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|| Member Message Board

Why are strobes such an issue?
Jeff Hinds, Photographer
Portland | OR | USA | Posted: 12:44 AM on 02.04.10
->> This is killing me lately....all these posts about "refs made me stop using my strobes", etc. I'm here to do a job and feed my family for crying out loud!

I'm certainly NOT considered a great sports photographer by any means but I do I think there is a need for someone (someone more "in the know" than myself as I only regularly shoot D3 sports, but I'll gladly contribute) to get every league on the same page about the use of strobes/arena lighting.

Maybe we all need to band together somehow, for education sake, and create a simple/single web site or page about lighting that can be approved by every league/AD, gym, etc, and how it works with NCAA, D2, D3, High School, etc...approval, that gives us all exclusive permission to use our professional knowledge to use lighting to make great pictures.

I may be opening a can of worms posting here on SS cause I can only imagine the comments but dont you agree that if there is a lighting "standard" between all leagues, gyms, arenas, etc. it will help us all?

Maybe SportsShooter can set the standard with something each of us can contribute to, to better help this awful situation and get us all something to share with each governing body to give us the "go-ahead" with lighting without any question!

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Jeff Napier, Photographer
Brush Prairie | WA | USA | Posted: 2:09 AM on 02.05.10
->> Jeff, I agree. I have been to different venues and get conflicting decisions from the officials especially at HS level.
I have asked officials if it would be OK to bounce my strobes and they look at me like I’m speaking Kligon, and then say what’s that mean.
And most of the guys shooting cheer on the east coast can never use strobes while out here its never been an issue for me at least.
I have shot volleyball and flash has been accepted one night and the next night at the same venue different officials its not.
I think its whatever mood the particular official is in at that moment. It would be nice to have a universal agreement but that would seem to be a huge undertaking yet very worthwhile doing.
Good to talk to a local.

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Randy Abrams, Photographer
Bath | NY | US | Posted: 5:52 AM on 02.05.10
->> Honestly my take on this issue is not us as the media or sports photographers using strobes, but rather the MWC, DWC using direct flash. Officials, ADs, etc I'm sure don't want to come up with a "fan" policy separate from a "pro" policy in regards to the usage of strobes/flash. If you were to poll officials I would guess that their definition of using a strobe/flash is someone standing on the baseline with a hotshoe mounted flash aimed directly at the players.
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Mark Peters, Photographer
Highland | IL | USA | Posted: 7:36 AM on 02.05.10
->> Be careful what you ask for, as I imagine if we did indeed get a universal policy that was universally enforced, it would be a simple one - No Strobes allowed. I would venture to suggest that the majority of institutions could not care less but there is a contingent of those that obviously do - and my money is riding that the vast majority of those that care disapprove vs. being aggressive advocates of their use.

In Illinois, the IHSA does have a uniform policy for the media and one for everyone else.

"Spectator use of electronic lighting shall not be permitted.

Authorized news media representatives, who have identified themselves to the host school principal (or designee) may be permitted to use electronic lighting equipment throughout the course of a given activity. Such electronic lighting can be either: 1) strobe lights mounted to fixed positions and/or 2) electronic attachments mounted to a camera. The host school should make coaches and game officials aware when permission has been granted for photographers to use electronic lighting. Host principals (or designee) should confer with the coaches of the teams participating in a contest before giving permission to authorized news media photographers to use strobe lighting mounted to fixed positions."

So there you go - according to the universal rule - Fan in the stands no (though I guess they could use flash pots). Authorized media, only at the discretion of the host school after consultation with officials and the other school. In practice? Well, the rule is there if the schools/officials want to enforce it.
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Jeff Brown, Photographer
Greenfield | MA | | Posted: 8:45 AM on 02.05.10
->> Randy, the only times I have been every asked to stop useing flash at a sporting event I have been useing strobes. I have never been asked to stop useing flash when I have hed to use my flash mounted on a bracket at he baseline or low in the stands. Just recently at a hockey game a coach complained that the strobes were distracting to his players. Personaly I believe that the DWC trying to shoot flash through the glass (yup directly through the glass) was more distracting. They see some flash then they see your stands and right away it has to be you. On the other hand mabye the coach was distracted by the fact that hs team was loosing 6 to 1 before I even started shooting. They ended up loosing 11 to 1.
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Bob Ford, Photographer
Lehighton | Pa | USA | Posted: 10:36 AM on 02.05.10
->> Jeff, I find that the people who complain, whether it be a coach, parent or player, about strobes, flash, poistion, etc. are always from the team that is losing.
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Jeff Stanton, Photographer
Indiana | IN | USA | Posted: 10:59 AM on 02.05.10
->> What gets me is flash is okay for high school football, but everything else is off limits for its use. We have some very poorly lit venues in my area and a D300 doesn't really cut it for available light.
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Thomas Campbell, Photographer
Houston/San Antonio | TX | USA | Posted: 11:38 AM on 02.05.10
->> If you outlaw strobes, then only the criminals will have strobes!
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Mark Buffalo, Photographer
Lonoke | AR | USA | Posted: 1:15 PM on 02.05.10
->> In my situation here in Central Arkansas, I have good relationships with all three schools I cover and luckily, I've gotten to know the officials in this area over the years. I just go ahead and set up and don't worry about it. The one time in recent memory that I've had anyone say anything was at a holiday tourney last year when the scoreboard operator asked me not to use my single Alien Bee because it was bothering him when he ran the board.

