Monday, October 28, 2013

CLANDESTINE PHOTOGRAPHY - Part 1 of 2



WHAT IS CLANDESTINE PHOTOGRAPHY?

Clandestine photography, commonly referred to as surveillance photography, is the photographing in secrecy of a person, object, activity or location.

WHAT IS ITS PURPOSE?

There are many reasons for clandestine photography:

- documenting criminal activity,
- accumulating identification photographs of criminals and terrorists and their associates,
- gathering intelligence for military purposes,
- documenting fraudulent insurance disability claims, and
- filming an unfaithful spouse.

WHAT’S NEEDED TO BE A SUCCESSFUL CLANDESTINE PHOTOGRAPHER?

Successful clandestine photography requires a degree of photographic proficiency to ensure the recording of relevant, usable pictures, and expertise in the clandestine arts. Tactical skill is needed to surreptitiously locate a camera where it won’t be easily detected but where relevant photographs can be taken. Such skills also facilitate leaving the area without detection after taking pictures and without leaving behind evidence of the surveillance operation.

A skilled clandestine photographer is committed to recording usable images under diverse field conditions. He or she may need to do things that other photographers would never do. Some methods may appear absurd – for example, the simultaneous use of a tele-extender and a focal-reducer or deliberately under-exposing by several stops. If a technique works, permitting the photographer to capture an otherwise unattainable image, the clandestine photographer will use it regardless of how unorthodox it is. The professional clandestine photographer must be innovative. Not content with the existing state of things he or she is always alert for improved methods. When seeking a solution to complex problems and challenges, the clandestine photographer thinks beyond tradition - thinking outside the box.

Clandestine photography is incredibly challenging. The clandestine photographer often works under field conditions that can be so unfavorable that other photographers would hesitate to attempt it. He or she must sometimes take pictures from long distances under adverse lighting and weather conditions, traversing and occupying inhospitable terrain, and perhaps working in a dangerous, active counter-surveillance environment.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A TOP PHOTOGRAPHER

Some people are dedicated photographers, while for others a camera is just a tool of their trade. For example, wedding or sport photographers chose photography as a career, and image quality is uppermost in their minds. Conversely, a United States Navy SEAL is not a well-qualified photographer per se even though he or she may use a camera during special reconnaissance. Similarly, a police detective assigned to a surveillance team is a detective foremost, not a photographer, even though he or she may regularly use cameras during physical surveillance. For the Navy SEAL and the police detective, photography is merely one of the many tradecraft tools they use.

THE SUBJECT DETERMINES THE PLACE AND TIME FOR PHOTOGRAPHY

Since clandestine photography clearly does not involve the cooperation of the subject, the photographer must go to where the subject may be found engaged in the activity that is meant to be photographed, and at times when that activity is likely to be taking place. The location could be a dark alley, a building, a remote location in the countryside or a busy market – just about anywhere. And the time could be just about any hour of the night or day.

Circumstances may require taking pictures from both extreme and short distances. On one occasion, photography of a subject from more than half a mile away may be required. At another time, filming the same subject from a distance of only a few feet in a bar or restaurant may be necessary.

Because people function during all hours of the day, the ability to photograph under all levels of illumination is required. Although the nighttime environment presents special challenges for the clandestine photographer, the challenges are mostly manageable. In some instances, the surveillance specialist can photograph a subject using high ISO and available light. In other instances, photographing with an image intensifier night vision device may be called for.

To be continued ...