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Advice on taking pictures in a riot

Occupy SeattleAdvice on taking pictures in a riot

 

This is probably one of the most dangerous things that you can do as a photographer. When the press gets shot at, and photographers get arrested for taking pictures of Ferguson, you know that you are entering a dangerous environment. While Photography is not a crime, there is a wide held belief in law enforcement that taking pictures of the police in action is illegal.

 

Plan on not resisting what ever the police tell you to do.

 

First things first, make sure your camera is connected to the Internet so that as you take pictures they are uploaded to a secure cloud service like Flickr, Smugmug, Zenfolio or other service that can take the storage of pictures as you go. I also highly recommend taking advantage of the Comcast XFinity public WIFI and carrying your own cell hot spot for your camera. You can expect jamming or at least the use of Stingray equipment so do not contact anyone on your phone just use it to upload your images to the net. Police will have a copy of everything you send when they use Stingray, and it might not transmit to the Internet depending on how Law Enforcement has the system set up.

 

You might want to transfer data laterally using Blue Tooth to a number of connected devices (more below).

 

In some ways it would be better to use an IPhone or something else that connects automatically to the internet, however you can set up your camera to use a WIFI enabled card on your camera like EyeFI and/or Transcender cards that way you have your local copy and one that is already on the internet. It is possible to jam the signals from your camera, which was seen in Hong Kong during the recent protests, but you can always use Blue Tooth to share the pictures laterally amongst a number of cell phones or connected devices.

 

If you transfer data laterally via Blue Tooth, carry a spare cell phone on you to store data, or travel with a friend that can also try to upload the pictures for you onto the Internet. The thing to remember is that you can have 7 devices connected, and that there is one master node with six slave nodes, however, the slave nodes can be masters in another mesh. This does work, but requires set up before you get to the event, and understand that you will want to have an in-depth mesh for this process to work. However it worked in Hong Kong to successfully get data out of the local Law Enforcement jamming of cell phones and networks.

 

Use twitter as a sending channel as well on the spot understanding that the signals can and probably are being intercepted. What you share with the Internet Law Enforcement will also be keeping an eye on.

 

If you are independent, hang out with a local news crew; some of the pictures I have taken have been from right behind a local news crew. We hung out, we talked, I told them I was an independent stringer, and I sold pictures to the local TV station while I was at it. This is one safeguard, as Law Enforcement will see you with a local news crew and make the assumption you are news and leave you alone along with the news crew. Don’t be an idiot about it, move around the crowd to get the pictures you want, but when it gets hairy, be close to a news crew.

 

Use professional equipment; using your IPhone to take pictures immediately says you are not a pro. Take professional DSLR gear with you; use your IPhone in your pocket to get the images onto the Internet. Your DSLR gear can take video as well as stills, you goal is to make sure you have access to the images and video you took off your devices in case you are arrested and have your gear confiscated.

 

Always cooperate with Law Enforcement requests, if they want you on the sidewalk get on the sidewalk.

 

Don’t argue, don’t complain, just do it.

 

A number of times Law Enforcement has after the protest asked me for copies of the pictures, that one is up to you. Your goal is to sell the pictures; you can sell them to Law Enforcement as much as you can sell them to the press. That one is up to your own ideas, but as long as they are in a public gallery Law Enforcement can also download them unless you have set up to sell the pictures first.

 

Cooperate with Law Enforcement, if they tell you to move on, move on. Find another vantage point to take the pictures from.

 

Stay out of the way, your goal is to document, not get arrested. Have a camera for close in, but if you are moved out of the way along with other media, find a roof top vantage point, and a super fast F1.8 200MM or 400MM lens to work with.

Try not to look like a sniper, police will have an issue with that, I highly recommend an orange reflective vest and a sign that says “PRESS” so that the police do not thing that you are a sniper.

At least you will get some good long distance shots. Shoot RAW to get as much data as possible, but if not shoot JPG Fine. The problem is going to be the upload and distance from the picture. Make sure you have plenty of remaining room on your cell phone or hot spot plan to cover the event. If you think you are going to shoot a full 32 Gig card, plan accordingly with your data plan so you don’t get over runs and the higher cost associated with that.