I had the flash using direct light. After that, I'll admit I was upset so I got out my on camera flash and flash that sucker as much as possible. Later on, I asked the guy if I could bounce the flash and he said it was okay. Luckily, the athletic director at that school used to be one of the basketball coaches I covered 10 years ago and he said do what I wanted to do because I was helping to promote athletics in this area.

In fact, I'm going to a game tonight in a gym where I've set up a strobe before but I emailed the principal, who is a close friend of mine, just to make sure that is okay. I try to do that when I go to road games.

There isn't a policy in Arkansas High School sports and the only college stuff I've shot, it's either been at a well-lit Division I gym or I've used on camera at a DII and DIII.

A policy across the board would not be a good one because like it was mentioned earlier, they would outlaw them all, except for the Final Four when SI and the others want to use them because it is all about money at that level.
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John Howley, Photographer
Circleville | OH | USA | Posted: 1:18 PM on 02.05.10
->> The one time I had a referee ask me to stop using a flash, he prefaced it by saying something to the effect that he didn't think it was really bothering the player who said something and that it was because they were losing by 20 points but asked that I stop using the flash.

If you're going to have a policy creating standards for use of lighting, then the leagues would need to set standards for how their venues are lit.
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David Manning, Photographer
Athens | GA | | Posted: 2:07 PM on 02.05.10
->> I was photographing a HS playoff game w/ strobes (whole court was lit with 4 SB-28s) and an AD asked me to stop at halftime because they were "too bright" so I left.

I subsequently checked the rulebook and for the playoffs, strobes actually are not allowed so i just let the issue drop.

Most players that i talk to don't notice the strobes as they're too busy playing the game.
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Chuck Steenburgh, Photographer
Lexington | VA | USA | Posted: 6:23 PM on 02.05.10
->> We fear what we do not understand; we blame others for our own failings.
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Michael Ip, Photographer
New York | NY | USA | Posted: 7:53 PM on 02.05.10
->> ->> We fear what we do not understand; we blame others for our own failings.

The next time my mkIII autofocus lets me down, I'm going to blame the guy with strobes ;)
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Mike Janes, Photographer
Attica | NY | USA | Posted: 8:29 PM on 02.05.10
->> I've talked to several coaches, since I coached for 17 seasons in 5 different sports and just did 5 months at JC, and most seem to know that if the strobes are set up right they are not that noticeable unless you're looking for them. Some people just do not get the flash going off at first, usually those not in the game.

While coaching one season the photographer set up two direct flashes on the side and then had one on body - every time out the girls were complaining about the lights instead of concentrating on the game. Guy just didn't know how to set up anything and that's the last thing you want happening when shooting. Did get a comment last night after a college game, girl said "you be blinding us with the lights" which was confusing because they were pretty high up and bounced. Everyone else said they didn't notice them, but it's a sinking feeling when you hear it wondering if you screwed up somehow in the set up.

For high school doesn't most states have regulations in place for photography and lighting? I believe NY does, however, it's up to the host school to make the decision to say yes or no overall so doesn't really matter what the state says.
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Butch Miller, Photographer
Lock Haven | PA | USA | Posted: 8:51 PM on 02.05.10
->> I once had a HS basketball coach admonish me as I was setting up strobes for the game ... he warned me not to use them while his team was playing.

I found it odd as I had covered him when he was in school and he knew I was a good fellow and would never try to do anything to jeopardize the outcome of the game ....

