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Business / Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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Photography Disrespectful?
Old 02-22-2014   #1
VTHokiEE
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Photography Disrespectful?

I was in San Antonio, Texas this past week on business and decided to take a walk over to the Alamo. As I walked inside, I noticed the "no photography" sign plastered around, but apparently my colleague did not. He went to take a photo and the workers told him not to take pictures. He asked why and at least one of the employees said it was disrespectful. I don't fully understand this logic, how taking a picture would be disrespectful (in this particular instance). Any thoughts?
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Old 02-22-2014   #2
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Plain simple. You walked in where "no pictures" is posted. You ignored the rule.
You are disrespectful to the rules.
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Old 02-22-2014   #3
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"Respecting the rules" and "being disrespectful" are often VERY different things.

I often ask, "Why is photography forbidden?"

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Old 02-22-2014   #4
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I don't quite understand how a national landmark can have a "no photography" rule, unless it's to protect items from the cumulative damage of electronic flash.

I am not a fan of the "no photography" rule. Corporations do this all of the time with their buildings.

I just go across the street and photograph it anyway.
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Old 02-22-2014   #5
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Yes, I'm asking, if no obvious reason.

Went to see kings' palace somewhere not so far from Surrey, UK. Few years ago.
No problem, to take pictures. Allowed, but only one room - no pictures.

I asked why. The answer - "light from the camera might destroy old paintings".
I didn't ignore this stupidity to not become disrespectful.
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Old 02-22-2014   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
. . . I asked why. The answer - "light from the camera might destroy old paintings".
I didn't ignore this stupidity to not become disrespectful.
Respecting whom or what?

La lucha continua no terminara facilmente.

For those whose Spanish is as bad as mine, "The struggle goes on and will not end easily", or perhaps, less literally, "We will go on fighting and won't give up."

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Old 02-22-2014   #7
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Ko.fe
That was probably a National Trust place, they are staffed by volunteers and have a no photography policy in some houses, sometimes just a few rooms in a house. You might find the houses are partly occupied and some areas also verboten.

So the old lady who said 'the light will destroy the painting' has probably been told the flash is bad, distracting and to be discouraged.
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Old 02-22-2014   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeissFan View Post
I don't quite understand how a national landmark can have a "no photography" rule, unless it's to protect items from the cumulative damage of electronic flash.

I am not a fan of the "no photography" rule. Corporations do this all of the time with their buildings.

I just go across the street and photograph it anyway.
The Alamo also have a no hats rule. I think it is part of an idea that the place needs to be given reverence. Of course there are millions of other places where thousands more died serving their country or defending their way of life. You can take photos at the USS Arizona memorial for instance, and I don't see anything inherently disrespectful about wanting to document one's visit to a place of historical importance to their country. In my opinion the no-photo rule at the Alamo is a bit silly.
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Old 02-22-2014   #9
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I think the answer is pretty simple in this case. Have you seen the prices on their souvenir photos in the gift shop? Someone is being allowed to be "disrespectful" as long as the money goes where some people feel it should.
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Old 02-22-2014   #10
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Sometimes, what is OK in one culture is forbidden in another and it could have been some belief they had there. For example, once some people believed, that if you make a photo of them, you will take away their soul. I believe, that we have no souls. Who is right? Generally though, ban on photography is suspicious and retrograde.
Photography records reality much better than human eyes.
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Old 02-22-2014   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
Plain simple. You walked in where "no pictures" is posted. You ignored the rule.
You are disrespectful to the rules.
So am I understanding you correctly, in that it has nothing to do with reverence and everything to do with silly rules? (BTW, I feel the need to say I, and my coworker, did respect their rules, if someone doesn't want a picture taken I don't take it.) I thought it had more to do with reverence for the dead, but there are many other places it America that many more people died that allow photography.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mfogiel View Post
Sometimes, what is OK in one culture is forbidden in another and it could have been some belief they had there. For example, once some people believed, that if you make a photo of them, you will take away their soul. I believe, that we have no souls. Who is right? Generally though, ban on photography is suspicious and retrograde.
Photography records reality much better than human eyes.
I understand that philosophy, but didn't think that applied to Texas (but one never knows...).

Quote:
Originally Posted by tunalegs View Post
The Alamo also have a no hats rule. I think it is part of an idea that the place needs to be given reverence. Of course there are millions of other places where thousands more died serving their country or defending their way of life. You can take photos at the USS Arizona memorial for instance, and I don't see anything inherently disrespectful about wanting to document one's visit to a place of historical importance to their country. In my opinion the no-photo rule at the Alamo is a bit silly.
This was more along my line of thinking.
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Old 02-22-2014   #12
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Having travelled extensively around Britain visiting country houses and National Trust properties, some allow non-flash photography inside, some don’t allow photography inside at all.

