Are You There to Document or to Participate?
I've now been to the protests in Madison on two successive Saturdays, to take pictures, as I've posted about before here and here. Before I've gone, I've made mention of it to friends and family, and even posted on Twitter and Facebook about my intentions of going. The reaction has been interesting, to say the least. They've ranged from the mild "be careful out there" to "they're hyenas... bring a long lens and be scared". My actual experience has not matched the warnings. As I've said before, while the crowds were loud and animated, I never found them to be dangerous, and I've never once felt scared or intimidated.
Of course, others have had very different experiences, as have been documented in videos like this from Freedom Works:
Instapundit also recently linked to this blog post with suggested rules for taking a camera to a demonstration, which were adopted from Marine rules for a gun fight!
3. If your shooting stance is good, you're probably not moving fast enough nor using cover correctly.
4. Move away from your subject. Distance is your friend. (Lateral and diagonal movement are preferred.)
5. If you can choose what to bring to a demonstration, bring a long lens and a friend with a long lens.
So why the difference? Why are some people encountering very harsh reactions, with different levels of assault, while I can go to these protests and photograph people with impunity and without fear? The answer is simple. I have gone to document the protests, while others have been participating.
The Freedom Works video above is a wonderful example of this. First, allow me to give the required disclaimer that I do not endorse the behavior of the protester who assaults the camera operator. It was wrong, and he should not have assaulted anyone. But what is interesting in that case, is that the camera person was there with an interviewer and confronted that protester... and the protester was not exactly happy about it. There was no interview going on, and the protester made it pretty clear that he wasn't interested in talking with them. Yet the camera crew kept invading his space... pushing for a response... and boy did they get one.
The camera crew was participating and confronting... not simply documenting. They poked a bear, and they got bit. In fact, it seems to me that they did this with the sole purpose of getting a "response". Not an assault mind you, but some kind of tirade that they could put up on YouTube. I'd actually be pretty curious what that entire video looks like, as it's clear that there was a certain amount of conversation going on before the video takes place that was edited out. What questions were asked? How did he respond?
After I've posted my pictures from the protests, I've had various friends comment on my pictures as if they reflect my own view points, even though they don't. What was interesting was talking with some fellow area photographers at a Cream City photography event, who also have gone to the protests. The phrase that I had used, and they also most commonly used was "I put my photojournalist hat on when I went". In other words, we went not to engage or protest, but simply to observe and document... no matter how it actually correlated to their own political views. Of course, nobody in that group felt any fear either.
But why would I, of all people, do that? After all, I have strong political opinions. The problem is that when you go to something like this with a camera, you have to go with that intent, or you end up missing a lot. Photography is an art where time is critical. Certain opportunities only exist for a small period of time, whether that be a group of protesters in a certain area, or specific lighting in a forest. If you get caught up in the politics and your own views, then you close your eyes to the pictures all around you. You miss shots you never even imagined because you went with preconceived notions of the pictures you thought you'd get.
And the reality is... the people there want to be documented. That's the entire reason they are there! Of course, as anyone who watches Reality TV knows, the camera changes everything around it. People act differently when a camera is pointed at them. But people act even more differently when they are confronted with an interviewer. At that point, you are not merely documenting the protest. You are attempting to change the protest with your own views. Of course, you have every right to do that. But at that point, you have become a protester yourself, and you shouldn't be surprised at the emotions that this will create among passionate people.
More from the Madison Union Protests
So this past weekend I went back out to Madison to take some more pictures of the protests. Those of you who follow me on Twitter of are friends on Facebook have seen some of these pictues already. The reactions to these pictures have been interesting. It would seem that some think that I agree with the sentiments expressed in some of the signs, like those comparing Walker to Hitler or Mubarak. Of course, this couldn't be farther from the truth, but as I'm learning about photography, that is the price you pay.
My goal was simply to capture the moment, and the range of opinions expressed, and hopefully do it in an interesting way. You can see the latest group of pictures on Flickr, or look at this slideshow.
My shots from last weekend can be found here.
Witnessing the Protests
This morning I decided to head on out to Madison and witness the Teacher's Union Protests first hand. I wasn't able to spend the entire day, but did spend several hours there, both inside and outside the Capital Building. I decided to go not as a protester, nor as a political pundit, but instead as a neutral photographer.
But before I show the pictures... some observations:
- Given the sheer numbers of people, I was amazed and heartened by how civil everyone one. Yes, everyone was loud. There was lots of chanting and yelling, but nothing coming close to violence that I saw.
- For people interested in numbers... I can only estimate that the Union protestors outnumbers the Walker supporters by 4 or 5 to 1.
- The Union protesters used their numbers to their advantage, and counter protested around where the Walker protesters were and tried to disrupt. The Walker folks either couldn't, or didn't attempt to do the same that I saw.
