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Photography Can Be Dangerous

Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 03/21/2013 - 8:47 AM

Spring is here and as weather warms and flowers bloom, photographers and artists will begin venturing outside more.

I wrote this article as an inspiration to other photographers who tend to take pictures only in good weather conditions. To get dramatic pictures, you often need to be in dramatic situations.

I also wrote it for the pure brush artists who might think photography is easy - that all we do is drive up to a vista point, roll down the window of a car, snap a photo, then drive on while sipping our coffee. It ain't so.

The article briefly describes taking this picture in the midst of a tropical storm. It was a fun adventure.

Outer Banks North Carolina


Oldest Reply

Posted by: ANA MARIA EDULESCU on 03/21/2013 - 8:54 AM

I am a painter, but I never thought that taking photos is easier than painting. Both, painting and photography are arts, in the pure sense of the word. Great thread and article, Dan.


Posted by: Andrew Pacheco on 03/21/2013 - 9:03 AM

Great article, Dan!

Part of the lure of nature and landscape photography is being out there. My love of being in the outdoors all times of the year and under all conditions is partly what led me to photography. I was seeing so much beauty while out enjoying the outdoors, I just had to learn how to capture it to share with others.

For me there's nothing like being out there in nature, quiet and alone, enjoying the solitude while capturing the beauty.


Posted by: Elizabeth Oliver on 03/21/2013 - 9:19 AM

I like to photograph equines, and sometimes I put myself in the middle of a herd of them. Luckily having been raised with horses 'reading' them comes quite naturally and I can usually avoid being put in a precarious position. I do often worry about the people I see walking up to horses in the herd without realizing they may have just walked into the middle of a potential kick fest between the boss and her subordinates....especially when they are carrying plastic bags or offering up treats...probably the worst idea ever...those nice horses could potentially into pushy treat seeking missiles.

I would love to get out in the harsh weather to snap pictures, but I am the worlds biggest weather weenie and it doesn't take long for my hands to seize up and cramp in cold I don't use a tripod often, I prefer to hunt and snap as I go...Brr!


Posted by: John Crothers on 03/21/2013 - 10:26 AM


Posted by: Janine Riley on 03/21/2013 - 11:58 AM

Mountain Lions, Tigers & Bears.......
Snakes, & Alligators ...
Stone walls, slippery rocks at Waterfalls, & dilapidated buildings. Standing on tip toes, reaching over the edge of the bridge....
Oh, & how 'bout lightening ?

Nah, us painters don't think you 'Togs have it so easy.
We take our own shots to paint - their just not as good as yours of course (Lol) , but we try hard : )

& even a great shot of a cat - can take 5 years to catch the light right coming in through the curtain....

& did we forget frostbite on toes ?


Posted by: Chuck De La Rosa on 03/21/2013 - 12:00 PM

Nice write up Dan. I always appreciate articles about what went on to get a photo, not only the conditions but the artist's thought process as well. Another thing that many non-photographers don't realize is that a good many photos are planned, even ones like your Bodie Lighthouse shot. Knowing the area, scoping it out, planning the shots as best as possible, and coming back when conditions and lighting are optimal.


Posted by: Donna Van Vlack on 03/21/2013 - 12:02 PM

Wow great article...


Posted by: Tony Reddington on 03/21/2013 - 12:13 PM

Great article Dan and that you remebered to bring the ir camera and set it up too

I wrote this just the other day about this shot as an intro to a not great photo I took. I was not as prepared as you Dan, lol
A grab shot I had forgotten about, but it made me think about photography. Maybe you do steal a piece of nature or a piece of a persons 'soul' when you take a photo. Or maybe you are an historian, preserving a moment. In some ways we as photographers (and yes I am one sometime) are the luckiest people, we seek out the beautiful and not so beautiful we capture moments and share them, but we only share a fraction of what we see. We sit in the cold, we wait, we watch, we observe, we look for the unusual, we lie in the wet, we get soaked, we take chances, we get dirty, and sometimes only another photographer knows what it takes to get a photo. So when a photographer says, 'sweet' 'nice one' 'well caught' or some other short compliment, they are actually like a thousand words. Sorry for the ramble ( I get like that sometimes)
All artists are included, not just photographers.

and here is me taking a photo of a photographer taking a risk to take a photo
Photography Prints


Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 03/21/2013 - 1:25 PM

"Another thing that many non-photographers don't realize is that a good many photos are planned"

Great point, Chuck! I probably should have mentioned that in the article. I formerly resided on OBX and know the area well. In fact, it's probably the reason I chose to go to Bodie lighthouse in the middle of a tropical storm. It was more or less a desperate decision made knowing there would not be a sunrise during the storm, and there was really no where else -to- go.


Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 03/21/2013 - 1:30 PM


Oh, my. You've hit upon my greatest weakness: heights. I would not say I have a fear of heights, but I certainly don't like them and most certainly would be VERY uncomfortable standing on that clifftop. Great color in that (other) photo!

Oh, and in reply to your "we lie in the wet", yep! Got that right! Add to that (truly) laying in large, freshly-deposited cow pies because, well...., it was the only way to get "the shot". LOL


Posted by: PainterArtist FIN on 03/21/2013 - 1:35 PM

I as well, am mostly a painter. From experience, I know that photography is delicate, exact art alsol. SOME painters out here may indeed think that way but then, painter artists find themselves often in the position also to defend the time involved in creating their work.


Posted by: PainterArtist FIN on 03/21/2013 - 1:36 PM

And by the way , VERY NICE WORK DAN!


Posted by: Tony Reddington on 03/21/2013 - 1:36 PM

Thanks Dan
Its a bad photo that deserved better but I'm sure if i took out the tripod, any motorist would think it was a speed trap lol

I have trouble sleeping after being at heights , but I'm ok at the time , if that makes sense


Posted by: Janine Riley on 03/21/2013 - 1:41 PM

It was a very good article. You've personally involved the viewer into the stormy situation approaching the Lighthouse. excellent job on both.


Posted by: Ken Krug on 03/21/2013 - 3:31 PM

Thanks, Dan, for sharing your experiences and insight into what it takes for us non-photographers.
Great article, it reads like an adventure in itself!


Posted by: Cathy Lindsey on 03/21/2013 - 5:40 PM

Dan - We are going back to the Outer Banks in June! Loved it! Do you happen to know if Bodie still has the cage around it?

I started googling and found the answer!

It is to open sometime in the spring!


Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 03/21/2013 - 7:33 PM

Bodie has a new paint job, and scaffolding is down. The new boardwalk over the marsh is complete and open.

Additionally, the lighthouse MAY be lighted. On Tue., 3/19 when we left, we noticed a large construction crew present and a crew from UNC-TV (NC PBS). There were also about 5 people in the top of the LH. If you are familiar with it all, PBS has been doing specials on the lighthouse, the renovation, the removal of the Fresnel lens, etc. My guess was at the time that PBS was there to videotape the re-installation of the Fresnel. But don't know. Didn't have time to hang around. I briefly searched news articles but found nothing.

Also, if you are not aware, 12 has been having lots of problem lately. The best way to monitor this would be to like the NCDOT 12 facebook page and follow updates, which they are really good at providing.


Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 03/21/2013 - 7:59 PM

Thanks, Janine and Ken. I have been here less than a year, but early on I was told by many to "personalize" work posted here. I did not do so at first, but have been trying to do so lately. Problem is that writing articles like the one highlighted here take time. And we all know what a short supply there is of that!


Posted by: Balanced Art on 03/21/2013 - 9:20 PM


nice work and a fun article.


Posted by: David Morefield on 03/21/2013 - 9:54 PM

Or in order to get your shot, you go to an area that everyone warns you not to go at night, like the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

Sell Art Online

Or into the West Bank:

Art Prints

The way I see it, I have been to much worse places and as long as you follow a couple simple rules and carry 6 foot of 550 cord with you, you are good to go. Whenever I travel, I carry 550 cord as it is a useful tool for many situations.


Posted by: Greg Jackson on 03/21/2013 - 10:13 PM

Great descriptive article, Dan, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! :)


Posted by: Joe Zachariah on 03/22/2013 - 1:18 AM

A well written post Dan. (surprised that no one left a comment on it so far)
Yes sometimes we do take risks to get that special shot but at the end it is well worth the trouble.


Posted by: Cathy Lindsey on 03/22/2013 - 7:12 AM

Thanks Dan! I can't wait to go back. I dropped my husband off for a fishing charter and was sitting the the parking lot of Bodie when the sun came up. Hope to be able to do it again and can't wait to see the lighthouse without the cage! I love the Outer Banks!


Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 03/22/2013 - 11:42 AM


Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 03/22/2013 - 11:44 AM

Thank, Joe.

I wrongfully neglected the blog for a very long time. Didn't even update the main webpage for over a year. Complete death in google. I am trying to get things going again, hence the article.


Posted by: John Crothers on 03/22/2013 - 11:59 AM

My list of the three most dangerous photography (in order)

1. Lightning. If you can hear thunder, you can be hit by lightning. It is hard to take pictures of lightning when you can't hear the thunder!

2. War photography. If you are photographing the people fighting for a "cause" they will probably appreciate you telling the world. If you are photographing people on the "attack" they may target you as a threat because you will tell the world.

3. WILD carnivores. Lions and Tigers and Bears...oh my! A wild animal is unpredictable of course but this is last on my list because the danger associated with them is usually not as bad as people believe. Still, they have the tools to kill you.


Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 03/22/2013 - 12:10 PM


Agree on the misconceptions of animals. Normally, animals in the wild fear humans and want nothing to do with us. But when pressed, they will defend and attack.

I am reminded of a time in a wilderness area when I came upon a woman who had chased a couple of very young bear cubs up a tree and was standing at the trunk of the tree taking pictures of them. Clueless. I nicely asked her if she had ever considered that mama might be nearby. And I am sure she was - probably viewing the scene from behind a bush. And mama WILL defend those cubs! After I reminded her of this, she quickly skiddaddled away. Some people just don't think.

That's why I said in the article that while getting those dramatic images to be careful and be safe.


Posted by: Jim Zablotny on 03/22/2013 - 12:37 PM

Hi Dan,

While pursuing my photo subjects, I stepped into a hole in a bog and had to extract myself by hooking my belt onto a nearby branch and pulling myself out. Another trip featured run-ins with 3 Massasauga rattlesnakes. Luckily, they are quite shy and these were content to warn me so that I could avoid stepping on them. On an insect collecting trip in the UP, I had an adult black bear approach within 1.5 meters from me. I froze and he shuffled right by me to investigate a garbage can. The wind was blowing towards me so he never thought they I was actually an edible part of the landscape. .................................Jim


Posted by: JC Findley on 03/22/2013 - 1:58 PM

I regularly go and do things "some" other photographers won't do. Bad weather, Check. Ice shelve on a semi-frozen river, check. Quicksand? Check. (Interestingly enough, it was not in a southern swamp but in Maryland.) Venomous snakes? Check. Mountaineering to get to to right spot? Check. belly crawling across a river marsh filled with snakes and gators during the summer? No, so, I did it when it was 20 degrees. Why Belly crawl? Because the mud would only support my weight that way and trying to walk put me waste deep and almost stuck. Wading out into the lake with the huge gator? Yes, but again, with ambient temps around 30 to keep them away. (Hypothermia resolves itself quickly when compared to an arm ripped off by a gator.)

My most dangerous shoot? Well, I had wandered a bit too far from the well patrolled touristy National Harbor area in DC and was shooting the reflection of the moon in a pond. I heard voices on the other side. Now, what you have to understand is National Harbor is bordered with Anacostia and Fort Washington and it is NOT a safe area. So the four "yutes" saw me across the pond and started hollering for me, "Mister picture man" to take a picture of them. This went on for a minute, so held up the camera to which I got birds and "BLACK NATION MOTHER F$&%&!" and they started to come around the pond. That gave me time to simply disappear into a wooded area. (It is wise not to follow me into such a place if I view you as a threat....) They did not, so I did not lose my camera, get mugged, get killed or have to explain to anyone that I was in fear for my life and that is why I did what I would have tried to do in self defense.)


Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 03/22/2013 - 4:34 PM

Good stuff, JC. You too, Jim. I hear ya'. My article is one of many. I was going to write about the time I came close to freezing to death, but I realized I had no images to use with it. My hands were frostbitten and numb, and I was unable to operate the camera. (Not that I was really too concerned about "art" while trying to survive! LOL)

Here in NC we have a concealed carry law which helps alleviate much fear and stress in situations like your, JC. But let's not talk about those subjects so the thread does not get closed.

