Proper Photography Etiquette

A couple of weeks ago, my girlfriend and I were up visiting her family in Savannah.  While we were up there, we decided to check out the Wormsloe Plantation, famous for its avenue of live oaks.

As we were driving down the gravel road, I found a spot that I found aesthetically pleasing and decided to pull over.  I looked behind me and there were one or two cars coming that had followed us in, but they weren’t pulled over–I wasn’t in their way.  Ahead of me, a few people had pulled over to shoot photos a bit further down.

This, of course, is no problem.  They paid to be in the park as well, and as a landscape photographer I realize that patience is a huge virtue and I could wait until they were done shooting their photos.

The image I had in mind was a panel-type panorama in infrared.  I wanted a certain depth of field yet a fairly wide-angled shot.  Shooting at 105mm at f/4 would work pretty well, but it would take quite a few images to accomplish (it ended up taking right around 50).

I got out of the car and glanced behind me and saw a truck pull into the park and drive right by the visitor center (where you’re required to stop and pay) and just stop at the base of the road.  I waited a moment and realized that they were sitting there.  I assumed they were going to get out and pay or maybe they were waiting for me.  So I walk out into the middle of the road and start shooting.  One or two cars come by in both directions throughout the shooting, but I just waved them by and kept shooting.  They’re not travelling too quickly and I really wasn’t in the way.

Finally, the truck at the entrance pulls forward (I’m about a quarter mile down the road from the entrance) and rolls down his window as I’m shooting.  He asks, and I quote, “Excuse me.  I’m an amateur photographer and I just have a question:  how am I supposed to get a photo of the road if you’re pulled off on the side and in the shot?”

My response:  “There were people in my way when I pulled off too.  I waited.  We can all share the park and I won’t be long.”

He proceeded to pull in front of me and pulled over about 150 yards down the way–right in my shot.

The point of this post, I suppose, is to state what I’ve already stated:  photography requires patience.  You can’t just walk up to a place (or drive up), point your camera at something, and move on.  It just doesn’t work that way.  As I said in a previous post, it takes perseverance and you often have to return to a spot dozens of times before you get a satisfactory shot.  But, more importantly, while you’re in the spot, you have to wait on the right conditions.  Clouds change.  Light changes.  People may walk into your shot (often right as the light hits exactly the right moment).  But you wait… and you deal with it.

Lastly, you don’t intentionally walk into someone else’s shot.  You don’t purposely get in the way.  It’s one thing for people to randomly and accidentally walk through your frame, but it’s another for the guy to do it just to be a prick.

It’s completely clear to me that he is an amateur photographer because no professional would act so completely unprofessionally.

For what it’s worth, I’m not thrilled with my shot.  I may return back to that location a few times, but it’s rather expensive to get in and I’m not sure the payoff would be worth it.  It’s a neat place to visit, but I wasn’t feeling it photographically.  I had a lot more fun exploring the rest of the park and seeing the historical aspects.

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