Thank goodness God doesn’t have a marketing department

Finally, the sun has come back out here in the Valley of the Sun, and I got to spend some quality time playing with my Nikon this morning.  I packed up my gear around 9:30 or so, making sure that I had all the important stuff like my user’s manual in my bag, and headed over to Westgate.  I’d heard that they have a farmers’ market on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month, and I thought that I might be able to get some interesting shots of the vendors’ wares, as well as the fountains at Westgate.

Since I got there fairly early, there were not that many people around, so I was able to take my time and set up my shots at my leisure.  I started out at the main fountains just in front of arena, taking some hand-held shots just to see what the exposures looked like, and then setting up some bracketed exposures for HDR processing later.

It was such a beautiful day!  I played around with different exposures, and pulled out my old polarizing filter that I hadn’t used in years.  It turned the sky such a deep blue, and allowed me to see right through the water in the pools to the gravel at the bottom.  The fountains are computerized to sync up with the music that’s playing, so when I shot the bracketed series, it was impossible to get exactly the same shot on each frame since the water spouts were constantly moving up and down.  But when combined into an HDR image, it seemed to work.  At one point, there was a beautiful rainbow that showed up when the fountains created a mist, and I was able to capture it quite well, I think:

I continued taking pictures around the perimeter of the fountains.  The mid-morning light made some interesting light-and-shadow patterns on the patios of the restaurants on the plaza, especially when combined with the colors of the walls and awnings of the patio bar.  These exposures were such fun to play with in Photomatix–I came up with some shots that are on the abstract side, but the colors make me happy!!

And then, my fun got ruined.  I was approached by a security guard who said, “Can I help you?”

I answered, “No, I don’t think so.”

He said, ” I hate to tell you this, but we can’t allow you to take photographs here on the property.  This is private property, and they have very strict rules about people taking photos.”

I kind of saw this coming, since I was using a tripod, and it certainly wasn’t the security guard’s fault–he was just doing his job.  We had a very cordial conversation, and I explained that I was not a professional photographer, that I wasn’t taking pictures for any type of commercial work, and that I had just purchased the camera right before Christmas and was still trying to learn to use it.

He was very understanding, and provided me with the name and phone number of the person who is in control of the marketing at Westgate.  He told me that I should give her a call to see if she would make an exception to allow me to continue taking photos. So I called her up and left her a voice message, explaining what I was doing.  In about five minutes she called back while I was still talking to the security guard.  We had a short conversation, and she said that it would be okay as long as I didn’t use the photos for commercial purposes.  At this, I handed the phone to the security guard, and she told him the same thing.  So I was free to go about my business.

Except that by that time, the fun was gone.  I knew that if I walked to the other end of the plaza to where the farmers market was being held, that some other security guard would give me the same hassle, and I’d have to repeat the process.  It just wasn’t worth it.  The first security guard told me that I could take pictures of arena (all I had to do was turn around and it was right there), or that I could go out to the pathetic little lake at the north end of the property and shoot pictures.  I did take a few shots at the “lake”, but they weren’t that great…not a particularly scenic view.

Once again, it comes down to the monetary value of an image.  Westgate is a multi-million dollar development that has been stalled due to the downturn in the economy.  You would think that they would welcome people taking photographs and sharing them with as many people as possible in order to drum up some business for the struggling businesses in the area.  The place has real potential, but this kind of micro-management of the “image” is counter-productive, in my opinion.  The place is supposed to be a tourist destination, and tourists take pictures.  And some tourists have good DSLR cameras and like to use tripods to get sharp pictures for their own enjoyment or to share with their friends and families.  Westgate marketers should be taking advantage of all the free publicity, not trying to stifle it!!

What if someday there’s a marketing department for the Grand Canyon?  What if someone decides we need to protect the “image” of the Rocky Mountains or Yellowstone National Park?  What if someone decides that Mount Rushmore can only be photographed with our cellphones and disposable cameras without a permit?  What if God hired a marketing department so that people couldn’t profit from taking photos of the sunrise or the sunset?

I have a lot of friends in marketing….but you guys need to lighten up!!

Artists Being Paranoid

Andy and I decided to visit the Art & Wine Fest in Cave Creek today to enjoy the mild winter weather before the rains set in this week.  I took my camera with me, hoping to get some shots of the landscape on Cave Creek Road, and maybe some shots of the festival atmosphere.  I know better than to just start shooting photographs of the artists’ work, since many of them are protective of their creative ideas (as they have every right to be).

After paying our $3 entry fee, we began strolling through the festival, enjoying the beautiful designs and unique media applications that the various artists were presenting in their booths.  I left the camera in the case as we walked along because I was more interested at the time in actually examining the artists’ wares than in photographing them.

After we stopped for lunch, I decided to just take a few shots of the festival grounds.  After last night’s mad crunch at the Glendale Glitters festival, it was nice to be able to maneuver through the streets and approach each of the booths without being jostled and hemmed in.  There were just so many things to look at.  Then we came upon an artist who had a display of some wall hangings as well as some sculptures that were done in a beautiful Southwest style.  I thought the colors and design were so appealing.  She was sitting outside her booth working on one of her sculptures, adding beading to some fringe work on the front of the figure.  I approached her and asked if she minded if I took some photographs, and she graciously consented.

I took about eight or nine photos of her work, strictly for my own enjoyment, and thanked her for allowing me to do so.  We then started walking toward the next booth, when behind me I heard a man’s voice saying “Excuse me, excuse me, ma’am!” in a decidedly British accent. We turned to see a man in a Crocodile Dundee hat with a half-eaten sandwich in his hand approaching us.  In his Brit accent, he said, “Would you please remove the photos of me from your camera?”  I told him I didn’t have any photos of him in my camera, and that I would be happy to show him the photos that I had taken.  Andy quickly jumped to my defense and told him that we had only taken photos of the artists’ work where we had specifically asked for and had been granted permission.  He quickly apologized and said that some woman had told him we were taking photos of his work. You can count on there being at least one busy-body when a lot of artistic types get together.

So even though I had done nothing wrong, the encounter kind of ruined the atmosphere for me.  I didn’t ask any other artists for permission to photograph, even though there were some beautiful pieces of sculpture and unique art pieces that I would have loved to have recorded. I know that artists of all crafts today are so protective of their rights, from recording artists trying to stop free downloading of music to software programmers trying to stop the sale of pirated software.  I get it. But artists need to understand that when they ruin the experience for their consumers by being so anal about their rights, they lose customers and fans, and that type of attitude will hurt them in the long run.

So, instead of spending more time around the artist’s booths, we wandered over to where the fountains and permanent art sculptures were installed, and I shot a few photos there.  I didn’t use the tripod, just took some hand-held shots with both the normal and the telephoto lenses. I was trying to play with the settings to get different effects of the water flowing over the rocks in the little waterfall at the base of the fountain.  The sky was partly-to-mostly cloudy, but there was still enough sun to cast some harsh shadows.  Some of the shots came out fairly decent given the subject matter I was shooting. The one below was one of my favorites, especially after I used Paint Shop Pro to add some contrast and saturation to the photo.

The forecast for this week calls for rain…all week.  Imagine that!! So I probably won’t have much of a chance to use the camera in the dark, wet, cold evenings. Instead, I’ll probably spend some time getting familiar with Paint Shop Pro’s editing functionality, as well as reading some of the books and magazines that I’ve collected in the past week to learn more about my hobby. So far it’s fun, challenging, and expensive (can’t forget that one!).