Friday, March 02, 2007

A need for review - cameras at events - Part 1

As mentioned, I was recently at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast for the Blackrock Tennis Legends tour.

I have attended other tennis events, concerts, and so on at other venues before, and so I am aware that although tickets state "no cameras permitted", they tend to be allowed in most places these days. I know that in most places there is now a tolerance for smaller cameras, and the only diktat is normally that flash is disabled. In my own local arena I had checked the rules with the security staff before my events, and was informed that although smaller cameras were allowed - flash free - that SLR cameras were not permitted, which ruled out my Canon 350D (at the time - I have since upgraded).

I asked why, and was told that they were considered as professional cameras, so the press did not like to compete with them after they had paid extra for their press passes. I reminded them of the advertising campaign for Canon, showing young people using the 350D anywhere and everywhere, for all manner of snapshots. I also explained that there were more than a few of the smaller handheld cameras that have higher resolution and more zoom than the 350D. I even offered to sign a waiver that would prevent me from selling the pictures. They were unmoved, and as a result I have no decent photos to remind me of my times watching the wonderful Andrew Murray. I feel this rule is unfair, and as it turns out, press passes are not as expensive as I was being led to believe - in some venues they are free! Meanwhile plenty of people with their little cameras were flashing away all through the events.

I went to the Belfast Arena without my camera initially, as I was uncertain of the security setup there. On entry, there were no search procedures at all - a new thing to me; particularly in Belfast. There were notices up that flash photography was no permitted, but that was all. I saw several people with good SLR cameras in the audience as I looked around, and one lady sat near me so I went over for a chat.

As I approached, she looked up somewhat irritated at my approach, but softened as we spoke. Her problem was that staff kept coming to tell her to stop taking flash photos. I could see that her flash was closed down on the camera, and that she had it set for no flash. She told me that she had not been searched, and had made no effort to hide that she had a camera on entry. She said that she was getting really annoyed at how she was being isolated for constant harassment from the security guards for something she was innocent of. Indeed, when I was back in my seat I watched them speak to her a further 2 times. She explained patiently to them that the flash was disabled, and asked why they were singling her out. They left without answering that, but giving her a stern reminder not to use the flash.

The ridiculous thing is that there were flash cameras being used all over the place - even during service, which is incredibly rude, and annoying to the players. I was able to easily identify several offenders in various parts of the arena - none of whom were approached by staff. What was funnier, was that while I spoke to this poor woman, an older lady in the row in front of her turned to us and explained to me that it was not the young woman's camera that was flashing - it was hers! I saw her speak to the security staff also, but she did not appear to be reprimanded about her little instant camera.

The younger photographer also told me that she had attended the day before, in a better seat, and had even met the players, but had not brought her camera that day. She had checked then that it was ok to bring her camera (I think it was the 350D), and had been hoping to get some of the shots she had missed the day before. She had been as excited as I was at the prospect of viewing such great tennis up close. Now she was angry, and wasn't sure it had been worth the hassle to get the shots she had done so far. She had clearly been discriminated against, and no action was taken against those who actually ignored the rules, and the courtesy to players.

As I was due to return the following day, I decided to bring my camera along. I figured that I could easily handle a few conversations with staff - particularly as my camera does not even have a flash unit mounted on it at all. It is visibly incapable of taking flash pictures. I was thrilled at the prospect of getting some shots to take home and enjoy in the future when I wanted to think back on that trip.

My experience will follow shortly.

1 comment:

Dorothy said...

Well written article.