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08-15-2018, 05:34 PM - 8 Likes   #1
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When in doubt - Ask, then Ask again......

I know a cryptic title, but today, I was presented with being persistent actually does pay off - in a good way.... or don't take No as a final answer.

Several years ago, I was down in Oak Creek Canyon and ran into a guy also doing some night shooting, who said he shot for NatGeo among some others - International Dark-Sky Association, etc. He certainly had the camera equipment for it, and was a professor up at NAU - even gave me his business card. He showed me some shots from the vista point at the top of Oak Creek Canyon (earlier in the evening - wonderful shots) - and said something about having to sneak in since it closes after dark.

In the past I had shot up there from the vista (during the day, as every tourist does), excellent location and have thought about trying to shoot the Milky Way there too (needs to be August or September for the southern exposure). So, the other day it looked like there was going to be an opening in the weather. The weather has been bad for the last couple of months (the Monsoons). I started getting everything stacked up by the front door - there just after noon, just to be ready.

Was thinking about everything, so I looked up the number for the canyon ranger station and called. The ranger lady answered and I asked about being able to walk into the vista point after hours to shoot the Milky Way using Oak Creek Canyon as a foreground. Absolutely NOT!!! It's closed for a reason - to keep you out after hours. You can be arrested! This confirming what the guy said a couple of years ago. Checking the weather radar again and you could see the clouds forming and the rain was getting ready to dump right over Sedona - so no road trip tonight.

Yesterday - big storm the night before, TV coverage of the damage. I decided to call the Coconino National Forest Office and ask, one more time - climbing up the chain. The lady who answered was a ranger too. I explained and she replied - well yes, of course you can. I explained about the call the day before - and she said, well the volunteers usually do not know about everything, but just a moment. She asked someone from their law enforcement detail. She came back and said, no problem - but he suggested calling the chief ranger in the canyon. She put me through, and it rang over to his voice mail. I left a message, with an explanation and my phone number.

Well, this morning about 10am, the chief ranger called to tell me - absolutely YES!! I could park along the road (89A) in one of the little turnouts and walk in (the county sheriff does not mind folks parking there). The parking lot gate is closed to keep the drunks and college kids out (and from tearing up the place), but by all means - I could hoof my camera gear in and set up shop and take all the pictures I want. I just didn't want to get set up in the middle of the night and get a tap on the shoulder, hauled off in cuffs or return to my vehicle and find out it had been towed.

So, in the end it all turned out. Hopefully, the weather in September is better......



08-15-2018, 06:12 PM - 3 Likes   #2
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Great story. And as law enforcement myself, most of the time, if you let us know what you’re up to, no one will mind. We may stop in to see you, but that’s just out of our own curiosity.
08-15-2018, 06:18 PM - 2 Likes   #3
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you know... pics or it didn't happen...
08-15-2018, 06:20 PM - 1 Like   #4
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Well done and great to hear common sense prevailed!

Look forward to seeing some photos :-)

08-15-2018, 10:28 PM   #5
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Awesome!
08-15-2018, 11:02 PM   #6
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It's a conundrum, isn't it? To ask or not ask, better to seek forgiveness than permission.

I think if there's a good possibility you'll be noticed or there is actually some danger involved, best to do it officially and hear what has to be said.

A corollary of that is that if you formally ask someone in their job capacity, it may be required of them policy-wise to say no, it's either forbidden or requires approval from higher up bureaucrats, whatever their personal feelings.
08-16-2018, 01:46 AM - 1 Like   #7
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People at the bottom end of any hierarchy love to say no, because it gives them a momentary feeling of power.

People in the middle of any hierarchy tend to say no because it's safer, but they'll say yes if a supervisor will accept responsibility for it.

People at the top of any hierarchy like to say yes, because it shows that they've got the power to make their own rules.

Or at least that's my personal experience of things.
08-16-2018, 04:32 AM   #8
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That's a great story, and as an avid wild camper, something that's illegal in most of Europe, I invariably find that asking results in permission, even if we're with the camper van. Just be open about your plans and explain that you'll just be camping and not doing anything stupid.

08-16-2018, 11:23 AM   #9
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Wonderful you got in and having permission frees one up from the worries of getting caught and permits us to focus on getting the photograph.

When I was in college I was very self centered and would jump many a fence to get the photo, even wearing dark clothing for those long night sessions.
I remember the last time I did it. Jumped a locked barrier, hiked a few miles in and set up the camera for a long 12 min exposure (film - under moonlit fog). While waiting for the shot to finish I started looking around and noticed a small sign nearby. Having time during the shot, decided to give it a read: "Extreme Caution - Mountain Lion Habitat. No pets allowed and keep children under close supervision at all times." Made me question why I would expect some poor ranger to start their day finding an unknown mauled and mangled body where one shouldn't be.
I've been asking permission ever since with great results. Even having been told no and then permissions granted a year later when I asked again because they remembered I'd asked the first time.