I had permission of the host coach and AD to use the strobes ... so I shot the game as I normally would ... if they would have asked ... I would not have used the strobes.

The visiting coach came up to me after the game as I was taking down the lights and apologized. "I'm sorry ... I was only kidding about not using the flash ... you could have used them ... I wasn't serious," he shared.

Little did he know ... I exposed about 300 shots during the game ... all with the strobes ....

Seriously ... except for the darkest of venues ... with only the brightest of strobe ... if you set the lights up properly, the average person isn't even going to notice strobes are being used ... they are too focused on the action at hand ....
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Albert McCracken, Photographer
Lockport | NY | USA | Posted: 10:36 PM on 02.05.10
->> Once, I was setting up my big strobes and in the corner of my eye a player was watch me. As soon I fired them the player reacted like he was hit by a high power rifle. A month later the same player was there. I was setting couple of Vivtars and fired them, nothing. He never seen them, mind over flash.The bigger they are the more people see them. Go Small.....
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Tim Morley, Photographer
Topinabee | MI | United States | Posted: 10:59 PM on 02.05.10
->> There are similar rules in Michigan. MHSAA rules state that it is up to the venue administrator to grant or deny permission, I have a letter from the athletic director of our local high school giving me permission to shoot with strobes. Furthermore MHSAA rules also state that there will be no strobing during playoff games.

We have been asked to shut our strobes off twice in the five years we have been strobing the gym - both during volleyball tournaments. One complaint came directly from a referee. The other came from an opposing coach. Dual matches have usually been fine. Often I will ask the opposing coach as a courtesy.

I have asked nearly every varsity athlete, and no one has ever said they notice the flashes in the course of a game.
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Christopher Anderson, Photographer
Machesney Park | IL | U.S.A. | Posted: 11:48 PM on 02.05.10
->> I have been covering a local high school for quite some time and have gotten to know the players fairly well. Every once in a while I ask some of the basketball players if my lights are bothersome and nearly 100% of the time they respond with "what lights?" I find it's generally a visiting coach or parent with an attitude that feel the lights are distracting. The refs never bother me about the lights. They just like to stand on the baseline so their rear-ends get in your way.
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Heston Quan, Photographer
Orange County | CA | | Posted: 2:23 AM on 02.06.10
->> I had a dad with a video camera bitch at me during a High School Girls JV basketball game tonight about strobes. I wasn't even photographing the school he was with when they were shooting. I was just trying to get defensive rebounds on that end. Mind you, I actually shot the other team last week, the exact same way and at their school and I remember seeing him there and didn't hear one peep out of him. Both games his school was winning rather handily.

So, tonight, with about 3 minutes left in the third period, he takes it upon himself to yell at me from atop the bleachers during a free throw about me using a flash ( I wasn't even shooting the free thrower. I got the shot on the foul). After the period, he comes down to me and starts bitching in my face about it. I told him I wasn't even shooting his school and if the refs, coaches or players complain, I'll shut it off. He still goes on about it and I say "I've shot about 50 games this way this year. It doesn't bother them (meaning the players)." Somehow he heard it as "I don't care about how it effects them." Then he rants on me about how I don't respect the game, that I'm interfering and I better not be shooting his school. He tells me I have good enough equipment not to need a flash. So, I said "Are you a photographer?" He sarcastically said "Yea" and walked away. It took a lot for me to refrain from cussing him out, but someone has to not be the jerk.

It was so weird that this happened tonight because earlier in the day I was watching a video of game I was shooting and I was actually surprised at how little you noticed my strobes going off.

I shot three games after that with a packed house and didn't have anyone else say anything to me about them. Just aggravating that one jerk can get me worked up all night(Yes, I have trouble "letting go").
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Mike Janes, Photographer
Attica | NY | USA | Posted: 3:30 AM on 02.06.10
->> Heston - I was wondering that about the video and watching it to see how noticeable it was. Watching games on TV I can notice them easy but usually looking for them, just can't imagine a player noticing them while in the game - free throws maybe and why I avoid shooting the actual shot, but not game action. Parent like that is always just looking for someone to blame for something, not sure I wouldn't of let something slip out as he walked away.
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Willis Glassgow, Photo Editor, Photographer
Florence | SC | USA | Posted: 3:36 PM on 02.07.10
->> Heston,
One way to handle this is to speak to him in a very condescending way and tell that strobes are allowed....period. They are used in every level of the game. You have a job to do that makes money and most other people working the game is not. Most likely he will get angrier. If this happens, laugh and say, "Sorry sir, I don't make up the rules, I just follow them.".....Most of the time, this shuts people up pretty quick.
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John Germ, Photographer
Wadsworth | Oh | USA | Posted: 9:26 AM on 02.08.10
->> "One way to handle this is to speak to him in a very condescending way and tell"

