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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » Amtrak revamps photography policy

   
Author Topic: Amtrak revamps photography policy
Henry Kisor
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From the news photographer's point of view:

http://nppa.org/news_and_events/news/2009/03/amtrak01.html

There still seems to be confusion and debate about the issue, as illustrated on the nyc.transit forum on Google:

http://groups.google.com/group/nyc.transit/browse_thread/thread/4ee7599f5e502fee?pli=1

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PullmanCo
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"Be careful of what you ask for... you might get it."

There've been lots of folks in the railfan photgrapher community asking for guidance since 9/11. Now they have it.

Sometimes it's best to be quiet and deal with the occasional inconvenience.

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amtraxmaniac
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Its horsesh#t. The term 'restricted area' is entirely subjective. It's a restricted area if the rent-a-cop SAYS its a restricted area. In addition (as stated), it does not apply to privately owned stations (which are MOST of the busy stations in CA) such as LAUS. Security will continue to do and say whatever they want at these facilities; including harrassing railfans. If you so much as belch they threaten you.
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SilverStar092
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It is crazy. A couple years back a rent a cop at Chicago Union got on me for trying to photograph the engine of the train I'd just arrived on. She said it was a security threat. She had no answer to my reply that anyone could photograph that train passing any point along its route from Washington to Chicago and that would be permissible. (I didn't wait around to debate as I wouldn't win and didn't want to get her hostile but this is just sheer stupidity.
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Mr. Toy
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The whole policy is pretty confusing. The restrictions on photographing in-service trains and platforms are negated in the "exceptions" if you are a ticketed passenger. What about non-ticketed passengers in platform areas that are freely accessible by the general public?

Now, as I understand photography law (I'm not a legal expert, but I've studied this topic) ANYONE can legally photograph ANYTHING or ANYONE from any place open to the public, this includes private property that the public can freely access (such as shopping malls). You can also freely photograph non-accessible private property from a public place, such as a private residence from the street. The only exceptions are military installations, and places where persons have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" (no shooting into bedroom windows you can see from a public street).

That said, I believe at least some of what Amtrak defines as "restricted areas" are violations of photographer's rights, specifically,

# Crew and Employee Work Areas
# Maintenance Facilities
# Unoccupied Trains and Engines
# Baggage/Delivery Areas
# Right of Way and Track Areas
# In service train cars

If any of these are visible from publicly accessible areas (tracks and in-service trains usually are, unoccupied trains often are) you CAN photograph them despite anything Amtrak may say.

There are some restrictions on how you can publish your photos, but that's a topic for another day.

Here are some useful references.

The Photographer's Right

Misinformation about your photography rights continue to spread

The Ten Legal Commandments of Photography.

My position is to assume that if I can see it, I can photograph it. If confronted by an ignorant security officer one should be polite, but you should also hold your ground, and NEVER allow anyone to confiscate your film or memory cards unless you are being arrested for a crime (and photography itself is not a crime).

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Henry Kisor
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Been thinking about this.

There are rights, and then there is real life. Standing up for one's rights in every instance is bound, sooner or later, to result in a rap on the noggin with a nightstick or a spell in the pokey under trumped-up charges such as "resisting arrest." Those very likely will be thrown out by the night magistrate, but the extreme inconvenience has been suffered.

There are ways, though, to game the situation.

One is to blend into the crowd:

1. Use a tiny point-and-shoot, not a big digital SLR, when in rail stations and the like. To a cop or security guard, big digital SLRs mean possible trouble. They tend to consider little point-and-shoots tourist toys. (Some P&S cameras are very capable, and many pros carry them for situations in which a big SLR would attract unwanted attention or otherwise be inconvenient.)

2. When on station platforms, carry an overnight bag.

3. Tuck an Amtrak ticket envelope into your front shirt pocket where it can be seen.

4. Try not to look like a railfan. Eschew pin-encrusted engineer's caps and vests emblazoned with the heralds of fallen flags. Some railroad people dislike railfans intensely and there is no use provoking them.

Another trick, one often used by news photographers, is to keep an old memory card taped to the camera to hand over to a demanding rent-a-thug. (If you employ this strategy, practice the switch so you have it down pat without fumbling.)

I wish this stuff wasn't necessary, but sometimes it is if you want to get a photograph.

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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by SilverStar092:
It is crazy. A couple years back a rent a cop at Chicago Union got on me for trying to photograph the engine of the train I'd just arrived on. She said it was a security threat. She had no answer to my reply that anyone could photograph that train passing any point along its route from Washington to Chicago and that would be permissible. (I didn't wait around to debate as I wouldn't win and didn't want to get her hostile but this is just sheer stupidity.

Mr. Star, FYI Chicago Union Station is patrolled by the Amtrak PD with sworn peace officers. The BNSF also has sworn officers patrolling the area used by their trains (Tracks 2-12) as well as on board the trains themselves.

As I've often noted here in the past, I gave up rail photography twenty five years ago; it's just not worth it.

I would think if one wants a photo of Aunt Agatha boarding or alighting an Amtrak train, your group on board, a photo such as this of Mr & Mrs RRRich Kimmel where the train is clearly in the background, as well as photos of passing scenery taken through a window; that is fair game. Beyond that, i.e. photos in which Amtrak equipment and facilities are the subject, it's gray, and I simply shall not be bothered with such.

But "if you must", Mr. Kisor offers worthwhile advice immediately above.

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Mr. Toy
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With all due respect to Mr. Kisor, one should not have to play slight of hand tricks with memory cards to appease rent-a-cops. Private security people have absolutely NO authority to confiscate private property. Not even police offers can confiscate private property unless you are being arrested. Police know this (generally speaking) but rent-a-cops will often try to intimidate you by threatening to call police if you don't comply. I say, call the police, because they know the law. That alone may be enough to call their bluff.

If you appease them you are only encouraging them to continue their illegal behavior. Failing to claim our rights is the surest way of losing them.

As for the Mr. Kisor's other points, a terrorist scout would do everything on that list to blend in. People who are openly taking photographs aren't likely to be terrorists, are they?

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Henry Kisor
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No argument with you, Mr. Toy. Your position is reasonable and rational.

But the world is irrational and must be dealt with on its own terms.

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travelplus
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I see people videotaping onboard Amtrak all the time without any issues. I have taken some awesome video at the LA Union Station without an issue. I even took some shots on the train.
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mr williams
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Here in the UK, we/ve had a complete about turn from the authorities in the past few years.

It's finally occurred to them that regular and genuine train/aircraft fans are the most likely people to be able to spot somebody whose behaviour is suspicious or "not fitting in" and there are notices at train stations and airports welcoming them and giving a number to call to report suspicious activity.

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amtraxmaniac
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Its a catch 22. Actual police officers know the law in terms of illegal search and seizure, however if private security (acting as an agent for privately owned facilities) determine you are trespassing, nothing else matters. Local law enforcement has no discression. The police are obligated to remove a trespasser if the owner, or an agent acting in the owner's interest (the rent-a-cop) complains. 'Oh, so you don't like our rules? Get out!' I believe Richard Nixon is tagged with the saying 'It's my ball, so we will play by my rules'.
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Mr. Toy
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You're right, on private property security can evict you, even if the property is normally open to the public. But they still can't confiscate your memory cards or require that you erase any images.
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