I’ve come to the conclusion the reason is usually:

1 To keep copyright and maximise the owner’s own photo sales
2 To avoid fading damage to paintings, furnishings or tapestries etc from flash
3 To avoid the distraction of flashes firing
4 Security
5 Because they can

When I’ve asked, many have been perfectly okay with me taking photos inside as long as I don’t use flash or a tripod. The logic being is that ‘professionals’ use tripods, and professionals have their photos published for a payment.

The only time I’ve been asked to stop taking photos was when visiting Sandringham, being told, “I am sorry, photography is not allowed, sir.”

I was using a small pair of binoculars to view the ceiling.
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Old 02-22-2014   #13
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In the modern era you could just hold your cell phone up to your mouth and whisper hoarsely "I can't talk, I'm in the Alamo/Sandringham/wherever" while pressing the shutter. You might want to have the camera noises turned off though.

If prints are being sold then photography itself is not the issue. But with the modern mania for "selfies" and the delays that occur with trying to get a group into a photo, I can understand that a ban on photography might really be to encourage people to think more of the place they are in and less of themselves i.e. to "show respect."
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Old 02-22-2014   #14
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Old 02-22-2014   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mfogiel View Post
...Photography records reality much better than human eyes.
One good reason why photography should be sometimes forbidden.
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Old 02-22-2014   #16
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I did not read the previous replies. I don't want to get into another internet fight.

IMO, the sign says "No photography". Do us all a favor and don't take pictures. Common courtesy. Nothing to do with your "freedom". Put the camera away, buy some postcards in the gift shop.
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Old 02-22-2014   #17
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Originally Posted by daveleo View Post
I did not read the previous replies. I don't want to get into another internet fight.

IMO, the sign says "No photography". Do us all a favor and don't take pictures. Common courtesy. Nothing to do with your "freedom". Put the camera away, buy some postcards in the gift shop.
Or common servility and unwillingness to ask why?

Do us all a favour and read others' viewpoints before caving in.

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Old 02-22-2014   #18
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In general photography need not be disrespectful no matter where the image is made - it comes down to the attitude of the photographer, mostly. If the photographer is respectful then the photo is likely to be. But I believe that I, myself should respect other people's wishes in this regard - and that included obeying signs saying "no photography" no matter how much I may happen to disagree.

In places like the Alamo it may be because "rubber neck" tourists get out of hand in some of their behaviours and the managers of the facility wish to keep a more restrained and contemplative setting in a place so important to US history and where so many died, without people climbing over each other to get a shot. A lot of people know no boundaries and you have to be prepared to set those boundaries for them. Even when this also limits other people who might do nothing more than quietly and respectfully make an image.

Clearly this problem of limits does not apply only to tourists - Bruce Gilden is an example of someone who's approach I dislike greatly - both in terms of how his images are made and generally, the result. Shoving a camera and flash in someones face is not conducive to showing respect and neither is it to getting good shots. (IMHO) It just p#sses people off for no good reason and gives the rest of us a bad name, although it is only guilt by association.

Or in the case of the Alamo it may be nothing more than a commercial thing dressed up as something altogether more noble. If they have a gift shop and prefer tourists to buy images and post cards from there for example. (St Pauls Cathedral in London is sometimes criticized for this as it is renowned for not allowing images to be made - I cant recall if this is an absolute prohibition or if they allow it when a fee is paid. Certainly the latter applies to commercial images which is demonstrably reasonable. I believe though that they justify the restriction on the grounds that it is still a place of worship not just a tourist attraction and they justify the fee for commercial images on the grounds that they have to operate the place and maintain it. Neither seems unreasonable to me in the circumstances). I sometimes wonder about this when I go to places like Hong Kong where visiting temples to take photos is a common tourist thing.

My local city art gallery the National Museum of South Australia does not allow people to take photos inside the facility - even though very nearly every other major public art gallery in Australia that I have visited does allow it provided no flash is used (again a totally reasonable restriction). I think this is a dumb rule (it does not seem to be a commercial thing as they don't have a large gift shop) but never the less I willingly obey it because as I said I believe photographers should respect such boundaries because not to do so only invites even more restrictive rules.

BTW the only exception to the above general rule about major public galleries allowing photos that I can think of in Australia is the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra which is somewhat ironic in that the majority of its exhibits are exactly - photos.

