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Earth The Military Politics

Ban On Photographing Near Gulf Oil Booms 435

boombaard writes "The day before yesterday CNN's Anderson Cooper reported that, from now on, there is a new rule in effect, which de facto bars photographers from coming within 65 feet of any deployed boom or response vessel around Deepwater Horizon (official announcement). The rule, announced by the US Coast Guard, forbids 'photographers and reporters and anyone else from coming within 65 feet of any response vessel or booms out on the water or on beaches. In order to get closer, you have to get direct permission from the Coast Guard captain of the Port of New Orleans,' while 'violators could face a fine of $40,000 and Class D felony charges. What's even more extraordinary is that the Coast Guard tried to make the exclusion zone 300 feet, before scaling it back to 65 feet.'" Read below for the Coast Guard's statement on the new rule.
"The Coast Guard Captain of the Port of New Orleans has delegated authority to the Coast Guard Incident Commander in Houma to allow access to the safety zones placed around all Deepwater Horizon booming operations in Southeast Louisiana. The Coast Guard Incident Commander will ensure the safety of the members and equipment of the response before access is granted. The safety zone has been put in place to prevent vandalism to boom and to protect the members and equipment of the response effort by limiting access to, and through, deployed protective boom."
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Ban On Photographing Near Gulf Oil Booms

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  • by nacturation ( 646836 ) * <nacturation @ g m ail.com> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:03AM (#32806260) Journal

    From the submitter's own link of the official announcement:

    NEW ORLEANS - The Captains of the Port for Morgan City, La., New Orleans, La., and Mobile, Ala. , under the authority of the Ports and Waterways Safety Act, has established a 20- meter safety zone surrounding all Deepwater Horizon booming operations and oil response efforts taking place in Southeast Louisiana.

    Vessels must not come within 20 meters of booming operations, boom, or oil spill response operations under penalty of law.

    The safety zone has been put in place to protect members of the response effort, the installation and maintenance of oil containment boom, the operation of response equipment and protection of the environment by limiting access to and through deployed protective boom.

    In areas where vessels operators cannot avoid the 20-meter rule, they are required to be cautious of boom and boom operations by transiting at a safe speed and distance.

    Violation of a safety zone can result in up to a $40,000 civil penalty. Willful violations may result in a class D felony.

    Permission to enter any safety zone must be granted by the Coast Guard Captain of the Port of New Orleans by calling 504-846-5923.

    For information about the response effort, visit www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com.

    There's no mention of photography, camera, or anything of that nature. If you get your vessel within 20m of a protective boom, you're a total moron regardless of whether or not you happen to have a camera.

  • Re:huh? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Chih ( 1284150 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:03AM (#32806268)
    That's what I was thinking, 65 feet away is close enough to be in the mess but far enough away to be out of the cleanup zone. Photographers will still get their pics
  • by jaroslav ( 467876 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:04AM (#32806274)
    The reports of journalists being more unofficially banned from beaches where BP contractors are "cleaning" up the oil or from flying over [faa.gov] the affected areas of the gulf.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:11AM (#32806330)

    Flying over? I assume you actually mean flying over below 3000 feet as your link describes. It would be an air traffic control nightmare with the vehicles involved in the cleanup. You can fly over all you like at 3100 feet.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:17AM (#32806374)
    or Daily Kos, or any other news outlet that isn't owned by Rupert Murdoch: This is being used to hassle anyone coming near the site, 65 ft or not.
  • Re:So? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Skreems ( 598317 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:21AM (#32806410) Homepage

    Have there been any problems with photographers damaging the booms or causing breaches?

    It's pretty unlikely, given that not a single foot of the gulf is actually boomed properly. See, actual booming requires that the booming be in the water, deployed in a zig-zag fashion with the high points leading to collection equipment. It also requires nearly round-the-clock hand maintenance to deal with changing tides, wind, waves, etc. Laying down a straight line of boom in the water, then leaving it to sit does fuck-all to contain oil, and less than fuck-all when it gets wadded up on the beach a couple hours later.

    So no, I doubt that there's a serious problem with photographers damaging booms. And yes, this is almost certainly about spin control, rather than actual disaster control.

  • by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:25AM (#32806448)

    Did you read the link you posted?

    "All pilots operating within and near this area including the shoreline should exercise extreme caution due to the numerous low level operations associated with the deepwater horizon/mc-252 incident 3000 feet and below.

    Aircraft involved in these operations may make sudden changes in direction, speed, and altitude. For additional information, participating aircraft altitude assignments and awareness, all pilots are recommended to review the following web site dedicated to the aviation cleanup efforts at: https://1afnorth.region1.ang.af.mil/deepwater_spill/default.Aspx [af.mil]

    With the exception of aircraft conducting aerial chemical dispersing operations;no fixed wing aircraft are authorized below 1000 feet above the surface unless for landing and takeoff"

    The FAA rules are to keep collisions from happening.