Most of the time people just want be respected or know a place will be treated with respect. Asking first shows we have the intent to respect from the beginning.
08-16-2018, 11:31 AM   #10
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Great lesson in your story! Good luck getting lots of keepers.
08-16-2018, 12:17 PM - 1 Like   #11
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An idea... maybe put a note on the car dash with a cell number and any copy of the permission you can get in writing?
08-16-2018, 02:48 PM   #12
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My experiences seeking permission for night photography have taught me to try asking for permission in advance, expect a noncommittal answer like "that sounds good but I can't give you anything in writing", and regardless of the answer by office staff expect whatever officer is on patrol that night to handle it their own way.

U.S. National Parks are fairly easy to deal with because the same team of rangers performs education and patrol duties. If I walk into any park office I can speak directly to someone who understands the park customer service and law enforcement aspects. It's different for many state and local parks, where the police force is independent from the park staff.

I've had mostly positive experiences dealing with law enforcement while doing astronomy and night photography. Notable exceptions:

Coming back excessively often, like every 30 minutes, to "make sure everything was okay". He used bright spotlights each time, spoiling visual dark adaptation and ruining long exposures. We had night access permits, big telescopes, and clearly weren't just hanging out in the parking lot. Our solution was to relocate to an unauthorized, unpatrolled parking lot.

Being told that a nap in the car was unauthorized camping. We were told to stay awake during a Milky Way timelapse, couldn't take turns napping, and should drive back to the campground regardless of how drowsy we were. The ranger commented it was his job to watch the parking lot and he wasn't responsible for road safety.

---------- Post added 08-16-18 at 06:29 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
An idea... maybe put a note on the car dash with a cell number and any copy of the permission you can get in writing?
That's a good idea. In practice, many dark places tend to have poor cell reception. Getting permission in writing is challenging because few employees want to risk being fired or sued.

I am looking into advance permission to hike a closed trail during the winter to photograph frozen waterfalls. There's no official process for amateur photography. (I understand why they close the trails, risk of casual hikers falling and freezing, and I have a safety plan and accept the risks if I make mistakes.)

The only official process for access to closed trails is for commercial photography which I am not doing. That requires fees just to get the forms, and around $1000 in fees and insurance if approved. Permit is for one specific day that cannot be rescheduled around dangerous weather. It costs less to hop a fence and pay a trespassing fine if caught.

Last edited by DeadJohn; 08-16-2018 at 03:29 PM.
08-16-2018, 05:10 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by DeadJohn Quote
...Being told that a nap in the car was unauthorized camping. We were told to stay awake during a Milky Way timelapse, couldn't take turns napping, and should drive back to the campground regardless of how drowsy we were. The ranger commented it was his job to watch the parking lot and he wasn't responsible for road safety.

---------- Post added 08-16-18 at 06:29 PM ----------



That's a good idea. In practice, many dark places tend to have poor cell reception. Getting permission in writing is challenging because few employees want to risk being fired or sued.
Perhaps then just a note with the name of the person who gave permission and their contact info?

And that guy telling you that road safety wasn't his job is just a peach of a guy...
08-16-2018, 06:57 PM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
And that guy telling you that road safety wasn't his job is just a peach of a guy...
lol, especially because it *was* his job. He was a park ranger. The parking lot where I was, the campground, and the road between were all within the same National Park. I've spoken with maybe 100 employees of the National Park Service and he's the only one I remember who wasn't 110% enthused about making my visit to a park enjoyable.
08-16-2018, 07:22 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by pepperberry farm Quote
you know... pics or it didn't happen...
The clouds and the rain storm out side, and it's just as bad up north - so, I guess it will be September on the next moon phase.

QuoteOriginally posted by clackers Quote
It's a conundrum, isn't it? To ask or not ask, better to seek forgiveness than permission.
I actually consider that approach a few time, but never had to try. The last opportunity was last September, and my wife didn't want to be waiting in the SUV.....

QuoteOriginally posted by Dartmoor Dave Quote
People at the bottom end of any hierarchy love to say no, because it gives them a momentary feeling of power.
I figured that there was a good reason, but this could be such a good location that I didn't want to let it pass by. I have a dozen other locations laid out that I also want to shoot from, each having its own particular appeal

QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
An idea... maybe put a note on the car dash with a cell number and any copy of the permission you can get in writing?
That does work. Out at the Lost Dutchman State Park where I shoot at times, the picnic area is the best location, but closes at 10pm when they lock the gate (.... well sometimes). I usually leave a note on the dashboard along with my pass - and it has worked so far. I have not been locked in yet. In the winter for whatever reason, they have the area locked, so at 3am if you are going to try to shoot, it's an additional mile hike from the parking lot outside the picnic area's gate.

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