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    Default Photographer Etiquette

    Hey guys!! I am a freelance photographer who would like to start photographing firefighters and policemen saving people's lives. I would like to know some do's and dont's when arriving on a scene. Ether a vehicle accident or a house fire. I certainly don't want to get in the way.
    Thanks,
    David

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    I would talk to the department or departments that you will be photographing. Call up the chief and tell him what you would like to do and see if you can set up a meeting where he can tell you the specifics for that dept. I sometimes take pics of calls and talked to our asst. chief and he gave me the do's and don'ts for us.
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    I have been into fire photography since I was about 15. I have shot pictures of fires and accidents/extrications/industrial rescues in Philadelphia, Pa. Camden NJ, New York City, St. Louis Mo, Washington DC and just about everywhere in between.

    1. First and foremost- When you start making a nuisance of yourself, you will develop a reputation. "Look, there's that moron (reporter, buff, photographer, etc.) who always gets in the way." Dont let this happen to you.

    2. Always keep safety in mind at all times. If you are not a firefighter, you may want to get at least a working knowledge of firefighting by tagging along with a buff who knows whats going on. Know things like avoid charged hoselines, raised ladders (falling debris, broken glass, etc) avoid collapse zones, windows where hydraulic ventilation could take place.....

    3. Know when to flash or not to flash. If a firefighter is coming out of a building and is hot, sweaty and tired, thats a bad time. If he has his back to you and is dragging a line in, or is forcing a door, etc.....You are ok. Remember, every time you use the flash, someone eyes have to adjust, and sometimes on a fireground, there aint time to do that!!!

    4. NEVER NEVER NEVER (say it with me) NEVER take pictures of victims close up- taking a shot of a firefighter bringing a victim down a ladder from a hundred feet away is OK, but a shot of someone's face who is trapped in a car from 10 feet away isnt kosher. Never take pictures of fire victims standing in their front yard crying their eyes out as their home is being overhauled before their eyes.

    5. BE NICE AND SHARE. Always make extra copies of your pictures, and take them to the companies/shifts that made the job. Sign the backs of your pictures with a felt-tip permanent marker that will NOT leach through (NO SHARPIES!!!) the photo. When you deliver the pics, knock on the firehouse door with your elbows, because your hands should be full of cakes, pies or other assorted goodies as well as pictures. Always give the guys your name and phone number in case if anyone wants to order an extra print or an enlargement. If you get any real good shots, perhaps of the crew advancing a line with fire over their heads or a group shot after the fire, spend a few bucks, get an 8x10 and a cheap frame and present it to the company officer "for the station." These actions speak volumes, and will assist you in avoiding item number 1.

    5A. Share with the Fire Marshal's Office. If the fire is ruled arson, and you have anything that may assist the FMO, contact them and offer to send a copy of everything you have of that fire. Take pictures of crowds/bystanders at all fires that attract "watchers." Offer these to the FMO- you never know when the FM may spot "a person of interest" in photos at different fires.

    Thats really all the ettiquette items I can think of right now, if I think of any more I will post.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post

    5A. Share with the Fire Marshal's Office. If the fire is ruled arson, and you have anything that may assist the FMO, contact them and offer to send a copy of everything you have of that fire. Take pictures of crowds/bystanders at all fires that attract "watchers." Offer these to the FMO- you never know when the FM may spot "a person of interest" in photos at different fires.
    NJ is the buff capital of the world. Some of the best are right here. In 25 or so years, I have never been turned down by a buff or asked to pay for photos that may have provided data for an investigation. 5A is a great suggestion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI View Post
    NJ is the buff capital of the world. Some of the best are right here. In 25 or so years, I have never been turned down by a buff or asked to pay for photos that may have provided data for an investigation. 5A is a great suggestion.
    Carl taught me well!
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    Carl taught me well!
    Nah. That must've been the cakes and pies part.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dsheli View Post
    Hey guys!! I am a freelance photographer who would like to start photographing firefighters and policemen saving people's lives. I would like to know some do's and dont's when arriving on a scene. Ether a vehicle accident or a house fire. I certainly don't want to get in the way.
    Thanks,
    David
    What a great post! I wish more of you would ask these types of questions.
    Thank You and the best of luck to you! -sno
    IAFF

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    On the note of takine pictures here is a "happy" artical of a photographer. http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...9&sectionId=46

    Hope your photos turn out well. Maybe post a photo or two every so often.

