Thursday, September 08, 2005

Minor Incident at the U.S. Federal Building

As an amateur photographer, I've become quite fascinated with the some of the more subtle features on my camera, and I enjoy experimenting with various levels of light. For example, I like to take repeat photographs of buildings and scenery at night using different exposure lengths. I've been sick the last few days and cooped up in my house, so I decided to go outside last night and take some time lapse pictures of several buildings downtwon. Unfortunately, my innocuous little hobby created a few minor problems.

The Federal Courthouse has an illuminated fountain...perfect subject matter for a time lapse photograph. I set up my tripod, set the timer and started photographing the water and the trees. After taking five or six shots, I noticed a federal officer approaching from across the plaza, speaking into a radio transmitter on his uniform. I suddenly realized the awkwardness of my situation: there I was, photographing a United States Federal Building at night, during a national security crisis... "What should I do?" I thought to myself. I contemplated just walking away, but reconsidered my options. I didn't want to look more suspicious than I already did. I decided to stay put and try to make pleasant conversation.

The officer was courteous and non-confrontational, but was obviously concerned about the photographs. "Are you photographing the scenery?" he asked.

I explained the whole thing about my interest in time lapse photography at night and offered to show him some of my pictures. He declined at first, but then thought better of it and asked to see what shots I had taken. He asked me how many megapixels my camera takes and various other features, probably to assess how much of a threat I really was.

Finally I apologized for causing him any trouble, to which he said, "It's no trouble. I just wanted to make sure you weren't trying to photograph any of the building's safety features."

"I don't even know what those safety features are," I said quite honestly.

"And I'm not going to tell you."

The incident ended simply enough, but I suppose a camera can be a powerful weapon.

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