Beware of Police Officers When Shooting Time-Lapse Photographs

Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania-based photographer Jason Macchioni was recently shooting a time-lapse project from an overpass at night when he was approached by police officers who demanded his ID and threatened to arrest him for wiretapping (Macchioni was recording video of the encounter). Macchioni tells us,

I was shooting a time-lapse which I’m still working on, I arrived at this site around 9 and was there for about 3 hours until these two cops rolled up! At first I was calm and refused to give ID, After the second cop was breathing down my neck and really threatening me. I gave in and tried to get them to leave. Then stuff got heated.

Macchioni has enlisted the help of the ACLU in filing a complaint with the police department. Want to learn more about your rights as a photographer in the US? Check out this short cartoon the ACLU released earlier this month.

  • Dejan Danailov

    Whatever anybody says, IMHO, a simple “My ID? Let me get it … Here it is officer …” would solve any problem here.
    Put yourself in their shoes, out there by road in the middle of the night checking some man doing something you maybe don’t rely understand and instead of being relaxed and friendly, he’s giving you that “Because I don’t have to” treatment. What would you do?

  • Romanium

    his worth as a photographer shall be known as the guy with the whiny confrontation on youtube

  • gerlos

    Maybe cops in US are really mad… 
    Anyway, I’d gave him my ID, and explained what I was doing, showing him an old time lapse from my smartphone, so he could see that I didn’t wanto to harm anyone.
    There’s no point arguing with people late at night. 

  • lord xeon

    If you’re doing anything commercial you usually need things like a tripod permit.

  • Jeremy

    I am sad you think this.

  • jr cline

    I’ve never had an encounter with the police escalate to this level.  I always comply when they ask for my id.  I don’t mind showing it.  I use it as a lead in to showing giving them my business card and it the situation gets friendly enough trying to sell them a photo session.  I have a lot more trouble with security guards and employees than I do with the police. 

  • Gjohns

    This, folks, is what’s wrong with today’s youth.

  • Gary

    I fully agree. It’s clowns like this photographer that make the job of the police much harder than it needs to be. Sadly, he’ll probably rear children one day, and add them to the growing number of delinquents whose parents have brought them up to be right little monkeys. 

    Give the police their baton back, and let’s start re-instilling some commonsense in to the youth, before it all goes south completely.

  • Daniel Hoherd

    Yeah, seriously.  “My *dad* knows your boss”?  Who fucking cares who his dad knows.  I’m all for freedom and photographer rights, but that statement was just asking for trouble.

  • Gjohns

    I’m cool living in a society where those trusted to protect and serve can actually do so, minus the mouthy attitude they have to put up with from the kids of today whose parents have utterly failed in their duty to raise anything that even remotely resembles a respectful human being.

  • Daniel Hoherd

    That’s simply not true.  It’s not even required for you to carry ID, let alone present it to the police if you happen to have it.

  • zizzybaloobah

    Photography is not a crime. The authorities need to stop treating it like one.

  • Mantis

    Let me tell you something GJohns.  I’m 38 years old.  I live in the Suburbs, and I have two kids.  I’m not the “Kids of Today” that you mention above.   I have a full time job and a god damned mortgage.

    I also happen to know a lot of cops because they live in my neighborhood, and we end up at the same BBQ’s & birthday parties where I get to listen them laugh while they tell stories about the “kid they chased down and roughed up last night”, about the “guy who’s head they slammed against the hood of their cruiser”, the one “they harassed and then hogtied” when they found a bit of weed on him.

    I’m now totally convinced that our law enforcement system is fundamentally broken, and that it’s a career that attracts thugs and violent goons.

  • Mantis

    I don’t understand your point either.  So what if he’s a “crummy time lapse photographer”?  That doesn’t matter.  Would it make a difference to you if this was a famous photographer this was happening too?

    He was doing something perfectly legal, and tried to stand up for his (and your rights).

  • Through Painted Eyes

    This was disappointing. You claim to know your rights, but give in to both requests by the officers. What’s the point of being defiant if you’re going to break under pressure. Grow a pair for next time.

  • BobbyPix

    An organization whose sole purpose is to DEFEND the first ten amendments of the Constitution? Yes, the ACLU is anti-American alright.

    Good grief.

  • Steve

    Police have to worry about people jumping off motorway overpasses and dropping objects on the highway. But this video does highlight very nicely how a cop’s ego gets in the way of his ears…..and this cop clearly hasn’t got a raw clue as he appears to have no idea what a time-lapse video. 

    Just one more example of the ignorance of a law enforcement officer being the REAL problem. 

  • Romanium

    perhaps i could be behind someone who didn’t act like a conceited ass, didn’t intentionally try to start a thing with a cop in the middle of the night, didn’t say something about daddy issues. why would you fight for a guy like this, no matter what the issue? that doesn’t make sense. he’s a jackass looking for trouble, found it, is wallowing in it, and intends to make it worse to prove the point that; hey i still have rights but i can act like a total asshole to a cop. no. you shall be reduced to the whiny guy on youtube with daddy issues who would rather argue with cops than truly seek out the art. use common sense/street sense instead of hiding behind daddy/stupidity/ignorance and just an overall tacky approach to photographing.

  • Ackaste

    Stupidity is not a crime, but you aren’t in jail for that :p

    You admit that you’ve had problems with police officers before, so rather than hand over your ID and get the affair over with you play Mr. “I know my rights”

    You admit to being in contact with an attorney, but rather than keep the paperwork needed to explain what you’re doing… you’re acting all “Police Officers should know every sentence of every law”. Lawyers certainly wouldn’t rely on their “Knowledge of the Law” to argue a case, why would you expect a police officer to be different?

    And worse, you act as if “I’m not breaking the law” should have a response of “Have a good day citizen.”

    Can you not POSTULATE the IDEA that someone might setup a time-lapse as a pretense to committing a crime? “I’m not waiting for someone to come home so I can kill them, I’m just taking a time-lapse officers” “Okay, carry on”.

    Can you not AGREE that forcing Police Officers to know EVERYTHING (and not just regarding the law) is impractical? Should we teach photography to police officers just so they understand what the photographer is doing? When asked “Why” you don’t say “cause I can”, you say “Here, look”, for all he knows you could be taking photos of women’s breasts as they pass under the bridge.

    Or even that if you were going to setup a timelapse, that CALLING the police department and INFORMING them of what you were going to be doing, (you SAID you had issues in the past), is SMARTER than being an IDIOT when the officers could have seized your camera (or better yet, tried to seize but dropped it into traffic) for acting like an idiot?

    You ARE a PERSON OF INTEREST. Get use to it, or learn to work around it.

    *and to note:
    “Proper Paperwork” is NOT “Look at my phone so I can blind you and run away”. It IS Permits, or other notifications signed by the Chief of Police (Given that you know him so well).

    I’d rather have to carry around my drivers license than to live in a world where perverts are allowed to take voyeuristic photos. Guilty until proven innocent! If you assume every american citizen isn’t breaking the law, you’ll miss the ones who are. Good bye.

  • Ackaste

    Do you know what a (insert some technological idk… HAARP) is?
    Should you be criticized for not knowing that?

    And even if you know what the acronym means, I’d say there’s only a 1/1000000 chance you actually understand the complexity of the technology behind it. (Of course, you could CLAIM you do by reading wikipedia)

    The officer did not know what the kid was doing.

    The Officer did not UNDERSTAND what the kid was doing.

    The Kid made little effort to explain (and actually rather FAILED at explaining) what he was doing… instead he kept saying “I am allowed to do this”

    This isn’t ignorance on the officers part. It’s ignorance on the KID’s part! You CANNOT expect officers to learn every past-time that people do JUST so they can judge whether or not someone is doing something dangerous.

    *And with a timelapse, it’s not about jumping or throwing… it’s about loitering… and there are plenty of people who don’t feel safe with someone sitting out in a dark car for a few hours.

  • Dave

     The fundamental problem with this situation is that the average cop is pretty clueless to law and is exacting revenge on society for the way he was bullied in school because he was a moron.

  • Dave

    “Should we teach photography to police officers just so they understand what the photographer is doing?”

    You don’t need to teach them photography, you just need to teach them that photography is not illegal. That should take about two minutes.

  • Disparkys

    Sure, while you are at it, why don’t you let them control when you are allowed to go out, or have them come at any time they want at your house, rape, shoot and leave. Their JOB is to protect your rights not shove them down your throats, let alone make up their own rights and SCARE you to submission. THAT’S what causes deliquency. Just because your dad used to beat you with a stick, it doesn’t mean others have to do it as well, so that you feel good about it.

  • Shane

    I don’t understand why he couldn’t just show his ID to the officer. Yes, I understand that it is within his rights but he probably could have avoided a confrontation. What is wrong with the police checking to see if someone is up to something? He clearly wasn’t doing anything wrong and could have just handed over his identification. Heck, he could have showed the officer what he was doing. I think there is a difference in knowing your rights and complying with authorities, and knowing your rights and being a stickler about them just to stand up to the man.

  • Jimi

    Seriously… F*ck the police!

  • Tbone

    Has anyone ever heard of “to serve and protect”? This guy knows his rights but the cops use agressive voices and threats of arrest to make him comply. Cops like this are worthless – we need more cops like Ponch and John!

  • Harvey

    @Shane – Why just roll over without questioning authority? The US is in trouble with people like you and the others who comment the he should just give his ID as soon as they ask. Power to the people!

  • Granite Stater

     How do you mean?? Everyone should just bow down and submit to authority no matter the circumstance? The youth of today are dangerous because some of them read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

  • zero p

    regardless of your opinion about this guy’s photography, his attitude towards the cops, or that he has daddy solve problems for him, you can’t deny the fact that he has been harassed (to which extent we don’t know)  PREVIOUSLY or several times before by similar cops in the same area. And he has had to resolve it before, and explain the situation to the cops, even though he really doesn’t have to. Yes, i too would go the easier more logical route of simply being nice, showing my id, and then be getting on with my “crummy time lapse of traffic” which is in the end all that matters. But if you put yourself in his shoes, and this has happened several times before, at one point, you are gonna get pissed off and say “fuck this shit” and try to stand up for yourself and it seems he was trying that, one way or another. 
    And then on the other hand, i think it’s safe to say most people don’t trust cops or don’t like them. So while I don’t pity this guy either, I don’t get people siding with the “poor officers working late at night just doing their job bs”

  • Romanium

    what’s your point?

  • Skinner Photographs

    What gets me is in these instances law enforcement is always incorrect, yet when someone who is informed on the law begins to explain to the officer the photographers rights, the officer just continues to insist on seeing identification. It would be hilarious to see just once a video where the officer after being informed of the actual law has a “oh yeah, I think I remember learning that” moment and backs off. Probably will never happen though. 

  • Skinner Photographs

    Shooting a photograph of a freeway overpass will almost certainly lead to heinous terrorist bombings. Al Qaeda is in Elizabethtown, PA just as I have been telling EVERYBODY. 

    Police, people, take a deep breath cuz it will be o’kay.

  • Dan The Photo Man

    Even if you don’t HAVE to show an ID, just do it, explain what you are doing, be nice and everything will be okay.  Being confrontational is foolish.  Just remember, you may know what you are doing, but no one else does until you explain it.  People who think all of the police are evil just need to grow up.

  • Aryl

    how free you are. Even free of taxes, free to speak in NY protests without being gassed, free to buy and be tracked by you credit card, free.. Simply free…

  • Seriesrover

    And why not?

    One way you get to “stick it to authority” – cool man…awesome….and you get your name known and ruin your photog trip.

    The other way, by just simply showing some ID, the police are happy, and you’re back to shooting.

  • Marcus Lyra

    I don’t pend to the officer’s side, they are ignorant pieces of the state.


    They don’t have how to know exactly what a person’s doing or intend to. Or what tha hell timelapse tiltshifted in HDR with a ND filter is….

    So as an organizational rule, they ask for ID. This things happens for the well of all photogs as you guys, who doesn’t desire to be stealed while making your hobbies around at night.

    This guy is not constitucionally wrong denying giving his ID, but being nonsense and creating more and more troubles with this childish acting.

    After all, he must think: is it really worth making mysteries to the cops, instead of just explaining and getting a friendship with them, who can soon help you in a really difficult situation?

    (sorry english mistakes.)

  • Bob Dunkin

    The phrase used is LAWFUL command.  Or Failure to obey a LAWFUL command. You see the difference?  IF the command is not lawful, you are under no obligation to obey. 
    Note, in the media and elsewhere, it’s usually shortened to “failure to obey”…which, seems like you have to do everything that cops say.  You don’t, and you shouldn’t.

  • KG

    These cops are assholes. they don’t even know the law. They talk complete and utter BS. If the guy hadn’t said what he did, and made them uneasy, they’d have bullied the shit out of him. |Simple. You have to be in this situation to see if you’d stay cool or not, it’s not easy when the cops are morons. 

  • Shane

    I disagree, Harvey. I do not think the “US is in trouble with people like [me].” I am in graduate school getting a degree in an academic field to become a productive member of society.

    I just don’t see what the problem is with showing the cop a driver’s license. Producing identification is a way of establishing trust with the officer, showing that you are cooperative, and it goes a long way to getting the authorities out of your hair. If one does not produce ID, it raises the suspicions of the officer and he (or she) might think you’d have something to hide. Saying things like “I have ID, but I don’t have to show it to you,” is going to cause trouble. And yes the officer was ignorant of what Jason was trying to do, but for a moment he seemed ok with it. Jason then answered the question of why he was doing this, with “because I can.” Why the defensive and combative tone? Why the rudeness? Saying, “well I am a photographer” or something like that might have been better.

    There are times when people need to rise up and exert their power against authority; I don’t think this was one of those times. If the officer said you can’t be doing this, or something to that effect, then Mr. Macchioni would have been right. It is showing ID for Pete’s sake!!!

    I also applaud Jason for standing up for his rights regarding the “wiretapping law.” It sucks that his phone turned off. The cop is clearly ignorant about public space and recording.

    Trust me, Harvey, there are videos out there of cops harassing photographers where the photographer is totally in the right and the cops are being jerks. Cops such as those are making me afraid to take my camera out into the world. I just think this situation could/should have been handled much better, and some photographers are giving others a bad reputation. 

  • Springmills

    Cops pushed it too far. Guy was doing no harm..they should have gone on their way and looked for people breaking into houses and other real crimes.

  • Aryl

     US knows it`s past in terrorism by stepping over other nations and being attacked.
    So I think they think they are constantly under potential attack. People are crazy there. The government is also.

  • J-dub1980

    Ugh, I’ve heard that statement from Polizei one too many times in my life.

  • Val-E

    Being older, i’d take the mellow route too, because I know cops have to win a pissin’ contest. I’m mean just because the dude is not jolly, doesn’t mean they have to lower themselves to the kid’s level.

  • wannabe_likemike

     Because there’s a big difference between cons posing as photographers to get out of trouble, and real photography.

    Don’t confuse freedoms with letting criminals escape the system to commit more crimes as they wish.  That’s a very large divide to pass.

  • wannabe_likemike

    “I think this guy is an idiot. The photographer, not the cop.
    Damn, just show the f***g id and be polite.

    “My father knows your boss”… pff, asshole.”

    Hahaha, so true.  Sounds like a little spoiled rich kid, trying to have his way in the big bad real world, your dad, his boss, don’t really give a shit if you get in trouble, they’re still letting you deal with the real world consequences, none of that crap “my daddy knows…” shit. 

    What a weasel word to use there.  Welcome to the real world, kid.  Your daddy doesn’t carry you around all day. Take care of shit for yourself, like a grown ass man.

    Running to the interwebs for support when you look like a total douchebag is kind of retarded, while we’re at it.

    “Nope.  That’s how we let tyrants get what they want and bully law abiding citizens into submission.” Okay, you’re right.  Two Pennsylvania cops are part of a global conspiracy to take away your rights.  It’s just like when that’s really happened in the past… except it’s not.  Read your history one of these days, why don’t cha.

    “I fully agree. It’s clowns like this photographer that make the job of
    the police much harder than it needs to be. Sadly, he’ll probably rear
    children one day, and add them to the growing number of delinquents
    whose parents have brought them up to be right little monkeys. 

    Give the police their baton back, and let’s start re-instilling some
    commonsense in to the youth, before it all goes south completely.”

    Hopefully, one of these days the world won’t be filled by rich daddie’s boys who were always dragged out of trouble by their parents doing.  What a f******g scrub.  Giving all the other photographers in PA a bad name.

    For f******g shame.

    “Nope.  That’s how we let tyrants get what they want and bully law abiding citizens into submission.”

    LOL! You’re comparing 2 local police officers who have no consolidated power themselves, to a TYRANT!  AHA! There’s the rub, my friend; uneducated photographers who somehow can afford to pay for internet, yet never really understood history or how it relates to the present.  That’s quite the elaborate joke in this day and age.

  • wannabe_likemike

    Comparing showing your identification to a police officer who asks for it, is nowhere near a slippery slope to them coming in your house and raping you. 

    I think you tend to confuse blasphemous yelling as freedom, and polite requests as tyranny. 

    Protecting you from deviants, and asking you for an ID, are very different than “taking away your rights” or any amalgamations of the term therein. 

    You’re a police officer, how do you tell a criminal (pretending to be a photographer) against a real amateur, when they both will refuse to show you their ID (“Because I can”), both act suspiciously (“My dad knows your boss” LOL!), and both could be committing crimes directly after taking pictures for a few minutes. 

    You couldn’t tell the difference, hence why they ask for your ID. 

    This guy could be a fugitive, except he’d be a really bad one.

    They don’t know that, therefore they have to ask.

    Stop confusing keeping the public safe, and showing your ID, as infringing on your rights, it isn’t. 

    A random stranger, yes.  Police officers, no.  Conspiracy theories are nice, but they only get you so far once you reach reality.

  • Mekon Delta

    “What a maroon!”
     – Bugs Bunny

  • Gene

    Loitering is something that is done at a place of business when you are hanging out there and not buying anything.  You can’t loiter in a public place.

  • Gene

    I was following along with you until you go to this part, “I’d rather have to carry around my drivers license than to live in a world where perverts are allowed to take voyeuristic photos. Guilty until proven innocent! If you assume every american citizen isn’t breaking the law, you’ll miss the ones who are.” 
    Like it or not, you live in a world where perverts are taking voyeuristic photos. I’m not exactly sure how you think one would do that from an overpass, though.  In every part of the United States, a person is innocent until proven guilty.  A police officer should presume every American citizen is innocent until he witnessed a crime being committed that he can charge him with.  “Being a douchebag” isn’t enough of a reason.

  • sabby

    everyone is fully entitled to his constitutional rights as long as he does not demand they are enforced!