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    Quote Originally Posted by t0asty View Post
    On the note of takine pictures here is a "happy" artical of a photographer. http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...9&sectionId=46
    What are you trying to say? Are you glad the photographer mentioned in the story is going to court? While I think the lines of his affiliation with the fire department were probably too blurry... I'm more disappointed in the press-bullying tactics of the cops. Taking pictures of police officers on duty without their permission is illegal? Give me a break.

    Want to find the police, firefighters or EMS personnel who are the least capable at their jobs? They'll be the ones on scene trying to bully the press and then bragging to their friends after they get through with the real work.

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    Sorry I was not clear. I was mainly just sharing the artical because it related to the topic. sorry for trying to pass on some information and news without giving a personal opinion on it.

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    I'm more disappointed in the press-bullying tactics of the cops.
    Me too. I do not know Texas law, but on the face of it, it sounds like this cop pulled this out of his butt.

    I had a similar situation at a diner arson. A (volly) FF who was with a fire department operating at the scene brought his camera into the crime scene and began taking pictures. I never bothered guys like him because these photos were always used for training or just general interest of the FF's. I let him snap away. Finished up with the scene and made two arrests.

    Next day, I'm called into the Sgt's office. On the front page of the local paper are the photos this idiot took. What he failed to tell people was that he was also a full-time photographer for the paper and was operating in that capacity at the fire scene. Even his own Chief didn't know.

    My first reaction was to go with a Grand Jury subpoena and get his photos. The problem is, the photos that are not published are the property of the paper. They are constitutionally protected. The photos that are published are in the public domain, but we had to pay a reasonable price for reprints.

    The lesson here is not to blame the photographer. It was my fault for not properly securing my crime scene. I can absolutely tell you that a camera never came into a crime scene after that, unless it was being handled by law enforcement. There was nothing we could do with cameras outside the tape. I would submit that the Texas case has the same problem.

    If there is such a law in Texas as "taking photos of law enforcement without their permission", it is difficult to believe that it would pass constitutional muster.

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    [QUOTE=FWDbuff;789941]1. First and foremost- When you start making a nuisance of yourself, you will develop a reputation. "Look, there's that moron (reporter, buff, photographer, etc.) who always gets in the way." Dont let this happen to you.



    4. NEVER NEVER NEVER (say it with me) NEVER take pictures of victims close up- taking a shot of a firefighter bringing a victim down a ladder from a hundred feet away is OK, but a shot of someone's face who is trapped in a car from 10 feet away isnt kosher. Never take pictures of fire victims standing in their front yard crying their eyes out as their home is being overhauled before their eyes.

    QUOTE]

    I agree with you. It really ****es me off when you have an idiot with a camera shoved in your face. I usually have to explain to them to get out of there and it really is bad when you're getting someone out of the car and they're up your *** trying to take pictures. How would you like it if it was your family member involved? Just keep that in mind when you're out there clicking away.

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    I'm not exactly sure on the statute of limitations here so:"I know a fella who bodily ejected a TV reporter from the hot zone after said reporter was told 3 times to leave the zone for a safer location and to not ask what was being done to extricate the victims or why they were screaming so."
    We supported the guy but nothing to my knowledge came of it legally.The TV coverage of that call was rather scant though.
    One suggestion might be to join the department,especially if it's a volunteer organization.That way,you'll learn the where and why a particular task is done,the department gets really good pictures for training and self satisfaction(NOT that way,you pervs that are amongst us),and they'll know that you won't be taking pictures that show them in a bad light.
    That's the good thing about being on any fire department.You have a deeper knowledge of what went on at a call than any reporter ever will.
    The downside of that coin is that you cannot always discuss the call "outside of the family" nor do you often want to.
    If you don't want to take that step and join,and there's nothing wrong with that,offer your services beforehand to photograph the companies at work.The decision will be more likely in your favor if you don't ask while the officers are trying to get everybody set up to put the fire out or get the 18 wheeler off the compact and extricate the driver.
    As someone said,bribery is most effective if the evidence of such can be eaten.


