Tracy Ward with a Liberty Restoration Project protest against KCMO's red light traffic cameras

On Saturday I caught up a bit with Tracy Ward and a few other members of the Liberty Restoration Project as they held one of their semi-frequent protests of KCMO’s automated ticket issuing cameras.

Tracy is currently campaigning for the Sixth District at Large City Council seat, representing an area of south Kansas City where Tracy and her family reside.

Oh, and to interject my own opinionations here. It was KCMO city government over the years that used anti-pedestrian, car-oriented traffic planning methods that eventually led to traffic sewers like that at 39th and Southwest Trafficway where the protests often take place. And they wonder why red light running happens? It’s because the city allowed over-zealous traffic engineers to screw up the roads, skewed in favor of moving cars as quickly as possible with no thought given to anyone not wearing a car around them. So what does the city government choose to do? Fix the lousy traffic engineering and urban planning decisions that have plagued Kansas City for ages? No. Setup some stupid cameras courtesy of the out of state leeches at American Traffic Solutions in Scottsdale AZ to send legally questionable fines to drivers who not only constitutionally have the right to face their accuser (in this case a robotic camera) but to have the accuser prove that it was the person cited on the ticket who was driving the car.

So, a legacy of idiotic urban planning combined with a populace of two kinds of people: 1) Those normally mad as hell and wouldn’t take it anymore but would have to ask off from their sweatshop low-wage job to go fight the ticket, OR 2) The large number of eyes-wide-shut, non-alert sheeple who consist of the American populace, making brainless statements like “If you don’t run red lights then you won’t have any problem.” Yes, thank you so much for pointing out that complete red herring, and for showing your utter lack of understanding of basic American legal structure.

Given that I’m born and raised in KCMO and thus have some kind of affinity for it, which is probably the reason I spend so much time trying to post flattering pictures of Kansas City on my site, I’ll tell you this: In many ways we’re kind of thought of as the “All American City,” which makes total sense seeing as our solutions to fix our own past screw-ups is to not correct the original mistake but to pile more bureaucratic nonsense on top of the issue in publicity-driven stunts to appear proactive at improving public safety while in reality indulging in a Machiavellian revenue generation scheme to shore up the city’s deficit. That’s Kansas City’s way and that’s the American way.

I normally don’t go off into current-event rants on my photo site, so I’ll clarify my own positions just for general principles. Politically and socially I lean left of center, with some bents of libertarianism on occasion. Those occasions are where Mrs. Ward and I are in full agreement. Also, the fact that I’ve been interested in urban planning issues for a number of years and can pretty much point out with ease all of the screw ups that have taken place here that we eventually end up trying to fix by calling in some out-of-town corporate saviour to the rescue in the false name of the public good.

And to make it clear – this photographer has never been ticketed by a KCMO traffic camera, and has not even had so much as a moving violation in over five years. I simply get annoyed at people so willing to be ignorant of their own rights, and so blase about intrusions against said rights. Not rights to disobey traffic laws (the afore-mentioned red herring), but the rights to face one’s accuser and the right for the burden of proof of guilt to be on the accuser (city government) not the burden of proof of innocence to be on the accused.

In 2004 I was stopped and searched without warrant in London for happening to appear “suspicious” near some ambassador’s private residence while I was hobbling about looking for the London zoo. So please, to anyone saying something like “Just don’t run the light and you won’t get a ticket,” please feel welcome to move to one of the most heavily surveilled countries on Earth. I would think the UK would be a lovely place if not for their government’s paranoia – a paranoia that is increasingly and unwittingly seen in the US to justify half-baked ideas like automated traffic surveillance cameras and full body scanners at airports – both of which one is hard pressed to find actual proof of effectiveness.

Saturday night was kind of a wash in a lot of ways. I came away satisfied with two or three pics, though the Waterfire event didn’t live up to expectations this year. First, three shots from the evening I kind of liked.

