(if you already know the story, just scroll down for the video)
So the wackiest thing happened yesterday…
Ever since doing that “A Day at the South Carolina Fair” video, I’ve been itching
to do a similar video in a park. I tried doing it at Dollywood a year or two ago,
but I ended up abandoning the project when I realized that four hours was a
long-ass drive to have to make whenever I needed some additional coverage.
So I decided to do it at Carowinds. They have a really good variety of larger
coasters (which are difficult to capture in a time lapse) and flat rides (which are
honestly the bread and butter of a project like this). I picked up a new camera
this year (a Canon T3i) and put Magic Lantern on it (firmware with an
intervalometer) so I was ready to go out and make a really cool video.
Something like this requires a tripod, of course, and I don’t know Carowinds’
policy when it comes to bringing something like that into the park. I decided the
best course of action was to go do a “proof of concept” video using a small table
top tripod. Theoretically, I figured, I could use that POC video to show park
officials what it was I was trying to accomplish. Also, I figured they would be free
to use any footage they liked for their own purposes (look, this ain’t a big
website, so any little thing we could do to get a bit of traction would be a plus).
I did a test shot or two earlier in the season and I felt like I was prepared to go
out there and put something together. I loaded up the gig bag and headed to
the park on August 17, 2014. Using the table top tripod, I got a good chunk of
surprisingly decent footage. Would it be better with a full size tripod? Of course
it would be. Almost all the shots were achieved by sitting the table top tripod
either on a cement curb or on top of one of the parks three billion trashcans.
After a few hours, I found myself in the front of the park, setting up a shot of the
“CAROWINDS” letters right at the end of the entrance plaza. After a minute or
two, I was approached by a member of the Carowinds Security staff (name
withheld, of course) who wanted to know what exactly it was I was doing.
I explained that I was shooting a time lapse video. He didn’t really seem to
respond to that, so I proceeded to explain to him how a time lapse video was
created. I had had a similar conversation with a park employee back near the
carousel, so I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t really know how to do a time lapse
until I figured it out, so in my head I I thought I was being all cool and educating.
“What are you going to do with this?” he asked.
“It’s for personal use,” I responded, and the more I think about that the creepier
it ultimately sounds. At least I wasn’t back in the waterpark at that moment.
“Have you taken any pictures of rides while you’ve been here?”
“You’re not allowed to do that.”
Dafuq? Maybe he meant “on the rides?”
“You’re not allowed to take pictures of the rides.”
Yes, apparently you’re not allowed to take pictures of the rides at the
amusement park. I looked at him like a dog that had been shown a card trick,
but he just kept on going. If I had taken pictures of Nighthawk, he explained,
those pictures could be used to learn more about the “mechanicals.”
The mechanicals. He said the mechanicals. I can only assume that this guy
thought I was planning on reverse engineering a Vekoma flying dutchman by
taking pictures of it. A 14 year old Vekoma flying dutchman coaster, that is.
If I wanted pictures of “the mechnicals,” I can probably Google that.
It’s not like there aren’t plenty of pictures of it on, oh, RCDB.com (including
lots of pictures of it when it was dismantled and moved to Carowinds).
At this point, the officer asked me to delete any pictures I had taken of rides.
Even if I felt he was justified in that request, I had shot about 27GB of footage.
And I would have to delete them one picture at a time, using the convoluted in-
camera deletion system (or I could have just formatted the card; not happening).
I advised the guy that it would take an hour or two, unless he had a laptop handy
I could plug into. Yeah, maybe I got a little wiseass with him. Whatever.
He made a call, and ended up telling me that I wouldn’t have to delete any
pictures, but I was NOT to take any more pictures of the rides in the park.
He asked for my ID, which I provided him. I also gave him my phone number and
my Season Pass number. I asked him for his first name (since his nametag only
had the first initial), and he advised me his name was Officer (withheld).
According to his nametag, his first name started with a C.
That’s a pretty jacked up way to spell Officer, dude.
So I left the park, equally parts angered and amused. Angered because the
officer clearly didn’t know what he was talking about (probably because he’s
new in that position – his Facebook page says he’s still a lifeguard. Yeah, I
looked), but amused because he seemed so crazy serious about this situation.
But there was a third emotion – embarrassment. I’m a 41 year old man who had
to get a talking to by a security guard at an amusement park. I was doing
absolutely nothing wrong, and yet a security guard had to publicly call me out in
front of other park guests for taking pictures. Of a sign. The exact same sign, it
must be noted, that Carowinds’ photographers ask you to pose in front of…
Well, here’s the riveting video of almost every picture I took yesterday. I deleted
some that were duds (and one that’s going to require a lot of photoshopping,
but it will be cool when finished). As you’ll see, clearly I needed to be stopped.
I have to wonder, though – what is Carowinds doing about all the pictures that
are currently online? Are all the other enthusiast websites receiving cease
and desist takedown letters, and no one told me? Or is this just a case of a security
officer overstepping the bounds of common sense? Because there is not a single
thing in that video that warrants this kind of treatment. NOT A DAMN THING.
If the security officer in question was really interested in my well-being, he
would have told me that I needed to reapply sunscreen to my arms. And maybe
he could have stopped a few people from smoking in non-designated areas.
So what’s the deal, Carowinds? Are pictures allowed in your park? Because if
they’re not, you’re going to need to hire a lot more security officers.
EDIT 1 – it has been suggested that one cause for this level of security is the
possibility that perhaps I’m taking pictures for nefarious purposes (remember
when I said “for personal use” sounded creepy?). Even if that was the case, do
recall that I was specifically told I could not take pictures OF THE RIDES. The
guard did not say I couldn’t take pictures of other people inside the park…
Look, suggesting your park guests are diddlers isn’t exactly bang-up customer
service. Maybe it’s my age? Wait wouldn’t that be a form of age discrimination?
EDIT 2 – maybe I should have contacted the park first. My plan was to wait until
next week, after the new coaster (codenamed “Worst Kept Secret in Parks”) was
announced and the PR folks caught a break. Again, the point of this shoot was to
create a proof of concept video so I wouldn’t waste their time with explanations.
Anyone else ever have this happen? Sound off in the comments below.