    [QUOTE=dday05;790119]
    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    1. First and foremost- When you start making a nuisance of yourself, you will develop a reputation. "Look, there's that moron (reporter, buff, photographer, etc.) who always gets in the way." Dont let this happen to you.




    QUOTE]

    I agree with you. It really ****es me off when you have an idiot with a camera shoved in your face. I usually have to explain to them to get out of there and it really is bad when you're getting someone out of the car and they're up your *** trying to take pictures. How would you like it if it was your family member involved? Just keep that in mind when you're out there clicking away.

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    To add to the valid points brought up here...

    1. Stay behind the bright yellow "fireline-do not cross" tape. We have that put up for a very good reason.

    2. If you happen to be on the road with a scanner and hear a fire call, and you are in the vicinity... don't get on the a** end of a fire truck to draft it and think that you will get a Pulitzer prize for best fire photography. I actually had a "freelance photographer/buff" do that to a wires down/electrical fire. We saw him pass us, spin out on black ice, recover then jump out of the car to take a pic of the flaming, arcing and sparking transformer. What he didn't see was the 13.8Kv feed he was within three feet of. God protects idiots, that's the only reason he didn't get electrocuted via ground conductivity!

    3. Don't push the "Freedom of the press, right to know bs" in the middle of an tough incident, especially if there are fatalities involving firefighters and or/children.

    4. Always let the PIO know you are there, and offer a copy of the pics to the FD. It can be used as part of an investigation ( that's how the Boston arson ring of the early 80's was caught... the same faces kept showing up on Bill Noonan, the BFD's official photographer's pics) or as a part of training to what what went right, what went wrong, etc.
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 03-27-2007 at 02:42 PM. Reason: spelling error corrrection
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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post

    4. NEVER NEVER NEVER (say it with me) NEVER take pictures of victims close up- taking a shot of a firefighter bringing a victim down a ladder from a hundred feet away is OK, but a shot of someone's face who is trapped in a car from 10 feet away isnt kosher. Never take pictures of fire victims standing in their front yard crying their eyes out as their home is being overhauled before their eyes.

    Thats really all the ettiquette items I can think of right now, if I think of any more I will post.
    To add to that, if you do get a close up without bothering anyone, be sure to blur the victims face out. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want a picture of myself missing half my head floating around the internet....

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    Quote Originally Posted by somebody509 View Post
    To add to that, if you do get a close up without bothering anyone, be sure to blur the victims face out. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want a picture of myself missing half my head floating around the internet....

    Something tells me that if you had half your head missing, you would have a couple of other things to fill your time than whether your photo was on the Internet.

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    Thanks for all the suggestions guys! Taking a picture of the crowed is definitely a good pointer. I know that guys who start fire tend to want to stick around to see it burn. How about accidents on the freeway and vehicle parking?
    David

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    Quote Originally Posted by dsheli View Post
    Thanks for all the suggestions guys! Taking a picture of the crowed is definitely a good pointer. I know that guys who start fire tend to want to stick around to see it burn. How about accidents on the freeway and vehicle parking?
    David
    I never really was big at shooting wrecks. Dont know what to tell you other than stay out of traffic and use your common sence.

    POV parking: I was taught a tactic for parking your POV at a multiple alarm fire (which of course are usually in un-desirable neighborhoods) by an old Philly Buff: First of all, know if the fire will go to more alarms beyond what it is now. Park way clear of the scene, or you could very well get boxed in by hoselines. Find a pumper on a hydrant far away from the scene. Park close to it without interfering or blocking the road- then, (and this works especially well in cold weather) tell the D/O "Hey, do me a favor, keep an eye on my car and I'll bring you a doughnut and a coffee from the Second Alarmers (the local buff group that does R & R on the fireground....) Works every time, never came back to my vehicle being hassled in any way.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Quote Originally Posted by dsheli View Post
    How about accidents on the freeway and vehicle parking?
    Parking on the freeway is for emergency vehicles only. In that case, keep driving. Evry parked vehicle and every non-essential erson on the highway just makes the incident more hazardous. Keep driving.

    A good rule of thumb is: If you aren't supposed to park there when there isn't an emergency in progress, you definitely shouldn't park there when there is.
    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"

    The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyMarshal View Post
    Parking on the freeway is for emergency vehicles only. In that case, keep driving. Evry parked vehicle and every non-essential erson on the highway just makes the incident more hazardous. Keep driving.