I would like to hear more harrowing stories from folks. Good ones, too. For example, perhaps somebody was taking macro shots of a daisy when they were surprised by a naked Kim Kardassian strolling by! LOL!


Posted by: Cathy Lindsey on 03/22/2013 - 7:53 PM

Art PrintsPhotography Prints

Took a few Oregon Inlet shots last year, but not as good as yours! Going back with a brand new camera this go round! I added the NCDOT 12 site, thanks for the info. We will be staying in Buxton just like we did last year... can't wait!


Posted by: HW Kateley on 03/22/2013 - 8:42 PM

Sell Art Online

Took this cramped up in the back of a station wagon...


Posted by: Jeff Lee on 03/22/2013 - 10:05 PM

Hmmm, Black Widows crawling on your hand (I never drop a rock or log if the animal might get hurt), Rattlesnakes crawling accross your foot (not mine but my friends son), Survivalist camp (complete with pit falls), Africanized Honey Bees ( the most scared I've ever been and I'm a Vietnam Vet), I always try and reduce the risk to my subjects and myself and we NEVER touch the snakes except with snake sticks and that's only to move them off road.

I once had a very young Rattlesnake crawl next to my tennis shoe - I very carefully backed away. In Costa Rica We got an Ocelot pretty angry once using flash. And the Turantula whose hole in the log I poked with a long blade of grass was not that happy. Nor were the three young spike Elk in Colorado that I spooked when bush wacking for a photographic vantage point.

If you are prepared and take calculated risks then you are "most often" not hurt, but everyone can have a bad day. The key is to be aware and knowledgable about your environement and the animals that live there.

My brother was out walking his dog several weeks ago in the Cascade mountains near his home and on the way back to his car he realized that a large male cougar had been tracking him.....if your out in a place you don't know prepare before hand and realize that when things happen they happen very quickly - in a big city or in wilds. I always "carry" when I'm out in the sticks, mostly due to "bad guys" and not critters here in the Northwest. My brother (who was a ranger and still carries his S&W .40) can tell you stories about how dangerous the woods are with people today. Remember $5 or10K of photo equipment makes a good target - don't flash your equipment around unless your are using it.

Not to be to "geeky" but I carry a small survival kit consisting of knife, fire starter, compus, water, and solar blanket.

Best advice - if you can always go with someone.


Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 03/22/2013 - 11:48 PM

"who was a ranger and still carries his S&W .40) can tell you stories about how dangerous the woods are with people today"

A few years back I shot a story for a magazine in which I attended a day-long Ranger Academy. They taught rangers and park law enforcement from many states about stuff. You would hope that most of the classes were about animal care, flora and fauna, etc. But it was not. There was one brief butterfly identification class. Most of the rest of the day was classes on dealing with portable meth labs, how to identify and disarm explosive booby-trap devices left by meth lab people and "growers", how to deal with threatening people, etc. It was sad. I gained a whole new perspective on what rangers and park police deal with.

With that, you are right. In some places the greatest threat to photogs are not from nature, but from humans.


Posted by: Cathy Lindsey on 03/27/2013 - 7:09 PM


Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 03/28/2013 - 11:33 AM

Fantastic! Thank you so much for that, Cathy! I searched and found nothing.

Bodie has always been a favorite of mine. Hatteras is the benchmark for the outer banks, but Bodie is much more photographic, in a better setting and position for photography. And now that the light will be turned back on, everything will be complete!


Posted by: Cathy Lindsey on 03/28/2013 - 9:11 PM

There is link that I "liked" on Facebook - Visit the Outer Banks. I saw that this morning. They put up some neat stuff. I can't wait to go back and see Bodie without the cage! It was hard to get decent pictures even to show the cage on it, because there was so much construction and crews and barriers, etc. I have a goal of painting all the OBX Lighthouses. I have done Hatteras. I have good pictures to work from for Currituck. I was not going to do a painting with the cage, ... I am not that ambitious. I also need to get better photos of Ocracoke, we had a hard time getting close enough to even park and see that lighthouse, and because we were totally exhausted we skipped it. Bodie is also easy to swing into and take shots. We are staying in Buxton. I would love a shot with the reflection in the pond at Bodie, and I'm assuming that would be accessible from the boardwalk. I have a new camera and I am ready!


This discussion is closed.