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Tourists beware, take photos with care
Posted Oct 13. 2006

Yelena Ovcharenko
LV Life Editor

I stared through the lens of my manual Olympus camera trying to capture the perfect shot. My shutter speed was set to 1000 and my aperture was 16.

Perfect. I had the ideal frame for the shot of my little sister, Natalie. The slight wind rustled her long blond hair and her yellow skirt as she squinted to block the bright beams of the sun.

Her delicate smile stretched from one ear to another at the Pomona Metrolink station. The train from Los Angeles was running late and we had 15 minutes to spare.

But before I could capture the moment, a security guard tapped me on the shoulder.

"Miss, I'm sorry but you can't take pictures here. Please, put away your camera."

Thinking that maybe he mistook me for someone else, I attempted to reason with him.

"Sir, I'm just taking pictures of my sister. Why is this a problem?"

In his spanish accent, the guard attempted to explain that after Sept. 11 Homeland Security passed a law-forbidding picture taking in several public places, the Metrolink station being one of them.

Unfortunately, my press pass was not enough to convince him that I would never even think of blowing this place up or using my photos for terrorist activities.

I still don't understand how me taking a picture of my sister in front of the Metrolink can serve as a terrorist threat to the nation.

I was bewildered even more when I found out that the Bunker Hill Steps at the foot of the Library Tower in Downtown Los Angeles were restricted, even though they are considered public art. This 73rd story building is supposedly a target of a terrorist plot.

More and more you hear instances of people being forced to put their cameras away while touring the glamorous sites of our nation.

Jim McGee, a photographer for Vivid Light Magazine, was detained after taking several architectural shots after a parade in Philadelphia.

The State Capitol Building and the Sears Tower in Chicago are places where cameras are no longer seen.

OK, I understand that Federal Buildings might be restricted from flashing cameras, but why the majestic sites that lure thousands of tourists?

One would think that downtown L.A. would promote picture taking, since tourism brings a large amount of annual cash flow.

Why should photographers be considered violators of the federal law for taking pictures of public places in plain sight?

After Sept. 11, people like Kamran Shaikh escalated the ban on photography. The Pakistani man that was questioned and detained after videotaping a building in downtown Charlotte, N.C., in early August. He was affiliated with terrorists and planned to used the footage for terrorist activities.

I understand that the police are doing their job by keeping a close eye on all of us, but it would be nice to get a break once in a while, especially if I provide ID and my name is not found on the “potential terrorist” list.

But for now I guess I'll have to carry tons of quarters, stock up on postcards, and leave my beloved camera tucked away in my purse.

Yelena Ovcharenko, a senior journalism major, is LV Life editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at yovcharenko@ulv.edu.