101 California Street No.1
I would like to draw your attention to the above image, the 101 California Street Tower located in the heart of San Francisco’s financial district. The scene was taken mid morning and appears peaceful and not overcrowded. I took this shot shortly before I was mugged by three punks who came up behind me out of nowhere knocked me to the ground and and started kicking. They then ran off laughing and flipping me off. Fortunately my gear was not stolen or damaged.
However, after returning to South Florida I developed injuries requiring treatment. I recall watching the PBS News Hour reporting on a segment of what is called New York City knockdowns by hooligans targeting persons walking the streets of New York City. Recently I have read on Facebook and the internet about photographers being mugged and having their gear stolen. Yes, I was photographing by myself and doing so for several years. This article is a reminder to all photographers that your first responsibility is to yourself i.e., be safe out there and avoid your worst nightmare of getting mugged while photographing alone.
PREPARATION IS KEY: ANTICIPATE THE DANGERS
I specialize in fine art photography, long exposure – architecture and occasionally landscapes and still life. Here is a list of criteria that I adhere to when preparing for a photography trip and hopefully being safe:
- Identify what and where I want to photograph.
- Use Google searches to identify do’s and don’ts in the city plus safe and unsafe areas.
- Research Google Earth where I want to photograph and its surrounding area.
- Perform Google searches of images for … what I want to photograph. If it doesn’t measure up it gets crossed off the list.
- On arrival, talk with locals regarding any new hotspots to photograph not mentioned on the internet or word of mouth from others.
- Follow up with locals and the police when I arrive at my destination to reinforce where to go and where not to go.
- Research the weather conditions during my stay.
- Research distances from where I’ll be shooting to where I’m staying.
- Always! Always make sure someone knows where I’ll be and what time to expect my return where I’m staying.
- Make sure someone has my phone number and will check in with me during the day or night.
- Separate your cash from your wallet for emergency use.
- Check the tides if I’m shooting around a coastline.
- If you’re shooting landscapes, what can I anticipate as far as wild life as well as people that may cause me harm.
- Locally if I’m shooting in the Everglades, Big Cypress or preserves anticipate alligators and venomous snakes.
- With respect to landscape and seascape photography throughly know the terrain and understand the risk reward of getting that award winning creation.
- Throughly identify what gear I’ll need for the shoot. I always take two camera bags. One for transporting my gear in the overhead and one smaller sling bag in my checked luggage that I use on a given day carrying only the essential lens(es) and accessaries. Travel light and be efficient for that day’s shoot.
- Listen to your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, DON’T DO IT. Don’t think for once it can’t happen to you because it can, day or night and in a safe area as I found out.
- Your first responsibility is to yourself, getting the shot is secondary.
101 California Street Tower
ADVANTAGES OF SHOOTING ALONE WITH A GROUP OR WITH A FRIEND
This is about all of us and the answer is personal and subjective. We are all aware of the dangers of photographing alone in big iconic cities or on rugged terrain in nature. Additionally, in the present world there is always the threat of fanatical terriosm. So here is a quick look at the advantages of shooting alone with a friend or with a group. Whether one is better than the other rests with you the photographer.
- I can make a schedule to accomplish my goals that can cost considerable dollars.
- Connected to my preparation above I can decide where and when I want to shoot.
- My time limit at a specific site is up to me depending on my goals. Additionally, spontaneity to side track from my schedule may support a series I’m working on without feeling guilty to accommodate the group.
- When alone I connect with the emotion of the scene without distraction and infuse my emotional response into the creation. I can take all the time in the world and work out my mistakes as I’m photographing. Better yet, I can attempt different techniques or break the traditional rules of long exposures, landscaping and shooting still life. I can wait for the shadows and light to be just right to get that heightened feeling on to the memory card for editing instead of moving on with the group and missing my opportunity.
- Going out with expensive camera gear at anytime of day or night can be hazardous to your health. The best argument for shooting with a group or a friend is safety. Covering for each others back is a great sense of relief and can be the difference between getting the shot or not even attempting to get it due to anxiety and fear for oneself.
- Photographing with someone else is a great way of improving your photography. There’s always something to be learned by getting advice to improve upon your creativity.
I always identified getting mugged with being out at night or being in dark alleys and parking lots. I now understand that no place is safe, even in the prestigious financial districts in broad daylight or rocky terrain getting that shot that may also cause bodily injuries or worse. Photographers are great targets with expensive gear so do your home work and prepare your own check list before you decide to venture out on your own. My hope is to bring attention to safety first before you share your creations with the world. Not Being Safe Is A Photographers Worst Nightmare.