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No photography of The Constitution
David Harpe, Photographer
Louisville | KY | USA | Posted: 1:50 PM on 07.31.09
->> A new proposed regulation will prohibit photography and videotaping of the original founding documents of our country, ostensibly to protect them from the cumulative effects of inadvertent flash photography (since when did a video camera have a flash?).

Dripping with irony, here is the proposed rule change:

"You may not film, photograph, or videotape in any of the exhibit areas of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, including the Rotunda where the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are displayed."

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George Bridges, Photographer, Photo Editor
Washington | DC | USA | Posted: 2:26 PM on 07.31.09
->> It's probably more than just the flash preservation. If you've ever toured the Archives and that display area, if everyone stops to make a couple frames or a minute of video then very few people would actually be able to view the documents because the lines would be even longer than they are. The way it is now the line goes down the stairs, through a hallway and then out a side door and down the sidewalk and around the corner --sometimes a few hundred people long.

Also, the display case is so dark I doubt much video would come out and probably many small cameras will automatically throw on the built-in fill light. Seriously, if you try to shoot with a still camera I would guess the exposure is 1/15 @ f2.8 on ISO 3200+
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Mike Brice, Photographer
Ogden | UT | USA | Posted: 5:42 PM on 07.31.09
->> Probably saw the movie National Treasure and are afraid of the Gates family.
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Nick Morris, Photographer
San Marcos | CA | United States | Posted: 7:08 PM on 07.31.09
->> If you photograph it or shoot video of it then you'll have proof down the line that they altered it. They can't have that sort of behavior! LOL
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Geoff Miller, Photographer
Portage | MI | USA | Posted: 10:37 PM on 07.31.09
->> I'd take their concern at face value. When my family and I were visiting the National Archives in 2006 during the time we were in the Rotunda there were approximately three times, from recollection, that people popped their flashes at the big two (Declaration and Constitution) on accident. Given that we were in there only around 20-30 minutes, if you do the math, that's a _lot_ of flashes over one, two, five years, etc.
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Stanley Leary, Photographer
Roswell | GA | USA | Posted: 11:54 AM on 08.01.09
->> They are not limiting access to the material in the archives. Pretty much everything there has been photographed and available for free. So, there is no hiding anything from the public by this rule.

From perspective of archiving I understand the issue with flash. It is easier to say no cameras than just no flash (average person with flash on their camera probably doesn't know how to turn it off).

From the perspective of crowd control and moving people through the exhibit, I would agree George Bridges assessment.

How would you solve the above concerns and still allow photography of any kind? I think if there is another solution, it would be entertained, because I don't think the government has alliterative motive that I can see.
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Andrew Brosig, Photographer
Crowley | TX | United States | Posted: 12:10 PM on 08.01.09
->> That's the first thing I thought about, too, Mike.
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Chuck Steenburgh, Photographer
Lexington | VA | USA | Posted: 12:37 PM on 08.02.09
->> Ironic, bu not unreal.
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Lyle Waisman, Photographer
Chicago | IL | USA | Posted: 1:44 PM on 08.02.09
->> I call BS. This is a forum of professional photographers, I thought you'd all know better...

Let's arbitrarily select 1/100th, 100ISO. Noon-day sun is approx. f/16? To get f/16 from an SB-800 you'd need to flash at full power with the subject about 8 feet away (GN 125). Flash duration at full power is 1/1050 sec.

If you took a flash photo of the Declaration of Independence exposed properly for 100ISO, without UV protective glass in front of it, with pro-level gear, at full power, from 8 feet away, every minute for a YEAR, you'd have the cumulative equivalent of just over 8 minutes of sunlight. If you'd shot it every minute since it was signed, you'd have exposed it to sunlight for not even a day and a half.

I've not been there, but I can virtually guarantee that you're not shooting at 100ISO, you're not only 8 feet away, there will always be glass in front of it, and the vast majority of flashes used will be nowhere near as powerful as an SB-800 on full.