Willis, please tell me your advice is meant as a joke.
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Willis Glassgow, Photo Editor, Photographer
Florence | SC | USA | Posted: 9:15 AM on 02.09.10
->> Actually John, no it was not meant as a joke. In my opinion (and remember, it is just an opinion) is to handle this type of person, with this type of attitude. Everyone must find their way of dealing with confrontation. That is how I deal with it. It works for me the majority of the time, but it might not work for Heston. He just might not feel comfortable.

The line of thinking is such. If you act calm and at the same time condescending to someone like the guy in his story, you act as though the guy is being unreasonable not you. You act as though you are right and this type of thing is done everyday (which of course it is).

The guy also acted as though he didn't know what he was talking about. Treat him as such. If that sounds arrogant, it is not meant to be.

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John Germ, Photographer
Wadsworth | Oh | USA | Posted: 9:32 AM on 02.09.10
->> Willis,

Thanks for clarifying. My own opinion (no more valid than yours) is treating anyone in a condescending fashion reflects badly on yourself and the profession your represent. No need for condescension. That type of conflict resolution (win / lose) can do more damage than good. Trying to put someone in their place just isn't professional in my opinion. Keep it simple and business like "sir, I'm sorry this is an issue but the OHSAA (governing body in Ohio - replace with appropriate agency) allow for the use of strobes and I have a job to do and need to get back to doing it. I'd be happy to discuss this after the game but, just like the officials, I'm being paid to do a job here and need to get back to it". Be firm but be professional - don't be condescending or insulting that just fuels people. Then simply return to the floor and ignore him. Let the AD / officials deal with him if he's going to continue to make a fool of himself. Both solve the problem - the difference is in how YOU are perceived - not just by the idiot but by those around. I'd rather be perceived as a professional, not as condescending - it's that type of behavior that gives sports photogs a bad reputation - and unfortunately there is a LOT of elitist, condescending behavior out there when dealing with people 'outside the club' of sports shooters.

As a freelancer and event photographer I shoot alongside a number of full time pros. Some are great, professional people. And others are elitist and interact with non-shooters with very unprofessional behavior. I don't have much respect for those people. Again, just my opinion
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Steve Violette, Photographer
Gulf Breeze | FL | USA | Posted: 10:13 AM on 02.09.10
->> John / Willis,
You are discussing "condescending". Maybe a better term - is to speak confidently with the facts. If you speak confidently with conviction, knowing the rules, and knowing your place, you will be professional and gain creditability. Most jerks as described above are acting on emotion for one reason or another, either because their team is being beat, their kid is playing bad, or they desire to have your skill level, reputation and approval for the school you are shooting for:

As has been discussed above - Know the venue rules, have your permission granted, and act professionally. This addresses most issues - Good luck

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Alan Stewart, Photographer
Corydon | IN | USA | Posted: 12:11 PM on 02.09.10
->> I was shooting at a HS volleyball game and had the "up top" official stop the match so she could come over to tell me not to use a flash during play. She proceeded to tell me how my flash was blinding, was disrupting play and how it could be dangerous to the players, etc.

I held up my D1H and asked how I could be blinding when there wasn't a flash to begin with ...

Gotta love it.
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 1:17 PM on 02.09.10
->> "The line of thinking is such. If you act calm and at the same time condescending to someone like the guy in his story, you act as though the guy is being unreasonable not you. You act as though you are right and this type of thing is done everyday (which of course it is)."

John/Willis/et al:

I think the term you are looking for is "authoritative" and is more applicable than "condescending".

You have to look the person in the eye, using same body language a law enforcement officer uses when on the job while using a level, even tone of authority in your voice while explaining your use of strobes is permitted under the rules. Then redirect their anger, frustration or emotions from you by suggesting the talk to the athletic director of their program for clarification on the rules.

In 12 years I've only been asked three times to turn off my remote lighting. The first, I packed up and left. I didn't shoot that team for a two year period. The second, at a volleyball game officials initially told us we could strobe. We explained why we had to use them and myself and the other news photographers with strobes were allowed to reposition our lights and shoot to our hearts' content. The third instance I packed up my gear and left. Before leaving, I explained to the AD that we don't cover programs where we aren't allowed to use strobes. A year later we were invited back and haven't had an issue since.