 

Be careful about flying drones around the area if you are using one. The FAA might have declared it a no flight zone. Make sure you are streaming the video to a storage system in case the drone gets shot down or gets interfered with or jammed. Use a cheap drone with a cheap camera because it will be likely that you will lose it. Fry’s electronics has a good collection of sub $100.00 dollar drones that have enough lift for a small video camera. You can hack a small video camera like the $20.00 Bang Good HD video camera and connect it to the drone and transmitter. You need to transmit it and connect it to power, but that won’t be hard to do either. Have a separate power source for the camera so you don’t interfere with the battery life of the drone you are using. In all you can cobble a good video drone for under $100.00 if you are of the type. You will need to be aware that they run on the same frequency as Cell Phones WIFI 2.4GHZ, and also subject to jamming. Some transmitters have multiple channels and work in the 5.4 GHZ range, so test your drone before you fly to make sure audio and video is coming through and not being jammed.

 

However, cheap disposable drones are an exciting advance in photography for covering important events. That cannot be understated, it keeps the photographer safe and somewhat untraceable, while capturing amazing photography and video of an event.

 

While the goal here is not to antagonize Law Enforcement, being an independent stringer for covering riots and other actions carries its own risks. If you are detained expect your devices to be gone through, and in some cases the video will be copied or erased from your devices. It is easy to recover the data using commercial off the shelf forensics tools, but you might need help with using them, or pay for the data recovery.

 

Be prepared, be realistic, and above all be safe when doing this. There is something sweet about close in photography, but the inherent danger might require that you move out of the way and go remote.

 

Follow up to the Great Smugmug Hack of 2014

example of geolocation of IP AddressFollow up to the Great Smugmug Hack of 2014

 

Earlier this year we talked about the exposure of boudoir pictures on Smugmug, and I was one of the lucky winners. 8 months or so later it is still happening, people are still not password protecting their galleries, or making the passwords easily guessable. I get a report from Smugmug almost daily (early on it was a report 3 times a day) about people trying to get to the galleries.

 

Needless to say that we have implemented a much stronger password policy on the naughty bits so that they do not end up on “hot or not” or some other web site that ends up rating the person in the picture. Believe me there is nothing more unfriendly than a call from a model wanting to know why their pictures are on a “porn site”.

 

What is interesting is that the methods that the “hackers” are using have changed from exterior links (many of the voyeur web sites cracked down on that when it went public on much more public web sites than mine) to using Smugmug’s own internal search mechanism looking for those pictures we have posted, and made them Smugmug searchable.

 

Usually when you mark a gallery with a password it will not be indexed in Smugmug search, but the gallery keywords will be. So if you want to really annoy someone, post a bunch of pictures of cats, and keyword them with nude pussy. I am not above pranking people using Smugmug’s internal search mechanism to annoy someone.

 

If you use Gallery (Folder, Page) Key wording (like we should be doing to get more attention on the site, and in Google) then those will show up even if the gallery is password protected (as much as I can tell, for naughty pictures I stopped using Gallery, Folder and Image keywords and most of the “hacking traffic” has dropped to nill) and there will be a result in the search if they are looking for galleries.

 

This is one of the more interesting aspects of what we think we learned about Smugmug internal search.

 

The internal search tool is amazingly good, and absolutely relies on the keywords and text that you wrap around your images. Again you should be using text captions, you should be using key words when setting up your images either in Lightroom or photo editor of choice, and then going through and making sure that Smugmug picked up the keywords by looking at the images after the upload. A lot of photographers I have noticed do not use this function, it is critical if you want your stuff picked up by internal or external search engines.

 

But it is also a double edged sword, if you do not set a password on your gallery, or your pictures, then it is easily picked up by Smugmug internal search, and the “hackers” have resorted to using that tool to keep up to date on all the groovy naughty stuff being posted to Smugmug.

I have to applaud Smugmug though for their efforts to help photographers understand what was going on early on in the year. Indeed voyeur web sites and some amateur porn sites had picked up the boudoir and other pictures that were being posted online because of faulty use of the Smugmug system.

 

The bad part is that the “hacks” are still happening, but based on what we are seeing inside our Smugmug and Google Analytic statistics, 90% of all the attempts are being driven by the Smugmug internal search feature now, rather than the majority of this coming from outside sources.

 

Let us know if you have any questions, we would love to hear your side of the story.

 

So your naughty pictures on Smugmug got hacked

So your naughty pictures on Smugmug got hackedSo your naughty pictures on Smugmug got hacked

It seems that on February 7th, and ongoing through the end of last night people were trolling Smugmug and Zenfolio for all those naughty boudoir pictures that people have been taking and putting behind a password. The good part is that the link was taken down at the site collecting them, and the admin of the site was being pretty cool about it even if it is a voyeur web site. It was pretty easy to find with all the traffic going on about how this was happening.