As an aside other businesses sometimes have such rules too. A couple of years back I went to a large new coffee shop/cafe and while waiting for a friend, idly took a photo of a chandelier (the style of the place was generally what I would describe as "Parisian bordello" ). A very officious lady manager come over and gave me a dressing down in front of other patrons for doing so and stood over me demanding I delete the image. A bit of over kill considering that no perosn was in the image. I don't think there was a sign - or if it was it was tucked away in an inconspicuous place and I thought about making a fuss but instead just smiled and complied (the image really was of no importance so why ruin my day more than it had been by fighting). Instead I never went back. Presumably others did not either (although I imagine not for this reason alone) as a few months after opening it went broke.
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Old 02-23-2014   #19
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From the Alamo web site:

Why Are No Photographs Allowed Inside The Alamo?
The Alamo, like many other museums, asks patrons to not photograph exhibits for several reasons. Repeated exposures to camera flashes fade certain types of artifacts. Additionally, the Alamo church has been designated a shrine by the State of Texas and as such is a place of reverence and reflection.
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Old 02-23-2014   #20
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Originally Posted by ironhorse View Post
From the Alamo web site:

Why Are No Photographs Allowed Inside The Alamo?
The Alamo, like many other museums, asks patrons to not photograph exhibits for several reasons. Repeated exposures to camera flashes fade certain types of artifacts. Additionally, the Alamo church has been designated a shrine by the State of Texas and as such is a place of reverence and reflection.
People often look puzzled when I point out that my camera doesn't even HAVE a flash, which makes that "reason" a non-starter.

Also, the little research I've ever seen about camera flashes fading things suggests that those who hold this view are succumbing to "truthiness": that in reality, the total extra light is an infinitesimal fraction of the ambient, non-flash light, and can safely be neglected. I am quite prepared to believe that flash fades things, but only because it seems intuitively likely, not because I've ever seen any evidence whatsoever.

Has anyone any references to good research? A quick Google reveals http://www.imaging-resource.com/news...ence-of-a-myth and http://www.reddit.com/r/askscience/c...h_photography/

The irritation value of flash, and people stopping the movement of others, are more convincing arguments. But who wants to visit overcrowded venues anyway?

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R.
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Old 02-23-2014   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pioneer View Post
I think the answer is pretty simple in this case. Have you seen the prices on their souvenir photos in the gift shop? Someone is being allowed to be "disrespectful" as long as the money goes where some people feel it should.
Most of the time this (money) is the only reason
and it has nothing to do with any moral or philosphical reasoning of respect that might someone make to take no picture because he senses the situation and doesn't take a picture although there is no sign "No Photography".
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Old 02-23-2014   #22
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Hard looks also damage art. Have seen antique sculptures without hands?
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Old 02-23-2014   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tunalegs View Post
The Alamo also have a no hats rule. I think it is part of an idea that the place needs to be given reverence. Of course there are millions of other places where thousands more died serving their country or defending their way of life. You can take photos at the USS Arizona memorial for instance, and I don't see anything inherently disrespectful about wanting to document one's visit to a place of historical importance to their country. In my opinion the no-photo rule at the Alamo is a bit silly.
Of COURSE it's silly...it's TEXAS !!!
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Old 02-23-2014   #24
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Presumably not many are lured by the attraction of the venue being overcrowded, but their desire to see or experience the thing is sufficient lure for them to put up with that anyway. In great numbers.
Still strikes me as a bit pointless. Yes, I've tried many when I was younger -- Louvre, Alhambra, Rijksmuseum, etc. -- but increasingly I'd rather look for something that isn't on the "bucket lists" of the terminally unimaginative.

As for "experience", well, what "experience" do you get, being rushed through an Attraction, with a capital A? Where's the time to think? For example, I couldn't be arsed to queue for, and rush through, the Acropolis of Athens. The theatre at Megalopolis was another matter: we saw five other people there in maybe an hour.

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Old 02-23-2014   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pioneer View Post
I think the answer is pretty simple in this case. Have you seen the prices on their souvenir photos in the gift shop? Someone is being allowed to be "disrespectful" as long as the money goes where some people feel it should.
Bingo! We have a winner.
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Old 02-23-2014   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
People often look puzzled when I point out that my camera doesn't even HAVE a flash, which makes that "reason" a non-starter.

Also, the little research I've ever seen about camera flashes fading things suggests that those who hold this view are succumbing to "truthiness": that in reality, the total extra light is an infinitesimal fraction of the ambient, non-flash light, and can safely be neglected. I am quite prepared to believe that flash fades things, but only because it seems intuitively likely, not because I've ever seen any evidence whatsoever.

