to showcase and get my work in the market. So having the ability to deduct the fair market value of my work is worthwhile to me. I plan to watch this bill, express my view, and hope it passes. Your support of artists is appreciated.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

JMO - Government Secrecy

I read a lot of newspapers, 3-5 papers four or five days a week. I like to get a cup of coffee and sit at a large table to spend several hours reading the newspapers. I open every page of every section, except the classifieds, and scan the headlines to every article. I scan most of the articles and read the interesting ones. I keep a a pair of scissors and a notepad and pen handy. The first to cut articles out and the notepad to write thoughts and ideas on my MySpace blog.

I don't write letters to editors or express much about my views and perspectives on the news except here and on my MySpace. It's mostly just to rant, rave, vent or think out loud. And it helps me keep focused on the greater world and its many people and events. There's little if anything I can do about things, but at least I'm aware of them. And my point here?

I read the article Government expansion of powers should concern all, coalition says. It's by Peter Yost, AP writer. It's really scary to read about our government, not only invading our privacy and security, but doing it with such impunity toward our civil liberties and rights. We're losing our democracy, and our President is selling it in the name of fighting terrorism.

But since when is loss of Constitution and Bill of Rights fighting terrorism? Since when are Americans terrorists? Normal, hardworkiing citizens terrorist? I don't think so. We need a government to restore our liberties and rights, and Congress better get their proverbial heads out of asses and get some backbone to represent the people who elected them than pandering to the President, their party and lobbyists.

We're slowly losing in the phrase, "government of the people, by the people, and for the people." We're the people. It's time we demanded and time Congress listened and did what we ask. Protect the citizens from our own government. We need to restore our democracy. Read the article. Share it with friends. Write letter to your elected representatives to complain. If they give you guff about "this or that" threat, simply write back, "That's bullshit and you know it."

Ask them if they weren't a congressman/woman, would they accept the right of the government to invade and pry into your life as they can now on the whim of being related to terrorism? Would you accept being arrested on suspicious evidence that you provided "material support" to terrorist? Would you allow the NSA to read all your e-mail, Web surfn' and listen to all your phone calls? Would you accept losing your right to legal counsel and be imprisoned without contact with the world, or even your family? Would you accept the Justice Department lawyers saying the evidence to convict you is secret and can't be shared with your lawyer, but "Trust us, you're guilty."?

They know they wouldn't accept this, but they also know their expempt as representatives. They're part of the problem, at worst voting for these laws, and at best being silent. Except Senator Robert Byrd. We need more representatives like him for his wisdom and voice. Where are the rest of them?

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Public Photography is free and legal

Non-commercial photography that is. It's free and legal almost anywhere in this country except where notices are posted restricting or prohibiting it, such as near and in some federal buildings and all courthouses. It seems more and more photographers are being questioned, detained, harrassed, and even treatened with arrest. By people who are public employees or contracted security guards, who are interpretating law in ways that's illegal and using their authority to impress this to photographers.

Ok, sounds like a rant on authority, and being a lifelong anti-authority person, this isn't new for me. But it's becoming a common circumstance with any street photographer's life and work. I thought about this after reading a recent post on Also, I've been stopped twice from disembarking a Washington State Ferry, noted in my recent incident. And while I was released with apologizes, the real people who the FBI was looking for when they were seen doing far more than just photographing on a ferry, including inspecting system, trying locked doors, asking workers, etc., are still at large without having been stopped after riding 4 ferries in a three days.

The rights of a photographer are clearly spelled out here. I carry several copies to provide people who question me. While it may be useful to people, I've discovered it's almost useless to people (legal) authority, public employees - like the one above who stopped me and got in my face, saying I didn't have his permission to take photos of me - and private security guards. Every street photographer has experienced this, and their responses are equalled as varied.

I have discovered if you're courteous with (legal) authorites, they'll likely be easier and courteous with you and let you go unless it's clear you've broken some law, in which case, they'll advise you very explicitly - as a policeman did one day crossing the street under construction with the light except the sign prohibiting crossing was facing another direction. Private security folks are different, and mostly the reason many photographers are harrassed these post 9/11 days. They're the ones who seem to excercise authority they don't have and enforce laws that don't exist.

I have also discovered almost all the cases of harrassment against photographers are against the serious to professional photographer, and the occasional photojournalists. I haven't figured out how and why newspapers and magazine photographers don't publically report harrassment unless they're arrested and/or injuried and the images lost. It's seems the freelance photographers are the target of people, which is what I don't understand. Why does pointing a (near-)professional camera at someone they become angry, but a lessor camera doesn't?

And while most employees I'm met in my wandering around and through life doing photography are really cool, and will often stop to pose for you or continue on letting you get as close as you want without interferring with them, occasionally one will be a pure and simple asshole, like the one in the photo above. What doesn't he understand, as I tried to explain, as a public employee in a public place, you're fair game for photographers. After all our tax dollars pays your salary and equipment. But he didn't and was angry.

I don't have answers to this problem, mostly because it's about human beings and human nature, people who assume more knowledge and authority that is real, and with public photographers, behaving unreasonably at best and illegally at worst. As the Washington State Patrol officer told me when he said I could go, "Some ferry workers haven't fully understood our training and have become over zealous." It's time for rational thinking and behavior, and respect for the freedom and laws that allow photographers to go about their work.

It's not that hard folks. It's just a camera. What could be wrong with just smiling and let the photographer get on with their life?