    A good rule of thumb is: If you aren't supposed to park there when there isn't an emergency in progress, you definitely shouldn't park there when there is.
    Got it. I will shoot from a bridge or somewhere off the highway.
    David

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    One more thing- one single (or a few of course) bad apples will spoil the fun for everyone. This goes hand-in-hand with my previous statements regarding "dont become known as the j-off buff, photographer, etc..." This also goes with your driving (to fires) habits.

    Many, many buffs (especially members of the South Jersey Fire Photographers Assoc.) enjoy a good relationship with the City of Camden, NJ Fire AND Police Departments. Buffs are welcome at all fires, and many enjoy the PRIVILEDGE of being allowed past the yellow fireline tapes.

    October 30, 1991- Mischief Night. Camden NJ has many, many building fires (the number 103 comes to mind for some reason.) All the buffs and photographers were there in full force. Everyone cooperated with one another, many spectacular photos were taken, and shared with individual companies (both Camden City Companies and Volly Companies that came in on mutual aid) individual firefighters, Fire Marshals, County Prosecutors, State Police Crime Labs, etc etc etc. No trouble from any buffs, photographers, etc.

    October 30, 1992- Buffs traveled to Camden from as far away as Boston, Ma.....Cleveland, Oh.....Many thousands from the Pa-De-NJ-NY-Md area.......There was a ratio of 5 buffs for every 1 firefighter. It was pandemonium at the (few) building fires that occurred that weekend. There were buffs everywhere- thousands of flashbulbs going off during each and every second of the firefight. Buffs walking up to, and trying to talk to the incident commanders without a care or regard in the world. One guy walked right through a collapse zone not 5 minutes before a wall came down right where he previously walked.

    There was one group in particular- a group of young men, in a white VW Jetta, from a certain county in Maryland that we all know and love (??). These guys built a reputation early on in the night for donning their bunker gear and "helping" out. Not a problem, except that they werent asked for help and certainly were not insured for injury. So when they werent allowed to play fireman anymore, they pouted and then drove like a-holes from fire to fire, throughout the City of Camden. This started early in the night. Then they cut-off Engine Company 8 trying to beat them through an intersection. Only by the grace of god was the chauffer able to maintain control of the piece, avoid the morons, AND the civilians standing on the corner. Amazingly he also avoided the parked cars.

    Same group of young men also talked back to City and State Policemen when told to get behind the fire tape.

    Same group of young men cried to LEO's "Well what about THOSE guys" and pointed at those of us who were trusted by the FD to operate beyond the tape.....

    As a result, the rest of the night was spent behind the fire lines, listening to the City Cops, Staties, and Prosecutors all yelling "THE FIRST ONE TO STEP OFF THE CURB GETS LOCKED UP!"

    And, the following few months werent fun, either. Thanks to a bunch of punks in a white VW Jetta from a certain county in Md. near DC.

    Moral of the story: Dont **** off the local buffs/photogs and make things bad for them!!!!!!!!!
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    Buffs are welcome at all fires, and many enjoy the PRIVILEDGE of being allowed past the yellow fireline tapes.
    Just remember, once you let one photographer inside the tape you'd better be prepared to let them all in -- otherwise you're just asking to be blasted on a "freedom of the press" complaint.
    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"

    The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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    Great question with better replies. I would suggest you try and get candid shots of all of the firefighters in action. A telephoto lens is a big help here so you are not in the way. As an Engineer, a personal pet peeve of mine after a big call like a structure fire is to look in the paper the next day and see pictures of everyone spraying water or the White Hats standing around looking important (being a former Battalion Chief, I can say that!), but not one single picture of the Engineer who is running the pump. Don't forget the Engineer, please. Pump panels are very photogenic!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lifeguard911 View Post
    Great question with better replies. I would suggest you try and get candid shots of all of the firefighters in action. A telephoto lens is a big help here so you are not in the way. As an Engineer, a personal pet peeve of mine after a big call like a structure fire is to look in the paper the next day and see pictures of everyone spraying water or the White Hats standing around looking important (being a former Battalion Chief, I can say that!), but not one single picture of the Engineer who is running the pump. Don't forget the Engineer, please. Pump panels are very photogenic!
    Definitely!!! Thanks so much guys!!

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