A bit of a scare

Discussion in 'Film Cameras' started by ajramirez, Mar 7, 2013.

  1. ajramirez

    ajramirez Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jul 9, 2010
    Caguas, Puerto Rico
    Had a bit of a scare while shooting last Sunday that I wanted to share with you.

    As I may have mentioned before, my wife's hometown is Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Arecibo is a town in the northern coast of Puerto Rico, which is relatively large in terms of geographic area, but not densely populated. As of a few years now, it has become an economically depressed town. In particular, the downtown area has become somewhat dilapidated, with many empty storefronts and a desolate feel. Nonetheless, it is not known for being a high-crime area.

    My inlaws still live in Arecibo, as my father-in-law is still a practicing physician and has his medical office in town. We visited last Sunday and, as I usually do when we visit, I decided to go for a photo walk around town.

    When I was almost done with my shoot, and as I was heading back to my in-laws place, a man who was standing about 300 feet from me shouted at me, asking why I was taking so many pictures. I responded that they were artistic photos for a personal project. He asked me to raise my shirt (presumably to see if I was armed) which I did. I turned around, continued walking and turned the corner. When I reached the next corner, a second man approached me and also asked why I was taking so many pictures (I had, of course, stopped photographing at this point). This one was closer to me, and I had to stop. As I explained to him that they were personal photos, the first man appeared at the scene. At this point, I looked around and realized that the three of us were completely alone. This is when I became very worried.

    I explained to them (again) that I was an artist and the photos were for personal use. At this point, I showed them my camera (Leica M6) and told them that it was a film camera, and an antique at that. Curiously, this may have convinced them, as it was at that point that they said that they were just concerned because I was not from the area. Seeing an out, I said my goodbyes and left. They did not follow me.

    All I can surmise, is that I must have walked by a drug house or something they did not want photographed. The intimidation effort was well coordinated, in particular since the first guy clearly must have alerted the second guy, since I was not in line of sight of both at any time except at the end.

    It shook me up quite a bit. It's sad, but I am certain that my photo walks in Arecibo are a thing of the past for me.

    In any event, here are some of the shots from that day. All with the Leica M6TTL and either the 35mm 2.5 Summarit or the 18mm 4.0 ZM Distagon. On Ilford Delta 400 processed in Ilfotec DD-X. Processed to enhance the grain and toned in Silver Efex 2.0.

    La vecindad - El salón by ramirezaponte, on Flickr

    La vecindad - Garage Ferrer by ramirezaponte, on Flickr

    La vecindad - El sanitario by ramirezaponte, on Flickr

    La vecindad - Espacios reservados by ramirezaponte, on Flickr

    View attachment 66233
    La vecindad - El contador by ramirezaponte, on Flickr

    La vecindad - El alambrado by ramirezaponte, on Flickr

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  2. Country Parson

    Country Parson Top Veteran

    Apr 5, 2011
    North Carolina
    I am saddened to hear this. Glad you are OK.
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  3. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Wow Antonio. I was scared just reading it. At least you got some great shots for your last time. It's a shame that you won't be able to do your photo walk in that town any more. Perhaps you could give them a phone call next time and arrange a meetup and do some colorful drug dealer environmental portraits in exchange for some protection while you shoot :wink:
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  4. TraamisVOS

    TraamisVOS Hall of Famer

    Nov 29, 2010
    Melboune, Australia
    Crazy stuff.

    Maybe they were undercover cops staking out a place and they thought they'd been busted or something.
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  5. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Wow, scary. I just got finished looking through these on Flickr - quite a context for the shots. If something that threatening ever happened to me, I don't know if I'd stop shooting on the street altogether but I'm afraid it would make me a good deal more cautious, which couldn't be good for my photography. I was stopped and questioned by US Homeland Security a couple of weeks ago, but I welcomed it and never felt in any danger - nonetheless it may give me some pause about exactly WHERE I'm shooting goring forward - I'm surely not looking to arouse suspicion.

