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  1. #1
    cdowell's Avatar
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    How Big is Too Big in D.C.

    I'm going to Washington D.C. in a few weeks with the family and will have an opportunity to go "behind the scenes" in some government buildings thanks for a distant family friend who has been working in one of them for decades.

    Naturally I'd like to get some good pictures instead of snapshots (particularly if the kids get to meet anyone they've heard of), but I'm curious to know how much equipment is too much equipment, in terms of drawing attention from security officials.

    Looking like a tourist will be fine (and inevitable, I'm sure), but I'm assuming tripods and medium format cases might be asking a bit much. But am I limited to 35mm because it looks like a normal camera? Remember, I'm not going as a photographer, but as a family friend getting to look around a relative's place of work.

    Anybody been through any security checkpoints lately? How much attention does MF equipment draw these days?

    In your opinions, what's the biggest camera that can pass as no-big-deal?

    I've got a 35mm, a Bronica 6x6 and a Fuji 6x9 to pick from.

    Thanks for any thoughts and opinions.
    "To a photographer the world consists of an infinite number of vantage points -- places to stand -- of which very few are altogether satisfactory." (John Szarkowski, Atget)

    My flickr

  2. #2

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    Behind the scenes

    If this was me I'd take a Leica rangefinder. Less is more. Simple is better.

    But if you have to shoot medium format, I'd recommend a Mamiya 7 system.

    Anyway, having dealt with DC security over the decades, I'd also bring a smile to every security check point you go through. These men and women who are protecting the government are people, too.
    When I grow up, I want to be a photographer.

    http://www.walterpcalahan.com/Photography/index.html

  3. #3
    Christopher Walrath's Avatar
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    If you;ve got enought time I would pick a 35mm RF somewhere.
    Thank you.
    CWalrath

    "Wubba, wubba, wubba. Bing, bang, bong. Yuck, yuck, yuck and a fiddle-dee-dee." - The Yeti

  4. #4
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    in addition to whatever camera you're bringing, patience will be a needed accessory to your gear kit. Be prepared for the possibility that they will NOT allow you to bring a camera in, since you will be there as a visitor. You may have better luck getting your family friend to bring the camera in as his own. Advice would vary greatly depending on the agency. Anything relating to the Department of Defense, I'd just tell you forget it, even with an insider as a guide. Congress, pretty likely to be ok. Most other agencies are not likely to have specific policies banning photography, but you may still get the hairy eyeball and/or refusal (polite or otherwise).

    If you want to go for least provocative and attention-grabbing, I'd definitely go for the 35mm. Distant second would be the Fuji, and dead last is the Bronica.

  5. #5
    Rick A's Avatar
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    Taking a range finder camera is good advise, make it a medium format RF like a Mamiya 6 or 7 or a Fuji, or anything of that ilk, if you have it.

    Rick

  6. #6

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    For this type of photography ("grip-n-grin"), do you really need anything more than a nice point and shoot?

    If so, I would bring one SLR camera, one lens (35 or 50), perhaps a flash, and nothing else. No case, monopod, light meter, etc.

    I suggest against a rangefinder. They are slower and more difficult to focus in low light (unless it is also a contrasty lighting situation). They also look more "non standard". You will stand there fiddling for longer, and when it comes to keeping a low profile, you will blow it drawing attention to yourself because you will look like a "real" photographer. Rangefinders are great, but SLRs do have their [many] advantages.
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

    - Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)

  7. #7

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    If for no other reason, I'd take a 35mm camera just because you will be indoors and might need the faster lenses available for the format.

  8. #8
    David Brown's Avatar
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    I work for the Dept of Treasury and frequently visit DC. The Ronald Reagan Bldg if always full of tourists because of the food court. Across the street, my Treasury badge will get me in the IRS bldg, but I best not try and take a camera with me. A few blocks away, at the main Treasury HQ, even my Treasury employee credentials won't get me in unless I make arrangements first and am on the "list". But, then, I was there 2 weeks ago and shot all the pictures I wished.

    My point: don't assume anything and every place may be slightly different. Ask permission and abide by the rules. Be a good guest.

  9. #9
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    I went in to see Congress in session this summer. Everyone had to check in anything with batteries. I think I could have gotten away with taking my Rolleiflex -- we joked about it a little (the concept of a camera without batteries was very weird to them), but I decided that I would not push it -- and I don't think I would have taken a photo of it anyway -- not a whole bunch of light in there.
    At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can still be a good day of exercise.

  10. #10
    eddym's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2F/2F View Post
    I suggest against a rangefinder. They are slower and more difficult to focus in low light (unless it is also a contrasty lighting situation).
    2F/2F, this is one of the few occasions that I have to disagree with something you said. My Leica M's are MUCH easier to focus in low light than any SLR.
    Eddy McDonald
    www.fotoartes.com
    Eschew defenestration!

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