Really your stuff wasn’t hacked, it was more using an automated scraper to find anything with the word nude in the title, then a quick automated check to see if you were using any one of the 100 most commonly used passwords for the gallery.

example of geolocation of IP Address

So if you used a name or the password password you can pretty much so figure out that someone saw the pictures who is not the client you were taking pictures of at the time. So nope, not really hacking, more like some pretty effective social engineering and those are two things in my mind. My adventure with this started last night when one of the most impressive smugmug support heroes gave me a quick shout that someone was trying to guess the password to a gallery I posted a year ago, I am kind of flattered that they would try this, and I am guilty of using password hints up through this morning when I reset all the passwords on my protected galleries. I am also thankful that really nothing got to where it should not have gone because I use at least some sort of password security, and now the hint shows the old password when the password has changed just because I want to be a jerk about all this.

From there it was a quick dive through my Smugmug Organizer and resetting about 2 dozen passwords, then going on a hunt, while I am a photographer by hobby, I am a computer security person by trade, so this was a great way to exercise just a few of my skills this morning. But you might want to keep an eye out on your traffic levels, looking for anything unusual, and if you have a pop on a password protected gallery, change the password on it. This one will come around again, now that people know to do this, hey there it is.

Geolocate the IP Addresses, Smugmug will do that for you, check your referrers too if you allowed embedding along the way. Smugmug recommends setting the password before uploading, that way it does not get slurped into the RSS feed of smugmug while you are uploading, don’t use the same password, and for the love of all that you believe in don’t use an easily guessed password. Don’t use password hints, turn off Right Click Save As, and one site recommended not to post them online at all, meet up with the client and hand them a CD of their pictures. Of course that won’t matter if your computer gets hacked, but that is also a risk we face in this day and age.

SLRLounge also has some good advice to follow along the way as well.

So check your stuff out today, don’t wait, while the main thread is down at the creeper site (voyeur site), it does not mean that this won’t happen again, you might as well take good steps now to secure your stuff. And keep your clients from showing up in places they didn’t think they would show up in. There is nothing quite so much as to ruin your day as having a client ask you why their pictures are all over a porn site.

 

 

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Unveiling the New Smugmug

Unveiling the New SmugmugUnveiling the New Smugmug

I have been a fan and user of Smugmug since 2005, and since then I have seen a lot of changes with the site, most of them have been under the hood, but this is the first time Smugmug has rolled out a new look and feel. Anytime any web site updates the User Interface (UI) you wonder what all is going to break along the way. This time though, no breaking, just good clean solid programming making things much more pretty, and a way to harmonize your Smugmug site with the other web sites that you use to showcase your pictures.

If you want to check out the changes – trot on over here.

It took about 5 hours to roll my 60,000 pictures over on the Smugmug site to the point where I could get to the new UI and then actually go tinker with it. There were a lot of people out there yesterday trying to do the same thing and while they say it might take a minute or two to do this, the more pictures you have the more time it will take to roll everything over to the new UI. I have some friends who had 150,000 pictures or more that are still waiting and we all tried to do this about the same time yesterday. So figure about an hour for every 10,000 pictures wait time for the roll over and that means you can go grab a cup of coffee or take a nap, or go do something useful along the way while you are waiting.

The wait is worth it.

Smugmug wait screen

The new UI is clean, pretty, and allows you to really customize a lot of what you do or how you want to showcase your stuff. I personally made a special gallery of my latest stuff or the stuff I really love and then used that as my main linkage point back into the rest of the site. You are going to see a drop off in traffic as people try to get used to the new Smugmug layout, and some of it is counter intuitive. For example, there is a browse link, I wanted to change the name over to Check out the other Galleries, but you can’t change the text on the default links. You can however finally make a link back to the other places you store stuff, so you can interlink your Smugmug with your web site, flickr, Deviant Art, and other places to build a route to the other places you share your stuff.

The wait was so worth it.

Honestly I really love what Smugmug has done here, I am generally not a foaming at the mouth rabid fan, and there were some hitches with Smugmug last year with the pricing model that they had proposed. But I also know that Smugmug will listen to people, so while I whine about the browse vs galleries link – if that is the only think I found lacking, then I consider myself very lucky. Smugmug is worth the cost, and the time, and the new UI roll out last night just hit on all the numbers. Thank you Smugmug, as always, you are awesome.

 

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