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  6. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Scary, but I'm glad that you were able to defuse the situation (and as always, a great set of b&ws).
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  7. TraamisVOS

    TraamisVOS Hall of Famer

    Nov 29, 2010
    Melboune, Australia
    Why are regular photographers still getting approached when there's easy access to Google Maps and satellite images that show more detail than any aspiring spy/terrorist would care to see?
  8. snkenai

    snkenai All-Pro

    Oct 5, 2010
    kenai, AK
    Stephen Noel
    Google maps have very limited detail and time coverage. satellites only look down, not horizontal, and again, limited detail. Also the human element, of an "eye witness". To many, the visual human element, is much more of a threat, than any electronic threat, which is not as visible as the human with a camera.
  9. JJJPhoto

    JJJPhoto Regular

    Jun 12, 2012
    In Antonio's case, I suspect he is correct and that he probably walked by a drug house or a location where other criminal activity was happening and that worried the criminals. Their first thought was probably that he was an undercover cop taking photos for evidence. Years ago I lived next to a neighbor who did pot deals out of his home and he and his girlfriend were ALWAYS paranoid about anyone even walking around their home who wasn't there to buy from them.

    In Ray's case, I've been there. I was in a friend's speedboat in Maine a year after 9/11 and he drove his boat past a Navy yard where a US Navy warship was anchored. I started taking pictures because I thought it looked cool. About 60 seconds later a small Navy patrol ship with armed sailors pulled up along side, demanded that my friend turn off his engine and they boarded the boat. We were briefly questioned (I assume just to make sure we weren't there to "scout" the location for an attack) and then we were let go. They didn't try to take my camera or anything and I totally understand that our men and women in uniform need to take precautions. I wasn't offended or upset ... although it was scary to be approached by heavily armed soldiers/sailors.

    PS: I'm glad you're okay, Antonio!
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  10. Xuereb

    Xuereb Veteran

    Nov 5, 2010
    W. Australia
    Please be careful. Many people in such areas are strongly 'territorial' ie they need to and do control everything in their territory. Often this is the only authority they can assert and sometimes it is the best survival strategy their experience of poverty and limited education has taught them.
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  11. john m flores

    john m flores All-Pro

    Aug 13, 2012
    Glad to hear that you walked away unharmed. It's always sad to see a neighborhood go downhill...
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  12. spinyman

    spinyman Veteran

    Dec 21, 2011
    Valley Center,Ca.
    Scary stuff.I'm glad they didn't take your Leica.I've only seen these narcos in the movies and they always seem macho and intimidating.From what you said,it seems they acted more like undercover cops.Glad you're safe.
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  13. Gary

    Gary All-Pro

    Aug 19, 2012
    Southern California
    Gary Ayala
    I don't have to tell you to be careful, Antonio, but be careful. I think you were lucky. You decision to not shoot in that location, while contrary to our laws, our freedoms and rational, is a sound course of action. Don't push your luck for a hobby. And don't push your luck with people who have little to no regard for laws, freedoms or rational thought. The antique film camera was a curve ball that caught them off balance and they couldn't recover. It is good that you kept a level head.

    Nothing to do with your situation Antonio, but a rant on how times have changed. I get stopped and accosted all the time. Sometimes it is polite and sometimes hostile. I been detained and even arrested which went to trial. Personally, I am fed up and frustrated with it all. Security forces, gangsters, tough guys and mothers all zero in on you if you have a camera. A camera is like a red flag to a bull, simply amazing the amount of hostility and empowerment a camera can generate. In the old film-only days it was much different. A guy with a 35mm camera was something different. A guy with two 35mm cameras was unique ... a professional and was given due respect. I think society, in general, has lost a sense of respect, mutual respect for all and coupled with a lack of common sense, (society never had any common sense), it's pretty ugly out there.