- The Capital Police and other Law Enforcement were extremely professional and did a great job (and you don't hear me say things like that very often).
And with that, you can see all the photographs I took in this set on Flickr:
Favorite Photos from 2010
Well, it's that time of the year again. The time when we look back on the year and decide what we liked, what we didn't like, and what we want to change. This year has been a great year for me for many reasons. And as I've done in previous years, I wanted to share some of my favorite pictures that I've taken. I used to feature my photography more regularly on my blog, but have stopped doing that, relying on Twitter to occassionally point out things I've done instead.
But for your viewing pleasure, here is a mosaic of my favorite 16 pictures from 2010. If you'd like to see any individual shot in more detail, you can find them in this Flickr set.
The Year In Pictures
About three years ago now, I bought my first high quality camera as a Christmas present to myself... a Nikon D40. And on the anniversary of that event, I like to post my favorite pictures that I've taken during the year.
You can see my previous favorites for 2008 and 2007 as well. Happy New Year everyone!
Flickr Friday - Fall Colors and The Bone Deans!
Clearing the Flickr Backlog - Arboretum Scenery
I was down in Valparaiso Indiana a couple weeks ago, and made a stop at the Taltree Arboretum. It was a gorgeous plains area, with lots of natural flowers. Here are some of the pictures:
Clearing the Flickr Backlog - EAA Edition
A few weeks ago, not long after the Milwaukee Air Show, I went up to Oshkosh with AB, Hohner and Egg for the EAA. The weather sucked, consisting mostly of rain, the threat of thunderstorms, and low clouds... but the company with me more than made up for the weather. Unfortunately, the weather did make photography difficult, but I managed to capture some good shots, including some fun nose art. Here are the results:
Flickr Friday - Milwaukee Air Show Edition
Yes, it was a couple weeks ago, but the backlog still exists. Here are the pictures I managed to capture from the Saturday Milwaukee Air Show. I found a perfect spot just east of the North Point Water Tower. The Thunderbirds were using that tower as one of their reference points, so we got a lot of fly overs.
Working Through the Flickr Backlog - California Random Edition
Yes, that's right... I still have more pictures that I have yet to post. It's a slow process, but hopefully you all think it's worth it. Here are some random pictures from my recent trip to California with Ally that didn't fit into any good category. They are from all over the state... enjoy:
Working Through the Flickr Backlog - Splash and Dash Edition
Several weeks ago, the lovely MsAlly and I were out in California and part of our adventure included some wakeboarding on Lake Nacimiento with family and friends. Here is a slideshow of pictures taken from that day:
Working Through the Flickr Backlog - Fiery Edition
Earlier this year, Santa Barbara had it's third fire in two years. This last fire covered a fairly large area in the mountains above the city, and even encroached into many neighborhoods. Many of my favorite areas to hike and climb were scorched. You can see a map of the evacuation area, along with the fire perimeter on Google Maps. During my trip to California with Ally a couple of weeks ago, we spent a day in Santa Barbara and went up into the mountains to survey the damage. Here are some of the pictures of the burn area:
Working Through the Flickr Backlog - Independence Edition
Working Through the Flickr Backlog - Photowalk Edition
So lately, I've had enough time to take lots and lots of pictures of various things, but haven't had nearly enough time to actually go through and edit them, or post them some place that is publicly available. Starting this last weekend, I finally started going through my backlog, and have started posting them to Flickr. The first batch was from a June Flickr Photowalk that centered around the North Ave. street festival:
I'll be posting more from my backlog all this week (including photos from California and the Milwaukee Air Show), so stay tuned!
Southern Wisconsin Airfest Pictures
Saturday, the lovely Ms. Ally and I joined a host of other bloggers out in Janesville for the Southern Wisconsin Airfest, featuring the Blue Angels. It was a gorgeous day, and the Asian Badger did good by us all with a VIP tent that put us directly at “Air Show Center”. Basically, all the action was centered around our tent. And while I was there with my still camera, Jimi was there with his video camera shooting this great video.
The day started out with an opening jump by the Army Golden Knights along with the Navy Leap Frogs:
You can see all the jump pictures in this Flickr set. But of course, we weren’t just there to see jumpers. They also had some great acrobatic pilots including Susan Dacy, Mike Wiskus, and Patty Wagstaff:
You can see all the acrobatic pictures in this Flickr set. They also had an F-16 doing some amazing close passes, along with a P-51 Mustang as part of a Heritage Flight.
And of course, what air show wouldn’t be complete without a jet powered truck?
But of course, the real reason we were there was to see the Navy Blue Angels!
There are plenty more pictures in this Flickr set to enjoy.
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