The human brain is a wonderful thing. If I'm at a gym outside our normal area of coverage, I try to arrive early and shoot the warm-ups with my strobes. This does two things. The first is to condition the crowd, athletes and officials to the flash. After 8-12 pops the human brain will ignore the flashes. Watch an NBA or college game. You will notice the flashes for the first two minutes and unless specifically paying attention for them, probably don't remember seeing a pop at any point in the second half. Second, if there is going to be an objection or dispute it is taken care of before the contest starts and not during.
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Chris Cecere, Photographer
Rochester | NY | USA | Posted: 1:46 PM on 02.09.10
->> Clark,
Great points...I usually shoot for one team so I am sure they are used to it by now. I sometimes will overshoot for a minute during warm-ups to see if anyone notices the flash. Anytime I shoot at a different gym I always notify the AD that I will be using off camera strobes.

Also, I always like to ask fans, players, or officials after games to see if they noticed the strobe. Everyone usually says "what flash".
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Richard Orr, Photographer
Longmeadow | MA | USA | Posted: 2:34 PM on 02.09.10
->> I have been doing this for years and only once has a coach or ref asked me not to use strobes. It was a volleyball game in a gym with a very white ceiling. The flashes were blinding the players as they looked up. I tried it myself, and he was right.

When I see others strobing a gym one of the mistakes I see is that they are really cranking them up. They flood the gym with a nuclear flash...and then do it every second.

Generally speaking I try to keep the strobes as low powered as possible, and still get a good shot.

Fortunately, most of the D3 and D2 gyms have upgraded their lighting to make sure their video stuff works. That combined with a higher usable iso in the D700 and D3, the strobes have generally stayed home this season.
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Heston Quan, Photographer
Orange County | CA | | Posted: 2:47 PM on 02.09.10
->> Thanks guys for feedback on my situation. I didn't want to get into any kind of heated arguement or name calling because more than likely I'll be seeing this jerk again down the road. Especially if his daughter is a soph/junior that was on the JV team. If he raises a stink again... we'll see. I'll probably just take the high road again and do my job and deal with any problems with him after that.
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Louis Lopez, Photographer
Fontana | CA | USA | Posted: 4:07 PM on 02.10.10
->> What a great post Heston! You are an inspiration to us all on how to deal with this type of situation. People take note Heston is a great example of keeping cool in a frustrating situation.
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Paul Ruhter, Photographer
Billings | MT | USA | Posted: 5:05 PM on 02.10.10
->> I agree with Richard Orr. It makes a big difference how high the strobes are set. Are you using the lights as a main light source or just for a fill? Mine are always turned down, that way they are nearly unnoticeable but still help you out with some extra light.
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Mike Janes, Photographer
Attica | NY | USA | Posted: 7:57 PM on 02.10.10
->> Paul - you're right, though sometimes do need to get them up there to overcome ambient. Gym I've been shooting in lately has all new lights, brand new white walls and ceiling - a bit bright but not enough for shooting without - so they were up there pretty good to get the settings I wanted; or close to it since the ISO was still not where I thought it'd be. Love to have them lower but not all gyms are the same, this is actually the first one had to go that high to overcome ambient.

Just asked one of the players and was told...

"when we played i didnt realize dem but wen we were siting in the crowd u cud see them flashing " (sic)

Not the first one to say that, and basically it's all about not distracting the players in the game so that says it all. Others not in the game just deal with diplomatically. AD's/SID's/etc. are the ones OK'ing it.
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Phil Hawkins, Photographer
Fresno | ca | usa | Posted: 8:46 PM on 02.10.10
->> Again, if you have any problems with the refs, crowd, coaches, players, etc always go to the game administrator for help. In a high school game, the JV game is almost 100% of the time played right before the varsity game. The game administrator is the home principal or asst. principal, one of whom is almost always there.

As a footnote to my previous post on this subject, if you really want to ensure you won't have a problem, when you arrive on site, find the GA, introduce yourself, tell him or her to let you know if you get in the way or need to correct something. If you're using strobes in a high school, more than likely you've already done that, so just do your thing, and if you have a problem, don't engage the perpetrator, just go to the GA with it the second it starts. They will address the issue and you get back to work while they drag a maniacal idiot out of the gym. You are clean.
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Thread Title: Why are strobes such an issue?
Thread Started By: Jeff Hinds
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