Has anyone any references to good research? A quick Google reveals http://www.imaging-resource.com/news...ence-of-a-myth and http://www.reddit.com/r/askscience/c...h_photography/

The irritation value of flash, and people stopping the movement of others, are more convincing arguments. But who wants to visit overcrowded venues anyway?

Cheers,

R.
That sounds pretty much like the "turn off all your electronics when the plane is taking off or landing" rule. I understand no cell phone (even though I don't think it really matters), but no iPod or Walkman? That's just paranoid.
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Old 02-23-2014   #27
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A lot of museums ban photography. I was in the Hong Kong art museum (great place) once and I took a photo (no flash) and it triggered like a major security alert with dudes in suits and walkie-talkies scurrying towards me as if I were Robert Wagner stealing the art or something. I noticed later, as I've noticed in other museums, this museum does a thriving business selling coffee table books with photos of all the currently exhibited items. I think that may be part of it with many such institutions, i.e. they need funds from selling books, post cards, videos, posters and such in the museum book stores and they do not want competition. I'm sure they need the money too, so it's understandable.

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Old 02-23-2014   #28
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Quote:
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A lot of museums ban photography. I was in the Hong Kong art museum (great place) once and I took a photo (no flash) and it triggered like a major security alert with dudes in suits and walkie-talkies scurrying towards me as if I were Robert Wagner stealing the art or something. I noticed later, as I've noticed in other museums, this museum does a thriving business selling coffee table books with photos of all the currently exhibited items. I think that may be part of it with many such institutions, i.e. they need funds from selling books, post cards, videos, posters and such in the museum book stores and they do not want competition. I'm sure they need the money too, so it's understandable.

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I would love to buy those books if they weren't so outrageously priced.
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Old 02-23-2014   #29
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If one cannot photograph, how is one to Remember the Alamo?
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Old 02-23-2014   #30
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If one cannot photograph, how is one to Remember the Alamo?
Buy a postcard from the gift shop...
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Old 02-23-2014   #31
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Ko.fe
That was probably a National Trust place, they are staffed by volunteers and have a no photography policy in some houses, sometimes just a few rooms in a house. You might find the houses are partly occupied and some areas also verboten.

So the old lady who said 'the light will destroy the painting' has probably been told the flash is bad, distracting and to be discouraged.
That's why you use a tripod instead - unless that is an abomination, too.

The real abomination is the increasing control-freakism that photographers are subjected to these days.
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Old 02-23-2014   #32
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Having been to the Alamo last summer, with all the people trampling over each other in the darkened building, you'd have a heck of a time getting any decent photos anyway. I think I spent all of 2-3 minutes in the main building. Walked almost straight through, looked at a couple of displays, and decided that it all looked the same inside anyway. I found the rest of the grounds more interesting.
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Old 02-23-2014   #33
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Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
People often look puzzled when I point out that my camera doesn't even HAVE a flash, which makes that "reason" a non-starter.

Also, the little research I've ever seen about camera flashes fading things suggests that those who hold this view are succumbing to "truthiness": that in reality, the total extra light is an infinitesimal fraction of the ambient, non-flash light, and can safely be neglected. I am quite prepared to believe that flash fades things, but only because it seems intuitively likely, not because I've ever seen any evidence whatsoever.

Has anyone any references to good research? A quick Google reveals http://www.imaging-resource.com/news...ence-of-a-myth and http://www.reddit.com/r/askscience/c...h_photography/

The irritation value of flash, and people stopping the movement of others, are more convincing arguments. But who wants to visit overcrowded venues anyway?

Cheers,

R.
I was waiting for someone to point this out. I have been told the same thing from people who should know the facts of this matter. Apparently the "flash will damage or fade artworks and artifacts" claim is an urban legend that predates the urban legend trend.

Here are a couple of essays on this issue:
http://www.imaging-resource.com/news...ence-of-a-myth

And the long-winded, technical treatise on the subject:
http://people.ds.cam.ac.uk/mhe1000/m...lashphoto2.htm
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Old 02-23-2014   #34
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I LOVE the Art Institute of Chicago! They welcome you AND your camera. It was quite refreshing, actually.
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Old 02-24-2014   #35
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Oh I don't think visiting famous or well-visited "attractions" makes you "terminally unimaginative" - I hope not anyway. Nor does it mean that, as a visitor to well-visited places, you can't also visit other, less popular sites or that your enjoyment of either will be diminished.

If I travel from Australia to Delhi, for instance, and really want to see the Taj Mahal, then I need to prepare myself that to do so will involve sharing the experience with a lot of others, queuing etc. Otherwise, I don't see it, even though I may see other, less popular sites where I can spend more time. It is a choice you make, and a rather indulgent one at that, whichever way you choose.