  • Re:So? (Score:5, Informative)

    by EvanED ( 569694 ) <[evaned] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:29AM (#32806498)

    Are you going to cite the magical photo fairies next?

    I don't think 65 ft is all that unreasonable, but understand that it will make a lot of photography rather harder. Longer lenses mean heavier lenses, which, as you say, means you'll probably need a shorter exposure, at least if hand-held. (Setting up a tripod can often take too long for non-posed photos.) But a shorter shutter means that you'll be compromising somewhere else: narrower depth of field or higher ISO. Narrow DOF can be nice for some artistic shots; less nice for most photojournalism. Sure, these things probably aren't so important if it's nice and sunny out, but what about if it's cloudy? Balancing all of these things can quickly become difficult.

    But the real problem is that of perspective. Unless you carry around a 40' self-supporting tower with you, having to stay 65' out means that your angle is going to be MUCH lower. That does two things. First it will make it much easier for your view to be blocked. Instead of walking up to a line of grass and photographing over it, you have to photograph through it. Instead of getting closer and photographing from above the waves, you have to wait until they line up in such a way that nothing's in the way of your shot. It also means a lower angle on the ocean, which may well mean that it's harder to see the oil.

    In short, putting a long lens on your camera isn't the same as walking up to something, for a number of reasons, and if you think it is, you should go back to photo school.

  • Class D Felony (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:42AM (#32806580)

    From http://www.superpages.com/supertips/class-d-felony.html:

    In some states a Class D Felony is the lowest felony class, while in New York it is the second lowest felony class, having harsher penalties than the Class E felony, but not as harsh as the Class C felony. Examples of Class D felony offenses include, falsely reporting and incident, prohibited use of a weapon, placing a false bomb in the first degree, unlawful surveillance, promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child, promoting a sexual performance by a child, criminal possession of weapon, criminal sale of a weapon in the third degree, criminal sale of a firearm with the aid of a minor, and manufacture, transport, disposition and defacement of weapons and dangerous instruments and appliances.

    Class D Felony Sentences

    The sentence for Class D felony offenses is determined by the court but will not less than two years or be more than 7 years. The minimum and maximum sentence for felony offenses can be enhanced for any crime of a violent nature or one with aggravated circumstances, and reduced for mitigating circumstances. When determining a sentence the court takes into account the nature of the crime and the character and history of the offender. Juvenile offenders face up to four years imprisonment for Class D felonies.

    Class D Felony Enhancements

    Persons convicted of Class D felony domestic violence will face a term of at least three years but not more than 7 years.
    An attempt to commit a Class C felony will result in a sentence enhancement of two to 8 years.
    A prior conviction of a violent offense will cause the presumptive term to be enhanced to at least five years but not more than 7 years.
    A persistent violent offender having two or more violent felony convictions will serve at least six years but not more than 25 year in prison.
    A prior non-violent felony conviction will enhance the presumptive term to at least four years but not more than 7 years.
    Fines and Restitution for Class D Felonies

    A felony fine is fixed by the court but is not to exceed the higher of $5,000 or double the amount of the defendants gain from the commission of the crime.

    *The laws and penalties regarding felony classes and offenses vary for each state, however New York law presents a fair and clear representation of penal law, and is used in this article to offer a basic understanding of the Class D felony. The information contained in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and those accused of a Class D felony should seek legal counsel immediately.

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) * on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:53AM (#32806642) Journal

    or Daily Kos, or any other news outlet that isn't owned by Rupert Murdoch

    Daily Kos is not a "news outlet". It's a partisan blog.

  • The title of this article is an absolute embarrassment. This is beyond inaccurate, it's inflammatory. Photography is not banned. A reasonable safety margin has been set around the response equipment and boats - and it's about fucking time. Scuba divers and other special activities are routinely given a 75 foot (more or less) safety margin, and it seems absolutely reasonable to make everyone stay clear while these people are trying to work. Frankly, 300 feet would have been completely reasonable. It's bad enough this "news" is already ancient (par for the course on /. lately), but now we have to deal with mind-boggling bias... is this /. or Greenpeace?

    Nothing to see here. Move along.

  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @01:57AM (#32807098)
    As soon as the oil started washing up on the shores, the US Coast Guard and local police have been enforcing a no-photography policy instituted by BP.
    http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6496749n [cbsnews.com]

    That's video shot by a national news outlet, of a US Coast Guard officer, threatening the news crew with arrest if they don't comply with a BP policy. Color of law, anyone?