Kansas City Waterfire, 2010 - 1

Kansas City Waterfire, 2010 - 2

Bagpiper with the Plaza crowds on Saturday night

Alright – for my summation. Concerning the Waterfire event on Brush Creek – a public art/performance show first started in Providence Rhode Island that sprung up here in KC as well over the last few years. The prior years’ Waterfire shows took place well into October if I recall. By then the weather was far less humid and stifling than it often still remains in KC in mid-September. So trudging around the creek banks with sweat dripping onto my new camera was my first irritation, as mid September is too early to conduct this event. I’ve seen people comment on prior years’ Waterfire shows. They thought it was either cool and creative , or they just flat out thought it was silly. My own opinion was I liked the “atmosphere and moodiness” of it, so it’s been on my good side, and always makes for fun photography subject material.

Scheduling it in mid September when it’s completely common to have lingering summer heat and humidity was not smart. Secondly, there were storms coming through Kansas City that day since the early afternoon. They held off starting the event until 8pm, and shortly after it did start we all received word we’re not supposed to actually “walk” on the Brush Creek sidewalks due to high water concerns. Oh, and there was a Flash Flood Warning. Someone must have missed the memo about how lovely Brush Creek can get during flooding conditions. It would have appeared completely logical to postpone to the rain date, but they tried to go forward with the whole production that night – a gamble which crashed and burned when another round of rain storms showed up and they’d already committed to running the event that night. The Plaza then become quite a traffic jam as everyone was trying to get gone in fairly heavy rain showers.

As I was on my way out of the event, I decided to spend a few minutes trying to get  a decent shot of the bagpiper playing at 47th and Broadway. The better ISO capabilities of my new 5D Mark 2 over my original version 5D aided greatly in this kind of low light shot. Right after that I got back to my car just as it was beginning to pour.

Summation: Waterfire: I like you, but be smart about things. Don’t schedule in September when there’s too much potential for the heat to be irritating, and don’t be afraid to err on the side of caution concerning rain date postponements. I’m glad I got a few pics of the event despite the fiasco, but it would have been better for everyone concerned to save them all the irritation and to just postpone to the rain date (sorry if I’m playing Captain Obvious with that last statement).

Kauffman Center Construction

Another photo from Thursday evening when I was running around playing with my new Canon 5D Mark II. I figured I might as well end it with another Kauffman Center shot.

First Day with my 5D Mark II

I ordered a new Canon 5D Mark II so I could retire my old workhorse original version 5D to a leisurely life serving as a backup or secondary camera body when I need to use a couple different types of lenses at the same time. So seeing as the new 5D II arrived Thursday I went out in the afternoon and evening roaming around downtown. This shot was on 9th Street between Grand and Walnut, I believe. My old 5D was starting to show some signs of wear, and its technology is now a bit dated compared to what the 5D Mark II provides. Funny thing though is the 5D Mark III, assuming that’s what it will be called, is expected by the photo community rumor mongers to show up in about six months to a year. I decided not to bother waiting.

Actually for this particular photo I’m posting, I like the overall composition, but there are some things about it that annoy me, although I’m posting it anyway. I didn’t keep my shutter speeds fast enough for the three handheld, bracketed exposures for HDR, and therefore when magnified on the computer monitor I can see problems. Whatever. I’m giddy to have a new 5D Mark II to work with. Coming up this weekend is a hot air balloon festival, a red light camera protest to be held by the Liberty Restoration Project, and the Waterfire event at Brush Creek on the Plaza Saturday night. I’m going to try and make good and sure the new camera doesn’t end up at the bottom of the creek, as I’ve had some bad luck before concerning equipment damage at Waterfire – nothing that couldn’t be repaired though, thankfully.

Skywalk Glass Reflections

During the Fiesta Hispana I had the idea to go hop into the skywalk connecting the Marriott and Muehlebach Hotels at 12th and Wyandotte and see if anything interesting was to be had from up there. I tend to gravitate towards these kind of window/glass reflection things like this, and they’ve actually led to photo sales in the past. Here’s another shot I took down on the street underneath the skywalk just over nine months prior on January 2nd, 2010. In this photo above I’m pointing the camera and lens toward the southeast, though with the reflection coming in from the glass behind me, you can see the Bartle Hall convention Center and a couple of the Skystation pylons as well, although those are actually to the southwest of where I was located. Between the One Kansas City Place tower and the Muehlebach Hotel, you can kind of see an air vent inside the skywalk I was situated in. Crazy visual complications like that get me all excited.