    Be Safe,
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  14. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Hall of Famer

    Nov 8, 2012
    New Mexico
    A wonderful set of images, Antonio; I'm sorry they'll be the last from that location, but like Gary said, why push your luck?

    As for the general "stop and frisk" attitude toward photographers, I find it irritating, depressing, and quite unnecessary.
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  15. Gary

    Gary All-Pro

    Aug 19, 2012
    Southern California
    Gary Ayala
    On a different note, great exposure, developing and processing. These images have wonderful tones and contrast.#1 and #2 are good, but #4 and #5 have something special.


    PS- For those who have never developed film, a bit of explanation on Antonio's images. It's sorta hard to explain. In digital, once you release the shutter you're basically done with the image, you're locked in. Yes, you can perform significant manipulation in post processing, but it's different than film. In film, your exposure is half the equation and it has to be coupled with a development scenario which matches your exposure. A development scenario which does not match your exposure will give you significantly fewer zones (tonality) and screwed-up contrast. In film, when you're done developing ... now you're locked-in. The development and final lock-in phase is perform unseen, blind. One matches development to exposure by experience.

    PPS- Again, for those not familiar with film, there are only a few development variables and limited 'swing' of said variables one can manipulate. But it all can make a difference and Antonio's images nailed the whole exposure-development-post processing enchilada.
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  16. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Antonio always seems to get it right.....and now I'm craving enchiladas
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  17. krugorg

    krugorg All-Pro

    Sep 26, 2011
    Minnesota USA
    Kyle Krug
    Wow, crazy story, Antonio. I am very glad that you made it safely out of the situation!! I would have been scared to death.
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  18. Biro

    Biro Super Moderator

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    I'm firmly in the camp with those who think the people who stopped Antonio were bad guys, not undercover cops. I'm sorry his photo outing turned sour.

    The great irony in your story about the shipyard in Maine is that all this security shows up long after the horse is out of the barn. I live on the Jersey Shore - but not far from New York City as the crow flies. After 9/11 there were all of these military helicopters patrolling the area for months afterward. We didn't need them anymore. The damage had been done - and no one was paying attention to the early warnings we were getting before the attack.

    It's all a lot of show. The terrorists have moved on to other methods and targets.
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  19. Isoterica

    Isoterica Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    Antonio that is absolutely frightening and I am glad you walked away safely. You're probably right, something was going on the way they were 'patrolling' that area. There are a lot of things I would like to venture out and photograph but 1. I am female and even more of a target for mayhem and 2. Even if I was male I value my skin over some shot that probably would vanish with my camera after I was beaten down. While I admire photojournalists they do take risks that I am not willing to take. I stick to the safe areas or what I perceive to be safe anyway and lose a lot of opportunities but this is a hobby and one I want to keep enjoying. As you said, you had no idea you'd run into that.
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  20. Antonio, I'm glad it all turned out fine in the end. Having been in a similar situation, I can relate to your stress, it is really disturbing when it happens.

    Several years ago, in my beginning photo-days, I have been shooting in an area similar to the one you described, making me reference photos for a project I've been drawing. Soon enough two sturdy guys appeared and started to question me, insisting that I was shooting a bar they came out from (which luckily I did not). It was a digital camera, and I managed to calm them enough to actually show them the photos on the screen. They seemed pleased to see that I took images of fences, streetlights and similar stuff around their bar, but not the building itself.

    Only then they asked why I was taking pictures; if I have had images of their bar, I felt they wouldn't even ask before taking my camera. When I said that I draw comics and needed photo reference, they started laughing, joking about how I'll never get rich if I need a picture of street lamps and fences before drawing them. Then they insisted that I come inside with them and have a drink on the house. We talked about how they loved Disney cartoons when they were kids, had a drink and off I went, pretty bewildered by the whole story, as I'm sure you felt also. Later I learned that bar was into strip-tease and possibly prostitution.

    My inclination towards street-shooting suffered a blow on that day :)
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