    More: http://www.google.com/#hl=en&source=hp&q=bp+photographers+blockade [google.com]

    Search youtube, too. A lot of people with video recorders are getting harassed by local cops and sheriff departments.

  • Re:huh? (Score:3, Informative)

    by DrugCheese ( 266151 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @03:23AM (#32807564)

    I thought there was an agreement to refer to this as a "Whoopsie Daisy".

    I feel obligated to repost this video. Their Whoopsie Daisy [youtube.com] took place in 1979. Maybe this one can be an "Uh Oh! Not Again!"

  • by tweak13 ( 1171627 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @05:18AM (#32808068)

    You should tell him that he's not allowed to fly under 500 feet anyway anywhere under any circumstances

    That's completely incorrect.

    FAR 91.119c states - [No person my operate an aircraft below] an altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

    Basically you can fly 10 feet off the surface if you want to, just don't get near an oil rig or a boat. Same thing goes for land, just stay away from houses and cars.

  • lol (Score:4, Informative)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @07:41AM (#32808802)
    No ones figured out why this is a problem yet? I'll spell it out for you... The majority of the damage being done is to small barrier islands off the coast of Louisiana. Those islands are completely wrapped in boom. If you can not come within 65 feet of the boom and the boom completely wraps the island, you can't go to the island at all.
  • Re:So? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <atd7.cornell@edu> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @09:17AM (#32809632) Homepage

    I was going to post the same myself. For photography of an oil boom, even my kit lens could achieve enough zoom at a distance of 65 feet to take picture of something large like a skimming boom.

    Personally, I'd be afraid to get within 65 feet of an active boom unless I were escorted by an expert boom operator. This rule is designed for photographers too stupid to stay away from dangerous objects.

    The headline is misleading, it implies photographing of the booms is not allowed, but in reality, you're just not permitted to get ridiculously close to them. Ideally ANYONE should be banned from getting within that distance of an active skimming boom. It probably specifically specifies photographers because photographers were the only people trying to get stupidly close to the booms. (And most likely, true professionals were getting escorted close-in with the appropriate permits rather than just trying to sneak up without asking first.)

  • Re:So? (Score:5, Informative)

    by kbielefe ( 606566 ) <karl.bielefeldt+ ... nOsPaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:50AM (#32811000)

    Is there a threat that the booms won't suck up oil if you get within 64 feet of them?

    Actually, yes there is [al.com]. Not only has there been intentional vandalism, booms have accidentally been damaged by boat propellers. I realize the media is reluctant to report anything that might help BP, but you really should do a little research before spouting off.

  • Re:So? (Score:4, Informative)

    by kevinNCSU ( 1531307 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:04AM (#32811242)
    Coming from someone whose spent a lot of time on the water with both motor boats and crewing on racing yachts it's really not that hard to cause an accident with anything on the water in the best of conditions. 65 feet isn't going to be more than three boat lengths for anything they're taking out there. Anything less than that and all is required for an accident is one wrong push of the throttle, one misjudgment of how the next wave is going to push you or where/if there's an anchor line on that ship your photographing and then you're going to F something up. Maybe you'll just knock into the boom and not really cause any harm. Maybe you'll foul it in your prop destroying it. Maybe you'll damage a skimmer ship your trying to get a good shot of it and take it out of service. Maybe you'll just scare the captain because he doesn't want to depend on you for getting out of the way and cause him to change course or halt operations costing time and money. There's a lot of crap that can go wrong, and it's very easy for a small mistake to turn into very dangerous situations on open water. You break someones car on the highway and they get out and a squad car and tow truck comes. You break someones boat on the ocean and they swim or drown and the response vehicles (helicopters, cutters, patrol boats) cost a lot more to get out there. And then add to that the fact that you'd be interrupting disaster response efforts. There's your difference.
  • Re:So? (Score:3, Informative)

    by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @01:35PM (#32813700)

    But why make it a felony? You almost sound enthused about this arbitrary legal threat.

    Felonies can only be created by legislation (for federal law, this means an act of Congress.) The Coast Guard didn't decide to impose a safety zone, and separately decide what class of offense to make violations and what penalties to make available for violations. Instead, the Ports and Waterways Safety Act, which provides the authority under which the Coast Guard has established the perimeter, sets out the civil penalty for violations and the criminal penalty for willful violations.

    (Also, the perimeter is 20 meters, not 65 feet as widely reported. 65 feet is the greatest integer number of feet which is less than 20 meters, so its a convenient approximation for people who can't deal with fractions or metric measures, but it isn't the actual perimeter.)

  • Re:"Interference" (Score:5, Informative)

    by Binestar ( 28861 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @04:51PM (#32817222) Homepage
    You ever been in an ocean? 65feet is a very small amount of space. A couple of waves and you've been pushed that 65 feet and you've hit the booms.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton