The case of bad karma

By | 2014-08-16T11:21:34+00:00 Aug 4th, 2014|

TL;DR – Don’t be a dick (gender neutral) to your fellow photographers and human beings.

This weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting up with my good bud, Matt Kloskowski, at Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington, for a few days of scouting and photographing. Matt was there with two video crew from Kelby One, prepping a new course that will surely be a hit for all you landscape photographers.

Towards the end of my stay (I had to leave early for work purposes), we were scouting a potential sunrise shoot at Myrtle Falls, which is found in the Paradise area of the park. Because it was blazing hot out and because we were just scouting, all of us decided to simply carry one camera and one lens while leaving the tripods and heavy gear in the car. The only addition I had was my Formatt-Hitech 105mm Circular Polarizer.

When we got to this location, I started setting up my shot and immediately realized that I could have really used an additional 3-stop ND filter due to the sun blaring tons of light. With my current setup, even at ISO50 and the aperture set to f/22, I couldn’t quite get my desired 1/2″ exposure to capture the motion of the little waterfall in the foreground. To my left was an older man donned in that prototypical photographer garb (no offense is meant here, but I defy you to debate me on this): he had his NatGeo safari vest, his Nikon safari hat, and what I think was either a NatGeo or Domke camera sack with all the add-on packs and accoutrements that go with it.

I really could have used a 3-stop filter, so I walked over to the elderly photographer and asked him if he had a 3-stop ND filter that I could use for 2-3 photos. It wouldn’t have taken more than 3 minutes tops. He looks at me, looks down at my camera, and asks:

Will this be used in any commercial publication?

[oh man, what did I just get myself into]
I answer, nope.

He follows up with
Will it be posted on the internet?

I reply, absolutely.

Then I don’t have one for you. was his reply, stated purely matter of fact.

Jaw slightly agape, I thanked him and immediately walked off to get a few photos with the gear that I had, resulting in the image you see here. Even as I type, I’m shaking my head at how tawdry people can be with their misplaced, overprotective behaviors as it relates to photography. At first, I felt rage. Then I felt pity. Then I knew what the topic of today’s post would be. :)

The long and the short of it is that I really hope if ever a time comes when you have the choice of being such a dick to your fellow photographer in such a situation, using such warped rationale, you choose not to be one and thus make a nice deposit into your karma account. 

As for the photo itself, I used my Sony A7r and Sony FE 24-70 lens with the aforementioned Formatt-Hitech 105mm CPL, handheld. The sky was pure blue and boring so I comped in another one for effect and then stylized in Analog Efex Pro 2, part of the Nik Collection by Google.

37 Comments

  1. Mike Spivey August 5, 2014 at 12:22 am

    Wonder what his reaction would have been if you told him you were going to MANIPULATE the resulting image!

  2. My American Myth August 11, 2014 at 11:00 am

    People are unbelievable sometimes. I had a similar run-in earlier this year…. http://myamericanmyth.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/cant-we-all-just-get-along/

  3. R Lombardo August 11, 2014 at 11:57 am

    I would not consider him a d**k. Do you believe that you are entitled to use other’s equipment? I don’t think a refusal to allow you to borrow a piece of equipment is considered rude; it was certainly his prerogative. Implying he did something wrong shows more a problem with your personality than his.

    • Pinola Photo August 11, 2014 at 12:08 pm

      I agree. I think that it would have been nice if he had helped you out, but to think that you are entitled to his gear is a little silly. I have had far worse interactions with fellow photographers than this. I love both your work as well as Nicole’s, but this is reaching a bit for something to complain about.

      • Brian Matiash August 11, 2014 at 12:28 pm

        Pinola Photo – I certainly apologize if you got the impression that I was complaining here or that I had any sense of entitlement. Again, the point here is that we’re all people and, as such, should treat each other with a certain amount of respect as a common baseline. I am, in no way, entitled to borrow your gear simply because I ask. However, I’d like to think that I am entitled to politeness in my interaction with you. Here’s a simple exercise – how would you feel if I responded in this exact way to you?

        • Pinola Photo August 11, 2014 at 7:28 pm

          I guess that I was not there to see how he acted, and you are much too nice of a person to paint him in a bad light here. From what I read it did not seem that bad. That being said I could not see tone or read expression. I came over here from Nicole’s blog post expecting something truly bad. I am glad that it was not.

          To answer your question I shoot sports. There are some nice guys out there, but also a lot of crotchety old men who won’t give you the time of day. They will step on you to get their shot. Maybe it is the interactions that I have had with these men that make this situation seem tame.

          After I wrote my initial post to you I realize that it could be taken in the wrong way. Trust me I have nothing but respect for your work. I just think that you ran into one of the members of the old school that guards every secret that they have.

    • Brian Matiash August 11, 2014 at 12:18 pm

      I don’t think I ever gave any impression that I was entitled to borrowing anyone’s gear and based on your response to my post, I think you may have missed my point altogether. The photographer’s decision to not let me use his gear is not the point at all. It was his gear and he had every right to determine whether he wanted to oblige my request to borrow it.

      By all means, deny me use of your gear – I would never claim that to be unwarranted nor would I blame you. I can fully relate to being uneasy with letting a stranger use my gear, which can be quite expensive. But you deny me in a polite way. And if you read the interaction I posted, R Lombardo, you’ll note that he was actually qualifying whether he should lend me his filter. I suspect that if I answered his questions in a different way, he’d actually let me borrow it for the minute or two that I’d need it. But to go about it the way that this photographer did strikes me as really rude.

      And to turn your accusation of the problem being with my personality over to you, if you think that it’s socially becoming to respond in this haughty manner as the aforementioned photographer did, then perhaps you should perform some introspection about your own personality.

  4. Jack Eichner August 11, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    I agree with R. Lombardo. It is the gentleman’s equipment and his right to turn down your request, the request of a stranger. You are a professional whose income is derived from your photographic efforts. It seems to me that it would have been appropriate for you to introduce yourself, explain that you had left a filter you needed behind, ask if he had one you could borrow briefly, and offer to give him in return a signed photograph of the best of the shots you took with the filter.
    He went to the effort to carry his equipment to the site, as you so eloquently described, and you had that same opportunity but chose not to do so. Also, I consider ridiculing him in your blog as being rather unprofessional. The best outcome in this situation would have been if you had just walked away from this and chalked your photo effort up to a lost opportunity.

  5. Ken Waldron August 11, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I don’t believe the issue was whether or not he lent the equipment. He could have simply said no. It appears he was possibly willing to do so. His reason for not doing so is what made him a dï¢k.
    Now had he set up a beach shoot with models, light modifiers and all, then you walked up and asked to borrow equipment to shoot his models I can see that attitude. But, he didn’t put the scenery there.
    I sat at the rim of the Grand Canyon and watched a gentlemen from Japan set up an 8×10 view camera, then drop and shatter his focusing screen. I felt sick and would have done anything to help him if I could. I think any decent photographer would have felt the same. Most of us act as members of a collegial fraternity willing to help others. Not so this person. Rest assured, karma will get him one day. Dollars to donuts he got home and found out he had his white balance set to fluorescent and format to .jpg the entire trip.

  6. Jon Grimes August 11, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    i agree with Jack, don’t think you handled it particularly well at the time according to your post – if you had explained who you were maybe you would have got a different more positive response. You seem to imply he should have said yes. i don’t agree. chalk it up to a learning experience i guess. at least you got the shot anyway.

  7. Jack Foster Mancilla August 11, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    I do not loan equipment.
    Except- When I have contracted a job where I hire second, or more shooters. And, being the lead photographer, I am responsible for all the final images. It is to the job that I am contracted as lead, that I loan equipment.

    The reason I behave this way is that, to me living on marginal income, all my equipment is irreplaceable. … If I broke anything on my own, I would be very angry at myself, and no one else. If you or even a friend of mine, broke something, it would take at least a few days to replace the damaged unit whatever it is, and the cost would probably have to come out of my own pocket. … At least in the short term. …

    So my anger would be directed at myself for loaning the unit in the first place. … Because I should have known better. I did know better, and I broke my own rule.

    If anyone asks to use my tools, I usually just say, “I am sorry, but I do not loan equipment.

    • Brian Matiash August 11, 2014 at 1:23 pm

      You hit the nail on the head here, Jack. Based on the dominant theme of replies here, it seems that I didn’t properly represent that I, in no way, felt entitled to borrow this photographer’s filter simply because I asked. If the photographer replied in the way you mentioned, “I am sorry, but I do not loan equipment.”, I’d be 100% understanding of it.

      However, it is in the way this person felt the need to qualify me before determining whether I was worthy, as it were, of using his filter for the two or three frames that I needed. Again, everyone, it isn’t that the photographer didn’t lend me his filter. It is how he went about it. It is a question about civility and common/mutual respect. In my book, it was totally rude and deserving of a PSA-style blog post.

      Now, I fully get Jack’s point about me ridiculing a caricature of the user. I chalk it up to writing the post in the heat of the moment and it is a bit hypocritical of me to preach about mutual respect in light of this. That being said, I’d like to say it again – in no way do I think anyone is entitled to use someone else’s post simply because they ask. But, there is something to be said about denying the request with respect.

  8. Jon Grimes August 11, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    good point. maybe if Brian had offered to replace if he broke it. or if he had told him he was a pro and therefore the risk of breakages perhaps reduced the outcome might have been different. its a shame Brian thinks this guy was in the wrong in terms of decision and how he made the decision. i think Brian is wrong for trying to shame the guy in my humble opinion.

    • Brian Matiash August 11, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      Wait a second – how did I try to shame this photographer? I was 100% respectful with this person, even after our conversation. I fully admit to expressing my frustration about the situation in the way I described this photographer but in no way do I feel that I shamed him. Unless I am totally missing something here…

      • Doug Daulton August 11, 2014 at 6:08 pm

        Brian – Unless you left something out, you did nothing to shame this guy.

  9. case August 11, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    It shows disrespect they you are trying to call him out for his behaviour when I honestly can’t see he’s done anything wrong. You just didn’t like his answer it seems.

  10. Stephanie Sinclair August 11, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Calm down boys, everyone’s getting a bit wound up it seems. Chill. But yet, I do see why they think your post is perhaps out of place. You didn’t appreciate his answer or method of deciding so you post a blogrant. Hope it is out of your system now sweetie. Move on.

  11. My American Myth August 11, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Brian, I feel you. My blog rant was way more inappropriate and hypocritical than yours, I’ll be the first to admit. And some of these comments have made me think about my reaction to the whole situation I experienced. That said, it’s still baffling that people are completely missing the initial point entirely.

  12. My American Myth August 11, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    Totally, wholly, utterly, and thoroughly, too ;)

  13. mpachis August 11, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    I understood immediately from Brian’s story it was not being denied use of the equipment he was calling out the other photographer. It was the way he did it. Of course the other photographer had the absolute right to not lend his gear, but I would have replied in a more civil way, i.e. I have had a bad experience with lending gear so I will not be able to help you, or many other polite ways of saying no.

    What I’m curious about is how the use of a filter would have any bearing on if you would lend it? It was kind of a weird.

  14. Doug Daulton August 11, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Brian – Great post. I’ve been on both sides of that encounter and I agree, the guy was breaking Wheaton’s Law (don’t be a dick).

    To folks taking issue with the post, a couple of thoughts …

    1. I never read this as Brian feeling entitled to the other man’s gear. Rather, he politely asked (no harm there), was rejected and accepted the answer and made due with the kit at hand.

    2. At no point was Brian disrespectful, though clearly the other guy was disrespectful to him. Had Brian chosen to return the favor, he could have tried to shame him by calling him out name or posting a photo of him. Brian did neither.

    3. As I read it, the guy was shooting a “pro kit” (whatever that is), looked down his nose at Brian’s rig and made some incorrect assumptions about Brian or his ability.

    4. Acting on those assumptions, this guy decided to play judge and jury about the conditions under which he might lend Brian some gear. Of course, that is his right.

    5. Then, in acting as Brian’s judge, he was impolite about it; making his disdain for Brian and his presumed inexperience apparent. Of course, that is also his right.

    6. Everyone has the right to behave like a dick. The rest of us have the right to acknowledge dickish behavior for what it is.

  15. Jon Grimes August 11, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    don’t see it that way Dougie. he’s being disrespectful but posting his blog complaining. his right. as was the guys decision to say no. Brian is making a mountain out of a mole hill cos he didn’t get the answer he wanted. i think most of us reading this post , based on peoples, don’t see this guy being a dick as you suggest. the only dick is perhaps the one crying now.

  16. Doug Daulton August 11, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    Jon – Surely you’ll excuse me if I don’t give much weight to the opinion of someone who refers to a complete stranger in the diminutive in an attempt to diminish that person while elevating himself.

  17. Jon Grimes August 11, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    thats precisely what Brian is trying to achieve. i’m just calling him on it.

    • Doug Daulton August 11, 2014 at 6:05 pm

      Hardly. Brian was just calling out the fact that there is no need to be rude when rejecting someone’s request. Doing so is not “crying” it is calling out rude behavior.

      • Jon Grimes August 12, 2014 at 10:15 am

        Brians definition of rude is what is being questioned here – thats why his rant is out of place as the guys wasn’t being rude. he just said no and had some reasons for saying no. nothing rude about that.

        • Doug Daulton August 12, 2014 at 2:56 pm

          Jon – You and I were not there. Brian felt the man was rude. Perhaps he did not adequately express the reasons why he felt the man was rude, but that was his impression nonetheless. So, how about giving him the benefit of the doubt or asking clarifying questions?

          More troubling is your choice to imply the Brian was somehow rude himself or “crying” about rude behavior. Nothing about his behavior, as described, was rude. As pointed earlier, had he called this person out by name or photo, that would have been inappropriate. He did not. Expressing frustration at the situation, subjective as it may be, does qualify as a “rant”.

          I cannot speak for Brian, but I can tell you what resonates for me in his post.

          First, we’ve all been there. We’ve all left something back in the car or at the studio. In the field and in life, I try to help folks out because I believe that what comes around, goes around. I share Brian’s disappointment that more people, let alone photographers, don’t share this worldview. No one is saying people SHOULD share this view. Rather, it might be a better world if more people did.

          Obviously, the man in question does not share this perspective, which is his certainly his right. However, in doing so, he was apparently rude and condescending. Again, this is subjective, but Brian has as much a right to feel it was rude as the man does to be rude.

          In closing, please consider the fact that others have posted well thought out responses which challenge Brian’s assumption of rude behavior, none of which have been disrespectful of Brian. While I don’t know Brian, I can only assume by his other responses, that he will take them to heart and, perhaps, change his perspective on the incident as a result.

          Your responses, however, drip with disrespect. “Rant”, “crying”, “Dougie” … all of these characterizations are clear attempts to diminish the people they address as childish. Rather than engaging in a dialogue, which is what Brian clearly intended, you are only concerned with being right.

          Simply put, you are coming off a troll and a rude one at that.

          • Brian Matiash August 12, 2014 at 3:01 pm

            I really appreciate the gesture to help my detractors get back on an even-keel, Doug. I’m going to leave a fresh post at the bottom of the thread and leave things at that since I feel that we can easily find ourselves in an infinite loop of conjecture. Thanks for your help in this thread, my friend!

  18. jewlz August 11, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    It doesn’t matter how he declined your question. We are not entitled to each other’s gear, especially if we don’t know you. If you don’t have it, make the best of what what you do have, which you clearly did. Would it would have been nice if he lent it to you? Absolutely! But instead You chose to complain because you didn’t get what you wanted and you name dropped Kelby. So someone in the sandbox didn’t share.. So what.. Move on.

  19. Mike Disbury August 11, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    Wow, lots of angry people here, what’s happened to common courtesy? I’m more than happy to help a fellow photographer out if I can, likewise, I’d stop to help someone on the side of the road if I could. If someone asks for assistance, I’ll help if I possibly can. I certainly wouldn’t ask a load of questions on how the resulting photo may or may not be used. Some people take themselves way to seriously.

  20. Chris August 11, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    Weird situation. Of course not being there and only hearing one side of the story makes judging the circumstances difficult. My general rule is “the person who says ‘don’t be a dick’ (aka Wil Wheaton) usually ends up being the dick”. I don’t know. Me, I probably would have lent the filter. But maybe an elderly guy felt intimidated being approached by a younger guy from a group of younger guys. Maybe there weren’t other people around so the old guy felt isolated. And maybe he was just looking for an excuse to say ‘no’ because he felt that just saying ‘no’ would have made him a dick. Or maybe he was just having a bad day which I think most of us could relate to. Does that make him a dick? Again, I wasn’t there so I don’t know.

  21. bobsyouruncle August 11, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    I’m not sure I understand your description of the older gentleman. Was it to ridicule him? I’m older. I don’t dress like your gentleman, but I would ask a few questions before I handed expensive equipment to a stranger. The questions wouldn’t matter (maybe you don’t get that). You gauge the attitude and intention of the other person by how they answer.

    Were you as arrogant as in this blog post? Were you friendly and respectful? Do you realize that young people grab older folks cameras because they can outrun them? If you were in Barcelona and a group of young men surrounded you and asked if you could change a bill, would you pull out your wallet?

  22. eyeguy August 11, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Once I was returning from an international trip with a stop over in the USA. At the airport, we were in a holding area waiting to speak to a DHS officer. A sign on the wall clearly stated cell phone usage in that area was forbidden. I noticed an elderly gentleman pull out his cell phone (apparently oblivious to the rule) while waiting in cue and proceeded to make a phone call. A DHS officer suddenly came running out from a side door, and placed himself just inches from the offender’s face and screamed at the top of his voice (like a drill sergeant) to put the cell phone away.
    Being a Canadian, I’ve never witnessed this type of behaviour with Canada Customs officers when returning home and was quite taken aback by the show of power. While the gentleman was clearly in the wrong, it made me wonder what ever happened to civility and polite interaction.

  23. jeanevogelart August 12, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Wow.. just wow… on many levels. And as an aside, I’m often mocked for “STILL” using Cokin filters. Glad to know I’m not alone.

  24. Brian Matiash August 12, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    First off – I really do want to thank everyone for weighing in here. I wouldn’t have gotten this far in my career in the photo and social spaces if I couldn’t handle criticism, especially the flame bait kind. With that said, I’m going to explain myself one more time and then close out the comments because I think we’ve exhausted just about every way of responding to my OP. So here we go.

    In no way did I ever mean to give the impression in the post that I felt entitled to using this photographer’s filter simply because I asked for it. If that’s what you took away from reading my post, then let me apologize because that wasn’t the case. I’d like to think that I am a humble and respectful human being, even if I the way I treat my close friends would convey otherwise. :)

    A few commenters brought up that I was derisive in the way I described this photographer and I totally cop to that. I wrote this post not too long after this incident occurred and I was still reeling from the situation… mostly because I’d never experienced someone who felt it necessary to qualify my eligibility to borrow his gear. So for that, I do apologize. It certainly felt good writing it at the time but I can also see the counter point there.

    Now, to the actual issue. I think it’s really as simple as honestly putting yourself in my shoes. Imagine that you’re standing at this beautiful place. You see a photo that you want to create but you left the piece of gear you need to fully realize the photo in the car, about a mile away. You see a photographer standing about 20 feet from you who looks as if he may have the filter you need. You walk over to him and very politely ask to borrow the piece of gear you need and explain why. In return, the photographer looks you up and down and begins questioning you as to whether you are eligible to borrow the gear and upon answering one of his questions to his dissatisfaction, he indicates not that he doesn’t have the gear to lend but rather he doesn’t want to lend the to you.

    In my book, that is just a flat out rude way to go about things. Had he simply said, I’m not comfortable lending gear out to strangers for liability, etc, I’d absolutely understand and thank him. I would never expect to be allowed to use someone’s gear simply because I ask them for it. However, I do expect that if I treat you with respect, that it is repaid in kind.

    If this is a point that you disagree with or you condone this manner of response or it simply eludes you, then we probably won’t get along IRL and I wouldn’t want to associate with you to begin with so we’ll leave it at that.

    So I think I’ve explained myself and the situation out as best as I can with no falsehoods or embellishments. At this point, it’s a take it or leave it game and the ball is in your court, readers.

    Finally, I do want to reiterate that I truly do appreciate everyone’s comments here. Dialog is always healthy when its conducted respectfully and thoughtfully. I hope to see it continue on other, less contentious, threads. :)

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