As for "experience", well I feel that there is an experience to be gained, even if you are rushed. It is, after all, how people currently view such sites and so it is the contemporary experience of the Acropolis or whatever. But it is more than that. To some extent, and as an aside this is true of photography, when we focus on something (an "attraction", a model, a scene or whatever) we all have the ability to a greater or lesser extent to screen out the noise surrounding us. If the desire to "experience" the thing is sufficient to overcome the negatives of the overcrowding situation, then we are potentially a little richer, surely.

But, point taken - there are few things better than to visit someplace that you have come a long way to see, or really want to see/experience, and to have the experience to yourself or with just a few others around.
Your points are well taken too. I suppose my real point is that it's a lot more fun to do a bit of research (cf Megalopolis), or even to wander about and see what turns up (there's LOTS of that in Malta, and a surprising amount in Spain), than to queue and have exactly the same (hurried, and for me essentially incomplete) experience as everyone else. Thus, in Venice, I hurried through St. Mark's Square; didn't bother with the church at all; and had a much better time photographing the back streets. The Taj Mahal, the Topkapi Palace and the Forbidden City may involve queuing to get in, but they're not very crowded once you're through the gate -- which given the size of the Acropolis of Athens, the size of the queues, and the rate at which people emerge, cannot be the case. It took me a couple of minutes on the worn marble steps to come to this conclusion.

In other words, the sheer waste of time (or the ratio of wasted time to quality time) is far too great with all too many of The Sights: I could spend the time better in wandering and thinking (and taking pictures). And, as I hinted with the "bucket list" comment, there's a sort of psychic radiation from those who are just ticking off The Sights, and it makes me uncomfortable: I must not be as good as you are at blocking it out.

Cheers,

R.

Last edited by Roger Hicks : 02-24-2014 at 03:51. Reason: typo
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Old 02-24-2014   #36
Roger Hicks
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I was waiting for someone to point this out. I have been told the same thing from people who should know the facts of this matter. Apparently the "flash will damage or fade artworks and artifacts" claim is an urban legend that predates the urban legend trend.

Here are a couple of essays on this issue:
http://www.imaging-resource.com/news...ence-of-a-myth

And the long-winded, technical treatise on the subject:
http://people.ds.cam.ac.uk/mhe1000/m...lashphoto2.htm
Thanks very much for the links. The Evans piece (the second one) is especially good.

Cheers

R.
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Old 06-16-2014   #37
noisycheese
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That sounds pretty much like the "turn off all your electronics when the plane is taking off or landing" rule. I understand no cell phone (even though I don't think it really matters), but no iPod or Walkman? That's just paranoid.
Air travelers should not stand for such groundless paranoia on the part of the FAA.

After all, an occasional jetliner crash with the resulting hundreds of deaths and the quarter billion dollar plus pricetag that comes with such a crash is a small price to pay so that passengers are not denied access to their Walkmans and iPods for three minutes during takeoff and landing...
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Old 06-16-2014   #38
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Air travelers should not stand for such groundless paranoia on the part of the FAA. After all, an occasional jetliner crash with the resulting hundreds of deaths and the quarter billion dollar plus pricetag that comes with such a crash is a small price to pay so that passengers are not denied access to their Walkmans and iPods for three minutes during takeoff and landing...
You'll be pleased to know the FAA now allows electronic devices to be left on in airplane mode for the entire flight, gate to gate. No more powering down of devices. I am told that, soon, we will be allowed to use our cell phones in flight, although I do not find this to be a blessing.
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Old 06-16-2014   #39
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Were you in the "Store"? It's the church and that might be the problem. I was there several years ago and shot all over the place and didn't have a problem. I was in plain view and had a big ol' DSLR (I know, I know...) and was even looked at by some of the staff and nothing was said. I don't recall seeing any signs on the grounds and didn't spend too much time in the chapel.
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Old 06-16-2014   #40
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As for "experience", well, what "experience" do you get, being rushed through an Attraction, with a capital A? Where's the time to think? For example, I couldn't be arsed to queue for, and rush through, the Acropolis of Athens. The theatre at Megalopolis was another matter: we saw five other people there in maybe an hour.

Cheers,

R.
Agreed!

I'm a fan of aircraft museums. Boeing has an excellent museum collection just up I-5, about 50 miles. They have a Concord on the outside display and viewing it means climing a set of stairs to the back door, rushing through a 20inch wide plexiglass tunnell the 100 ft. or so the front door and exiting via another set of stairs. the whole thing takes about 45 seconds!




Complete waste of time. Why even allow access to the inside of the plane at all.
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