MISS MOOX + wonderful

So, I got into a bit of trouble today with Homeland Security

I've heard about photographers getting into trouble for photographing buildings and other public spaces under the Homeland Security Act. Some have debated the actual legality of this. I always wondered if it would ever happen to me. Well, today, it did.

About two or three miles down the road from where I live is a spectacular power station. Apocalyptic buildings, a railroad track running into it, steel structures, towers, multiple lines—the works. I'd often thought while running past it what a wonderful photo opportunity it would make, particularly at sunset as it's silhouetted by the gorgeous colours of the sky.

Today, boredom (due to lack of a job, again), looking through some of my old film scans, and a brilliant sunlight combined to hatch a plan. I'd buy some colour film and take my lovely old Canon AE-1 out for a long-overdue expedition to the power station and shoot in the hour or so before sunset. I was a little wary of shooting in the area, realizing that I might get into trouble, but as there were no signs up forbidding photographs, I figured that I could always plead ignorance.

So the plan was executed; I bought the film, headed out, and got several shots which hopefully will be as fantastic as the viewfinder promised. I worked my way down the road, shooting various vantage points as I went, all the time half-expecting some public service employee to zoom out in one of their official trucks, bark at me, and confiscate my camera.

Sure enough, I'd gotten to the point at which I couldn't go any further without trespassing, when a grumpy gray-haired woman guarding the gate shouted, "You're not allowed to take photographs." Figuring my time was up, I shot one more and started walking back to my car. I'd gotten all the shots I wanted anyway.

As I walked back down the road, a car approached, slowed, and pulled over to the side of the road. A big, pleasant-looking man in a green uniform got out.



"I'm sorry, but you're not allowed to take photographs of the station. Homeland Security and the Coast Guard regulations. You can shoot down the road and that way, but I'm going to have to ask you not to take any photographs past this point." He was kind and almost apologetic, touching my arm placatingly at one point as he spoke.

"I'm sorry, I didn't know, I won't do it again," I said sincerely. It wasn't really a lie; I'd already gotten the photographs I wanted and had no need to go back.

"I'm going to have to get your name," he continued, pulling a piece of paper and a pen out of his pocket.

"What are you going to use it for?" I asked warily.

"I have to write a report," he replied. "Don't worry, we're not going to use it for anything but that. I have to show it to PSNH, and they're the only ones who are going to see it."

I've never been tempted so strongly to tell a lie in a long time. But I told him the truth, and watched as he scrawled it in faint pen lines on the graph-lined paper.

"OK, you're all set, just don't take any photos here anymore," he said as he went to leave.

I babbled apologetically, "It's just an art thing, I didn't mean any harm by it, I promise I won't do it again." All of which is the truth.

"It's OK, don't worry, just don't do it again."

He left and drove off, but not without driving by my car, turning around, and driving past it again. Getting the license plate number, maybe? Oh, well, I won't be back there again taking photos. I just have to hope the ones I got today will be good enough that I'm not tempted.

But I'm left wondering about the actual legality of forbidding people to take photographs of public places, particularly when no warning signs to the effect are posted. Maybe I'm going to have to look that up...

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