Let me know if any of my numbers seems off.
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Joe Lorenzini, Photographer
Flower Mound (DFW) | TX | USA | Posted: 10:54 PM on 08.02.09
->> I was there over the 4th and got to visit the Declaration, Constitution and BoR's (all in the National Archives building, all in same room).

We stood in line for almost 2 hours and in that time I saw idiot after idiot point their camera at the glass and shoot with flash even though there are signs everywhere as well as guards telling them not to shoot with flash.

So I'm not surprised at this at all.

The fact is, the Declaration is almost completely unreadable (faded) and while the others are in good shape, there's no good picture that's going to come out of it.

And yeah, it's very dark (they explain why it's like that). You'd need a tripod to get a decent shot.

If you're interested, here's what the place looks like...

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Geoff Miller, Photographer
Portage | MI | USA | Posted: 11:25 PM on 08.02.09
->> Lyle,

Accepting your math at face value (and I've seen other such protestations on the web), and that you aren't overlooking other factors that might come into play, there is one thing that I think trumps your "BS" declaration. You said yourself that you haven't been there before. If you had, you'd know that the so-called "Charter Documents" of our Country are in less than ideal condition. The Declaration in particular is very, very, faded. See: At first glance behind the glass, you'd think it was a blank piece of parchment. Only on closer examination can you see the words on it behind the glass.

Given all of this, I don't think that exposing the document to even 8 minutes of direct sunlight a year is a good idea.
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John Plassenthal, Photographer
Vandalia | OH | USA | Posted: 1:03 PM on 08.03.09
->> Parchment, unlike paper, is made from an animal skin. The parchment and inks of the time are more susseptable to the effects of UV radiation than anything we have today. Even modern day inks and papers are drastically effected by as few as 96 hrs of sunlight level UV. There is a cool comparison of various inkjet and their fading from sunlight over time at

Preservation of these documents for another 200 years and beyond is more important than the average tourist getting a snapshot for their scrapbook. Let them buy a postcard or reproduction in the gift shop.

As I read it, rule does not preclude the arrangement of professional photography without flash to be negotiated with the archives, only prevents photography in the public gallery where UV exposure cannot be controlled.
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John Germ, Photographer
Wadsworth | Oh | USA | Posted: 1:56 PM on 08.03.09
->> I'm in agreement with most here. There are reasonable and compelling arguments for prohibiting flash and no compelling free press issue at play so the desire of the average tourist to get a snapshot isn't a compelling enough argument to remove the restriction. For anyone who hoenstly believes this is the government just trying to pull one over on you - I honestly think you've seen way too many government conspiracy movies.
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Jeff Brehm, Photographer, Photo Editor
Charlotte | NC | USA | Posted: 2:54 PM on 08.03.09
->> I think John is working for the government and is just trying to throw us off the track of a massive conspiracy.

I also have Hoffa's body in my back yard and Elvis was living in my attic until the aliens took him. I tried to get some shots of the abduction but the aliens said I wasn't allowed to use flash.
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John Howley, Photographer
Circleville | OH | USA | Posted: 9:19 PM on 08.03.09
->> For those of you who have not visited the archives, I have created a gallery of some shots I took on Saturday, June 13 of this year. These will give you an idea of how close the flashes can be to the documents when they go off (more like 8 inches than 8 feet) and the condition of some of the documents. Except for cropping one to show detail and resizing for upload, these look exactly like they came off the memory card.

All images taken with a Nikon D300 at ISO 3200. Aperture was 3.5 with the shutter ranging from 1/4 to 1/15. The lens was the Nikon 18-200 VR.

While I don't care for the idea of limiting the taking of pictures, the vast majority of cameras being used in the rotunda will not produce anything close to a good image. When we were there the wait wasn't bad, but I can see how things can get very backed up in the rotunda.
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Thread Title: No photography of The Constitution
Thread Started By: David Harpe
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