Going Solo or Safety in numbers – Playing it safe while on a shoot

Going Solo or safety in numbers…………….playing it safe when out on a shoot; from personal safety in the city to out bush, snakes, falls and getting lost.

With the Assault rate up 8% in Melbourne City alone (and that’s after removing family violence) and violence around or on public transport up nearly 10% according to Victorian Police 2013/2014 statistics. Are we safe to wander the streets alone, or are we more likely to get hit by lightning or involed a car accident on the way to the shoot? Is it all in our minds? Are Men safer on their own than Women? Police are suggesting women should not go jogging on their own, so what about photography? Are we safer in the bush or in the city?

Old Batesford Bridge-2

It really doesn’t matter whether it’s inner city, round the corner or going bush, there are a few things we all need to consider when going ‘out’ to do some photography. Below are the top 10 things to consider when going for a bush walk, according to the NSW National Parks Bushwalking Guide;

  1. Check weather forecasts and local park conditions and modify your plans accordingly
  2. Ensure that everyone in your group has researched the walk and planned ahead
  3. Take appropriate clothing and wear closed footwear – preferably boots or runners
  4. Regardless of the season, always take a waterproof jacket and clothing that can keep you warm when wet
  5. Don’t overestimate your abilities or those of the others in the group. Always allow time for the unexpected, like thick scrub or cliff lines
  6. Make sure you will have at least three people in your group. If there is an emergency, at least one can go for help, while the other stays with the injured or ill person
  7. Give complete route details of where you are going to close relatives or friends, or the police. Tell them your: destination and intended route; equipment list; any special medical conditions group members have, for example diabetes or asthma and when you expect to get back
  8. Have a compass and a topographic map and know how to use them. Check directional, warning and advisory signs
  9. Be self-sufficient with drinking water. Carry in enough water or ensure you have the equipment and knowledge to make untreated water safe for drinking. Be aware that there is not always water available
  10. Mobile phone network coverage is limited to populated areas and transport corridors. Many parks are out of range. If you’re planning a walk in a remote area, you can hire a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) or EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Response Beacon) as an added safety precaution
  11. Don’t leave an injured person alone in the bush.

Depending on ‘how’ far you are going bush, not all is relevant, but most still is. I know if I am only going a short distance from the car, I’m not going log a walk with the local police, but maybe I should, I’ve gotten lost before! 1 – 4 and 9 are still relevant whether it’s a 30 minute walk or a 3 day hike.

Keeping Critters Away

Pyramid Rock-0500In the bush, if you carry insect repellent that is usually enough to keep the worst of the nasty insects at bay, however in Australia we have a lot of nasty critters that crawl, slither & swoop. In regards to snakes; stay away from them, watch where you are putting your feet and keep your lower legs covered and you will be fine, most people get bitten trying to kill or capture them, or accidentally step on them. Swooping birds in Spring, well they are protecting their habitat and nests, so where ever possible try to stay out of their way, when not possible I carry a walking/ hiking stick, this can be used to deter the birds from swooping directly at you, they will tend to keep a wide birth. When I was younger and I had horses the birds were always swooping in the back paddock, I used my riding crop to swing above my head and keep them at bay, just don’t hit them. if you don’t have a walking stick, I suppose you could always use your tripod? (Now there’s a photo opp!).

Going Solo

Melbourne City-Now the above rules are true enough, if you are bushwalking, but what about inner city? I still think that 1, 3 & 6 still apply.If you are heading into the city, or major town you are unfamiliar with, make sure you have at least a walking map app on your Smart Phone. Staying local or even going into the city, sometimes it just can’t be avoided going it alone. It is always better to have someone else or even a few some one’s with you, but sometimes it’s just not possible. So how do you play it safe in the big bad city. During the day there are usually a few people around and it is usually considered safer, but unless you are doing street photography, you DON’T want people around, right. So that leaves shooting early in the morning or later at night, either way it is often dark. Most of the monsters are in our heads, so usually you are going to be fine, as long as you keep the following in mind;

  1. Always have a plan of where you are going, and let other people know WHERE you are planning on going
  2. Carry a cell phone with you at all times, and make sure it’s charged before you leave, it is possible to get lost, get injured or have a nasty fall. You don’t want to be stuck where no one can find you.
  3. Walk confidently, don’t dawdle along, again tuff when you are photographing something.
  4. If you are traveling with valuables, try not to show it. (OK I’ll come back to this one)
  5. Stay in well-lit, populated areas, avoid dark alleys and darkened gardens if possible
  6. Carry a torch, a tripod and perhaps a personal alarm or pepper spray?

Now the 4 & 5 can be difficult, Carrying a large backpack full of camera gear, with a camera slung over your shoulder or around your next and lugging a tripod around is a bit obvious. But stick with me here, don’t put your phone or wallet in your back pack. if it gets snatched or stolen, it’s OK, that is what insurance is for, but at least you have your ID some emergency money/ credit card and a way to call for help, if you leave them in your pack, you will have nothing! And don’t put your own life in danger trying to save your camera gear, it’s just not worth it, if someone is trying to rob you – let them have it, they can have the fun of lugging around all that gear, maybe it will make them think twice before robbing another photographer!

stranger-dangerNow if you are doing some early morning or late night photography, a torch could be handy, because, you don’t necessarily want to stay where it is well lit. Now if someone does approach you, try to walk away, or If confronted, speak slowly and calmly. There is nothing worse than showing that you are scared. If you are confident, they might leave you alone. Showing fear will perhaps embolden them & inclined to cause you harm. Look them straight in the eyes too. Speak loudly. Stall for time by delaying the assailant as much as possible. Try to wriggle out of their grip and run for help. Screaming, “Help”, will not do as much as screaming, “Fire!” It will make people intervene. Don’t forget that awfully handy tripod, I am not sure about the technical legality of the situation, but I am sure in a pinch if you give someone a solid whack with a good sturdy tripod, it may give them cause to back away (perhaps you could claim you say a swooping magpie?). unfortunately where I live, pepper spray is illegal, but if it is legal where you are go for it, Try to observe the features of the person who confronts you. Include hair and eye color, birth marks, gender, and an estimated height. Report to the safest place possible that is nearby, like a police station. Call the cops and report your incident. Include the details of the confronter.

Public transport

  1. Avoid empty compartments
  2. Sit near the driver/conductor or other passengers
  3. If pestered, don’t be afraid to ask for help from other passengers

Travelling by Car

  1. Park in well-lit streets — if possible under a street light
  2. When returning to your car, look in the back before you get in to check there is nobody there
  3. Always lock the car when inside it
  4. If you believe you are being followed, do not go home. Drive to a police station or service station and get help
  5. Never stop for hitch-hikers or someone who appears to be in trouble, I know it sounds mean but it is a well known lure.

OK so this last one isn’t a safety aspect for the photographer as much as for Mother nature. Leave things the way you found them; especially in the bush, don’t disturb things, don’t remove anything native to the area, leave your perfect little gem that way, for yourself and other future photographers and visitors. And PLEASE take any and all rubbish with you. I hate being in some beautiful, rustic, serene landscape, I go to frame up and focus my shot and notice rubbish; chip packets, drink bottles, alcohol bottles, cigarette butts, it’s disgusting and disrespectful of Mother Nature. You are there to enjoy the natural beauty, don’t ruin it for others.

As always happy snapping and safe travels

– Julz