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 Is Time-Lapse Photography Considered Filming? 
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Joined: Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:57 pm
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Post Is Time-Lapse Photography Considered Filming?
Hello forum,

I'm currently working on a solo time-lapse passion project in a National Park and there's an area that is closed to "filming" activities unless accompanied by a Park Service employee at an absurd hourly rate. However, photography in the same area is perfectly legal. In the 2 years that I've been time-lapsing there, I have never been approached by a ranger or asked to stop. I do hold a commercial filming permit for the Park and don't want these time-lapses to breach the permit.

The permit states:

"Permittee is PROHIBITED FROM FILMING IN SENSITIVE AREAS unless accompanied by a National Park Service representative designated by the Film Permit Coordinator to monitor filming in these areas."

"Failure to have a NPS Monitor present for sensitive areas is a violation of the terms of this permit and will be a basis for suspension or revocation of this and other permits the permittee may hold and may result in criminal prosecution."

If I'm taking a photo every 20 seconds and later stitch it together in post, that is technically NOT filming in the sensitive area, right? Do you think I have a strong argument that time-lapsing is not filming?

Thanks in advance for your input!


Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:14 pm
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Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 2:48 pm
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Post Re: Is Time-Lapse Photography Considered Filming?
Christopher wrote:
Hello forum,

I'm currently working on a solo time-lapse passion project in a National Park and there's an area that is closed to "filming" activities unless accompanied by a Park Service employee at an absurd hourly rate. However, photography in the same area is perfectly legal. In the 2 years that I've been time-lapsing there, I have never been approached by a ranger or asked to stop. I do hold a commercial filming permit for the Park and don't want these time-lapses to breach the permit.

The permit states:

"Permittee is PROHIBITED FROM FILMING IN SENSITIVE AREAS unless accompanied by a National Park Service representative designated by the Film Permit Coordinator to monitor filming in these areas."

"Failure to have a NPS Monitor present for sensitive areas is a violation of the terms of this permit and will be a basis for suspension or revocation of this and other permits the permittee may hold and may result in criminal prosecution."

If I'm taking a photo every 20 seconds and later stitch it together in post, that is technically NOT filming in the sensitive area, right? Do you think I have a strong argument that time-lapsing is not filming?

Thanks in advance for your input!


I think this a point where the letter of the law and the spirit of the law say and mean two different things - I think what they are saying is that they don't want a film crew tramping all around all over the place - I would classify time lapse as a photography pursuit - probably you could argue that it is less intrusive than traditional photography, where you are try to get hundreds of photos from a hundred different setups. Time lapsers try to get hundreds of shots from a few set-ups. I have shot in a national park and read the same thing and never had anyone other than other tourist approach me - I wasn't off trail or blocking others enjoyment of the site. Of course I have no legal standing so take my opinion with that in mind. There is a Time Lapser on the board here that works for the National Park System - in some capacity, he might have some info.

timt

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Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:38 pm
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Post Re: Is Time-Lapse Photography Considered Filming?
Well shooting film is really just taking 24,25 photos a second isnt it? When i shot in restricted temples in Indonesia where no filming was aloud i just told them i was taking lots of pictures with my timelapse rig... Whats the chance of them seeing your work? I'd say i was taking pics 100% and argue them later if need be....

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Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:34 am
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Joined: Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:57 pm
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Post Re: Is Time-Lapse Photography Considered Filming?
Owen wrote:
Whats the chance of them seeing your work?


Actually higher than one would think in this instance. The Park Service have already contacted me once before after I put a "regular" video online, saying that if I did anymore filming in the park I would need a commercial license. That is why I now hold a commercial license even though I've never made a single dime off my videos.

Normally, I wouldn't hesitate to upload the TL's online but since the Park Service have contacted me once before and the fact that I've signed a legal document, it makes me a little wary. From their perspective, I worry that just because you made a fluent looking video it automatically means that you were "filming", when in fact you were just taking hundreds of photos.

For the record, I am very unobtrusive and have never broken any of the park's rules or laws to capture these images. I also plan on working out of this park for many more years as a photographer and don't want any outrageous thing like getting banned from the park to happen.

I'm fairly confident that I will eventually post the TL's online but I just thought I'd ask the forum for your thoughts or opinions on the matter. Thanks again!


Sun Jan 27, 2013 11:24 am
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Joined: Tue May 10, 2011 2:05 pm
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Post Re: Is Time-Lapse Photography Considered Filming?
I used to work as a Park Ranger Naturalist for 15 years ending a couple of decades ago. At that time the concern with filming had to do with the number of days of the filming activity, and the size of the film crew present. The concern was trampling of the resources, interfering with the public's ability to enjoy the park area, and the film crews understanding of what legal activities are in a National Park. (i.e.. you can't cut down trees for a better scene, or drive your truck out into the meadow.)

People with time-lapse still cameras would not be doing anything other shooters might be doing, they just take longer to do it!

This is the law I found on the subject. PUBLIC LAW 106–206—MAY 26, 2000

An Act
To allow the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a fee system for commercial filming activities on Federal land, and for other purposes.

I am not a lawyer and I have never played one on TV, so take all this for what it is worth. If you are still concerned I would suggest you contact an NPS regional office and ask.

Here is a link to the law.

PL 106-206
http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/wo/MINERALS__REALTY__AND_RESOURCE_PROTECTION_/lands_and_realty/filming.Par.69076.File.dat/pl-106-206.pdf

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Sun Jan 27, 2013 6:00 pm
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Joined: Mon Apr 04, 2011 5:21 pm
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Post Re: Is Time-Lapse Photography Considered Filming?
Seems like a perfect & defensible reason to reference photography when shooting in national parks! =)

Thanks for the detailed info spitzerr!


Sun Jan 27, 2013 6:34 pm
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Joined: Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:57 pm
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Post Re: Is Time-Lapse Photography Considered Filming?
Thanks for the info spitzerr and others!

For anyone interested, here is a quote from an email I received from the Park's film program manager in relation to film permits:

"As a general rule, a film permit is required for any individual, business,
group, organization or institution that may be paid, reimbursed, or
provided any measure of financial or in-kind support for any costs
associated with an audio, film, or video produced within the Park.
This applies not only to those shooting feature films, but
those who capture audio, film or video footage for school projects,
documentaries, product demonstrations, Web sites or training films."

Sad to think that you may not even be allowed to take a video from your iPhone (let alone a DSLR) and post it on your blog! What ever happened to "For the benefit and enjoyment of the people"?

Since I do have a film permit, I suppose I will continue to photograph (time-lapse) the areas closed to "filming". Nonetheless, the filming regulations in National Parks are extremely outdated and disheartening. They treat somebody with a t3i to the same standards as someone like George Lucas :/

Here is a petition directed to a U.S. Senator to allow small, independent film-makers to film on public lands:

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/all ... lands.html


Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:48 pm
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Post Re: Is Time-Lapse Photography Considered Filming?
I just signed it. I hope everyone who sees this post signs it too. It only took a minute to do.


Thu Jan 31, 2013 3:44 pm
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Post Re: Is Time-Lapse Photography Considered Filming?
To me, timelapse is a hybrid of photography and film. I suppose the rules on filming vs. photography are going to become ever blurred as devices will increasingly have the capacity to do both. So our community will probably have to recognize that while we may feel we're on one side of the fence perceptions may differ.

This restriction seems a bit odd. As spitzerr suggests, why not contact someone in charge to receive clarification? Seems pretty harmless and might help to build an understanding for their rules. If the area is off limits to filming then I suppose there is possibly a good reason for it. It may be the area is of some tribal significance and that tribal groups don't want it filmed. Whether one group of citizens should be able to restrict the use by another is another issue.

Restrictions are part of life. I generally prefer to embrace what I'm free to do over the headaches of butting heads with other people, especially if it could lead to burning a bridge.

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Sat Feb 09, 2013 10:19 am
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Joined: Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:57 pm
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Post Re: Is Time-Lapse Photography Considered Filming?
Hi Kurt,

Thanks for your reply, I appreciate your view on the matter. It's not sacred land but actually I'm referring to thermal basins in YNP. I checked out your videos and saw that you have also TL'd in the basins that are closed to "filming" w/out mandatory supervision. Technically, you may not even be allowed to post your video from the park without a film permit (unless of course I am mistaken and you do actually have a permit). As you can see, it's a pretty thin line as to what you can and can't do. Since you have already TL'd in the very locations I am speaking of, does it change your opinion about time-lapsing in that area? Thanks!

P.S. I sent an email to the filming office regarding the matter and am waiting for their response.


Sat Feb 09, 2013 12:01 pm
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Post Re: Is Time-Lapse Photography Considered Filming?
So here are the regs for YNP- http://www.nps.gov/yell/parkmgmt/filmpermit.htm

I'm also no lawyer. To me, they are trying to identify park use by professionals vs. tourists. Pros are then required to have a permit.

They do split hairs a bit between a videographer and photographer. For example, you can be a professional landscape photographer and not be required to have a permit while shooting other subject matter might require a permit.

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Sat Feb 09, 2013 1:59 pm
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