About This Hobby and Our Photography

The goal of this page is to explain a little bit about our hobby, what we are doing and why we are doing it. It seems in recent years (post 9/11, unfortunately) society seems to get worked up over activities that aren't "normal" and could be related to terrorism. Various attacks on transportation hasn't helped this with the planes involved in 9/11 as well as the Madrid train bombings and the bombings of the Underground and a bus in London.
I have heard of too many stories of people being told it is illegal, among other things, to be photography buses and trains including right from public property.

First of all, lets deal with this: Is bus photography illegal? (this section is more for other hobbyists)
Generally no. From a public street virtually anything is fair game. Having said that, a transit company can definitely impose restrictions on photography within their property. Most have not done this, and some that have tried have ended up backing down after public outcry (New York MTA and NJ Transit come to mind). Some limit the type of photography to only non commercial use (The TTC). This is covered in the TTC Bylaws which are posted on every vehicle and I believe in the stations as well:

No person shall operate for commercial purposes any camera, video recording device, movie camera, or any similar device upon any vehicle or premises of the Commission without authorization."

Most transit systems seem to have no policy on photography. Most generally don't mind if you're not endangering yourself, customers or employees. So please don't be setting up tripods and what not on station platforms or other high traffic areas, or using flashes without prior permission.

For a bit more information on this see http://www.nycsubway.org, look on page "Subway FAQ".

If you do encounter someone who is not pleased with your photography I would highly recommend that you simply move on, especially if they are respectful. If it's more like they are harassing you I would get any pertinent information from them, mainly they're name and/ or employee/ badge number and contact the company involved and report any incidents. You do not have to surrender your equipment, film, or delete images. See http://www.krages.com/ThePhotographersRight.pdf for more information on this subject. This particular piece relates the US, but Canada isn't much different.

Now... onto why I take photos.
I am a transit historian. I use a number of methods to document the history of buses and transit system including collecting fare media, information, and above all photographically recording transit systems. I've encountered the occasional driver who doesn't "want their photo taken".  I have seen a Q and A sheet from an ETS EIW session that included a question relating to people taking photos of "us" (drivers) and what can be done about those taking photos. The answer was nothing, as we are doing nothing illegal.  I am not taking photos of you, but rather the rolling stock. The fact that you are behind the wheel is purely coincidental. I could care less that you are there. In fact, in the majority of photos you can't even see the driver. I am exposing the film to record the exterior of the vehicle. Naturally, the interior is usually darker and comes out underexposed (darker). 
Now, having said that I will try to minimize having a bus driver in the bus as I know some are sensitive to photography by trying to take photos at terminals when there's a greater chance the driver is not onboard the bus (I once had a driver question me after taking a photo of his bus while he was off of it. I told him what I was doing and he told me I should have waited until he was onboard so he could have been in the photo). Indeed, on a few very rare occasions I have had drivers request me to take photos of them with their buses. If this ever does happen I will provide a digital copy of the image and/ or a print to the individual at my own cost. 
For what it's worth, it's probably not worth it to try to hide from a photo. As I mentioned above, more than likely you won't even be visible in an image anyways. I remember a Fort McMurray driver who literally covered her face with her hands as she was driving, so that she couldn't see where the bus is going. Could you see her in the photo? No (#1922, Ken's shot... before she put her hands up). Now she just gets used an example by me of why it's not worth it to do something foolish like this. 
I know there have been times I have probably photographed a driver doing something they shouldn't (maybe breaking a traffic rule, or company policy). In the vast majority of cases I will never provide a photograph to anyone should I happen to capture a minor incident that could be used against the driver. Not that I have ever been approached about this, but just in case you're wondering. As well, I
WILL NOT post photos of vehicles involved in accidents on the road. I'm not trying to make a company look bad!!! I might post photos if the bus ends up in a storage yard visible to the public, however.
What do my photos get used for? Well, if you're here you probably have a pretty good idea. Barp.ca is my way of preserving transit history. My main interest lies with ETS. In the ETS section the collection of materials I have up goes beyond just photographs of buses. It includes fleet rosters, fare media, route maps, historical information etc. Barp.ca is a 100% non commercial website. I do not make a dime off of this website. In fact, I pay money to have it up.
While none of my photos have been used in publications to any great extent, without photos there wouldn't be publications on bus history, railroad history etc. In fact, one of my inspirations for taking photos was the book Edmonton Electric Traction. Further, in the foreword in the book put out by ETS for the 25th Anniversary of LRT, the manager of ETS thanks those that have taken photos throughout the LRT's existence. A lot of the photos used were taken by those not employed by transit. They just had an interest.
A little bit about the equipment I use and why I'm probably not a terrorist or what not. Yes, I use a big camera with (especially now) a big lens. If I was really trying to take photos for some illegal reason I would likely not want to be noticed. Everything I do is contrary to that. I don't hide the fact I'm taking photos. I won't run away if questioned. I don't lie about what I'm doing. If someone where taking photos for an illegal reason, I'm sure they would be trying to be as discrete as possible and not want to draw attention to themselves. In fact, if anything we can be an asset to transit systems as I have better understanding than most about what is normal and what is not when it comes to trains and buses. I believe there are a few railways that are actually training enthusiasts specifically on what to look out for, what to do, and providing a phone number for them to call if they see anything out of the ordinary. Consider us an extra pair of eyes watching out for our transportation systems.
Indeed, a visit to You Tube and a search with the words "Bus" and "Graffiti" will quickly yield results for another "hobby"  of sorts that is certainly a lot worse than simply photographing buses.

Anyways, I will probably update this page from time to time as I think of more things to write, experiences I've heard about etc. 

Martin Parsons, January 15, 2007

Martin Parsons 2007. All Rights Reserved. All opinions expressed are mine, and mine alone. If you would like to reuse a portion of the above, or the whole thing use the "Contact Us" button to contact me. I considered letting anyone reuse it without permission, but, I don't want some of the guidelines I choose to follow myself to suddenly be applied to anyone who can select "copy" and then "paste".
Anyone who would like further clarification on my photograph hobby, or has questions I haven't covered can contact me through the "Contact Us" link. I would encourage any representatives from transit system, railways etc. that happen to visit this page for one reason or another to keep your employees informed on why people might be taking photos, and your companies specific policies, if any, regarding photography on your property.