March 6, 2013 Leave a Comment
By Francois Arseneault, Contributor to the Artbeats FootageHub
I enjoy shooting stock, doesn’t really matter what it is, though some subjects are more interesting than others. Mostly I like the idea of the “road trip,” ah yes, loading up the SUV and hitting the road, all with preplanned locations, of course. I’ve taken dozens of road trips over the past 26 years, maybe even hundreds. Some just a short one day jaunt to the countryside where opportunities abound. Others, grueling 18-21 day trips over thousands of kilometers, with varying degrees of success. We’ve traveled across Canada and to Panama, South America, Cuba, Oregon, California, New York, Washington DC, Chicago and many other places. The camera has been over my shoulder nearly everywhere. A good travel insurance policy and some common sense go a long way, but so too does a friendly smile; it’s gotten me into more places than anything else.
This past Fall, my wife and I decided to take a little bit more than a road trip (okay, a vacation): a two week cruise to some of civilization’s most important sites in the Mediterranean. Now, usually I’ll get approval for and permissions to shoot when necessary; however we’re talking about Egypt, Greece, Turkey and Italy. Not very likely as the rules and bureaucracy are endless. After a few inquiries I came to the conclusion that the cost and the time were not worth it. Time to go to plan B and go under the radar. Sure, it’s risky, but if you’re careful and respectful things usually work out. Or at least I thought so. I packed the Sony NEX FS700 after stripping it of the rykote equipped Sennheiser and brought along a beanbag as a tripod was not going to be suitable. It attracts way too much attention. No matte box, just the camera and a spare lens: a Tamron 10-24mm for those sometimes surreal wide angle shots. Time to play tourist.
Rome is a wonderful city to visit with so many opportunities to get great shots in the public areas. I never shoot in museums or art galleries, just sling the camera over my shoulder and enjoy the history. However, being crowded and busy meant I employed the beanbag on whatever steady object I could use. Two thousand year-old architecture can be quite photogenic. The city is rich in stock shot opportunities.
Next stop – Egypt. Having never traveled here, meant all was new. Be safe and book the tour off the cruise ship, this way everything is guaranteed… maybe. I asked our guide about my camera, would I have any problems with it, and he assured me there would be no problems. A six hour bus ride later and we arrived at the pyramids. Amazing! But then the local souvenir salesmen arrived, flogging all sorts of cheap Chinese made trinkets. It didn’t matter what direction you went, they stood in front of you. We had a very limited amount of time on the schedule and I was getting frustrated. I was finally able to get a few shots. I didn’t give it much thought, but there were only DSLRs amongst the tourists, not a single video camera save a few older consumer HD cameras. Clearly, a few tourists were quietly shooting video with their 5Ds and D800s. Hmmmmm. It didn’t take long before a plainclothes police officer stopped me and demanded I pay a 900 Egyptian pound fee to take video. I politely stated that I wouldn’t pay, indicating I was told I could shoot video by my guide. He promptly escorted me out of the site. Seemed the rules could be interpreted differently. We were joined by two more uniformed officers, as they escorted me back to my tour bus my wife was more than a little concerned. It turns out, as my guide explained to me a little later, that the camera was too professional and since the revolution things have changed. The next day I had to pay “fees” elsewhere in Egypt just to have my camera with me. It seems they just didn’t like the look of it. Despite these issues, I still pulled off some establishing shots and decent b-roll.
I ran into a similar problem in Istanbul a few days later, in fact, and had my camera seized for about five minutes before I assured the staff of the cultural site that I wouldn’t even turn on the camera. As I learned, the problem with a guided tour in some of these places is that even though you may not have any intention of shooting footage in a particular site, you have no choice but to take the camera with you lest it disappears from your vehicle. The authorities couldn’t care less that you’re on the tour and are simply passing through. As a tourist, it can become almost onerous to bring any camera on a tour. I did manage some shots though: architecture, skylines, people and anything that caught my eye. Athens, Mykonos, Ephesus and Venice were no problem at all and were wonderful places to get great footage.
Summing up, big cameras have always attracted attention, but now with certain less-than -democratic countries in turmoil, authorities are taking a dim view of pretty much any camera. Egypt, specifically, could become much riskier to do any camera work in the future as will nearly any Middle Eastern nation. The next time I travel to some of these countries, I’ll probably just take a DSLR and do the best I can with it.. It’s just not worth the hassle to use something larger. Lessons learned.
Francois Arseneault is a freelance shooter/editor, with over 25 years experience in the field and is based in British Columbia, Canada. His footage is featured in the Artbeats FootageHub.
View all of Francois Arseneault’s footage featured on Artbeats.