When did taking pictures become so selfish (warning: long post, but with pictures)

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When did taking pictures become so selfish (warning: long post, but with pictures)
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You may have heard stories lately about the increasing selfishness of both pros and the Instagram crowd alike when it comes to shooting events. Well, today, I have one of those stories.

I just bought a Pentax K-50 recently and have been joy riding the hell out of it. After testing it with a bunch of mundane shots, I thought it was finally ready for prime time and decided I would use it to shoot the Macy's July 4th fireworks display. I also wanted to get some shots of the NYC skyline, too. It was all about having fun with the K-50, seeing what it could do.

Anyway, the display is visible from miles of waterfront parks but gets packed early, and every news outlet, social media outlet, etc. bleats over and over again for days before the event warning everyone to GET THERE EARLY. Besides, everyone knows this, anyway, because it's just common sense; it's the second largest event of the year in NYC next to Times Square New Year's Eve. So, most people will actually make an entire day of it.

The show starts at 9:30 PM. I got to the park at 3:30 PM but found and parked my tripod at the perfect spot at around 3:40 PM-ish, along a promenade fence. I was early enough to where there were still several yards of free spaces. It was freaking HOT and since it was a little past midday, the sun was directly overhead and frying everyone like no tomorrow.

With 5 1/2 hours to burn until the show, I waited...and waited...and waited in the hot blazing sun for the event. Then the promenade began to fill up and there were no spaces left at all:

Around 6:00-ish, an older guy (looking to be about 70-75) showed up out of nowhere, newly arrived, and struck up a conversation with a group of young women to my left. After he stopped talking, he lingered there in a sheepish way where it seemed as if he was afraid of asking me if he could camp there but was trying not to be aggressive. I knew what he was trying to do and was afraid that he'd get in the way of my camera's line of sight, but because he was older and looked to be a veteran photographer, I deferred to him. Besides, I figured that as old as he was, he'd have the courtesy and self-awareness to not get in anyone's way.

So I moved my tripod a little to the right to let him in there and he told me, "Thank you." Shortly afterwards, he started testing his camera and taking repeatedly. There was so little room between us that many times his lens touched my tripod. This went on for about 40 minutes or so.

6:44 PM-Just took this shot for giggles to capture the boredom of waiting for the show to start

Then 7:30, this happened: I was very tired and bored sitting and lying in the same spot for so long, so walked around a little with my other camera (Panny LX7) to capture the atmosphere and the crowds. I had my tripod parked to keep my place, and the old guy was standing so close to it that he was touching it. There was no way anyone could've seen him and tripod and thought, "Ooh, free spot!"

I was "out and about" for less than three minutes. (No exaggeration, because I wanted to get back as soon as possible). The place was now packed to the gills.

7:34 PM, and park is packed

I returned to my spot and lo and behold, The Old Guy was now in a deep conversation again with one of the young women I mentioned earlier, with his back turned, allowing a young couple that just showed up at the park right then and there (7:40) to wedge themselves between him and my tripod. There wasn't enough room for him when he had made a sheepish beeline to take the spot next to me an hour and a half before. But now he let two people squeeze in because...well, he got his perfect unobstructed field of view, and **** me and the others to his right, I guess.

To make matters worse, as he talked, he kept carelessly gesturing with his camera with its big ass telephoto lens up in the air and dangling over the railing. So here people were, trying to get shots of the NYC skyline as the sun was setting and the set up to the fireworks display (FDNY boats, NYPD copters flying in formation), and his stupid telephoto lens was blocking everyone's view.

But it gets better. The female half of the couple that wedged themselves in between me and The Old Guy kept raising her arms every five seconds snapping pictures with her damned smartphone, not giving a crap that her elbows and hands were now completely blocking my camera. I started pretending to adjust my camera on the tripod so she'd get the hint that she was getting in my way but she didn't get it.

The third or fourth time she did this, I immediately gave a terse, "Excuse me." She apologized and then made this gesture as if she was going to be graceful enough to give me a "turn" after she took her photos. Several minutes later when the pre-show started (a water show from the FDNY), that was all she wrote. I had nothing but The Old Guy's telephoto lens and woman's elbows directly in my camera's view the entire time. (The picture below just shows the telephoto lens; it doesn't show you the woman's elbows completely obliterating my screen. You can see her back, though, peeking out from left.)

What could I do about this? Nothing. It's a public park. Everyone has the right to be there. There are no reservations. So if a selfish old coot who showed up hours late decided not to give a damn about what allowing a self-absorbed couple (who also showed up hours late) to cram themselves into an already tight spot between us might do, what can I do? Nothing.

Angry and frustrated, I packed up my gear and tried finding a new spot but by then was too late. So I left.

The experience was so upsetting that I actually became disgusted with what felt like today's prevailing "photography culture" of, "My shot is such a gift to mankind, I should have to inconvenience everyone else to get it." And I lost my taste for it. I remember when taking photographs was so much fun and you actually liked seeing other people like you out there doing the same. You'd eye each other's gear, maybe strike up conversations, maybe even tell each other where the best locations were, etc. It was like being part of a secret club.

Now every year, photography turning more and more into some disgusting Darwinist competition between narcissists who think it's worth inconveniencing everyone because they're going to be the one genius to capture a one-in-a-million-shot of an overexposed, over-photographed event taken by thousands of people, or they're hoping this will be the one shot to make them go "viral" or gain brownie points on Instagram, even though there were 100K idiots like themselves out there with their smartphones with the same idea.

I know my experience wasn't exceptional , but I just needed to vent about it.

Pentax K-50
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