How Stupid Is This! – Sculpture By The Sea!

10 02 2010

I received this rather official notice in my email about some sort of apparent breach of copyright regarding some of my photos.  At first I figured somebody must have downloaded and used my photos without my permission.  Then as I started reading the details, I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

According to the idiots at Sculpture By The Sea,  I am in breach of copyright by taking photos of their sculptures!!!  They have demanded I take them down until I get permission by the artist to use them.   Have you heard anything more stupid or idiotic in your entire life.   If they want to go and start trying to enforce this with everybody who has published photos of their exhibition, then they must have way too much time on their hands.  I just searched flickr and there are over 28,o00 photos on their from Sculpture By The Sea.

So I thought I would do a bit of research to understand the law around this and it also appears that they don’t have a leg to stand on.  Here’s an extract from Andrew Neamoth’s excellent 4020 site which clearly explains photographers legal rights in NSW.


Alongside ignorance about the Privacy Act(s), one of the commonest misconceptions about photography is that it can be prevented “due to copyright”. This is incorrect — no part of the Copyright Act prohibits any kind photography! Copyright only applies to the published duplication of original works, such as books, paintings, dramatic works, prints, drawings, motion pictures, DVDs, audio recordings etc.

In Australia still-photographs of 3D objects such as performances, buildings, statues or interior spaces (and the people in them), generally cannot infringe copyright, as one-off images cannot reproduce a substantial enough portion of the original work. The only way to infringe copyright in these cases is to create a sufficiently similar 3D copy, or with respect to dramatic works, lengthy video recording (eg. see the “Choreography G072” information sheet on the ACC website.) The same kind of thing applies to the “performers’ rights” of actors or musicians during a performance — it is almost impossible to infringe these by merely taking an occasional still photograph. (FWIW many thespians and producers disagree with me on this point — see the Aug 2007 discussion at Theatre Australia. All I can say is: download and read the relevant ACC information sheets!)

All these principles have been adopted by the Commonwealth Copyright Act 1968. See for example Part III — Division 7 “Acts not constituting infringements of copyright in artistic works”, especially Section 66:

The copyright in a building or a model of a building is not infringed by the making of a painting, drawing, engraving or photograph of the building or model or by the inclusion of the building or model in a cinematograph film or in a television broadcast.

Thus due to our s.66 exemption, the internationally notorious SABAM Atomium building copyright heist would be very difficult to mount here. Unfortunately the Sydney Opera House Trust hasn’t got the idea yet — see Peter Black’s June 2007 analysis of (ab)using intellectual property law to restrict SOH photographs.

Furthermore according to s65 of the Act, a similar kind of exemption applies to photography in publicly accessible places where sculptures or other copyrightable “works” are displayed.

So when a Sydney Opera House guide or a Paddys Markets Wigs-stall owner waves their arms and rushes towards you yelling: “You can’t take photographs because of Copyright!” — smile and shake your head, because clearly they have no idea what they’re talking about :?)


Sculpture By The Sea…By Night

9 11 2009

Well this is the second year that I have stayed away from Sculpture By the Sea during pre-dawn or daylight hours…. It’s like Pitt Street for Photographers… has been for a few years now.

But at night…  all the people go except for the occasional couple that stroll by with torches.  You have plenty of space and time to just experiment and play.

Here’s a couple of shots from this years exhibition.

Blue Face at night

This was probably my favorite shot from the two nights that I went out shooting.  Funnily enough it was the last shot of the night.  I’d seen this face when I was browsing through some of the other photos of the exhibition, and while none of the other images of the sculpture grabbed me, the face itself did.  I figured it would have possibilities before I even saw it, so it was on my “must shoot” list for the night.  It really helps to do your research, otherwise I could have easily missed it.  As it was I had to ask the security guards where to find this sculpture.

OK, a bit of info on how I made this shot.  The first thing is that I am previsualising my light paintings much better these days.  When I looked at the sculpture here’s what I was thinking….

  • Cool face…  I could some cool things with highlights and shadows on the face
  • Love the horizon and water in the background
  • The bushes create a nice transition against the sea… want to emphasize them
  • The stars and the clouds are very cool… I want to get lots of stars and no star trails and try to get some of the little puffs of clouds to blur in the sky.
  • I liked the way the sculpture cut above the horizon and kind of made a nice transition between the land and the heavens… I wanted to emphasise this as well.
  • As I was looking at this I thought it would look cool if the face was kind of emerging out of a blue-light fog.

So that was what was going on in my head… so here’s how I set about executing it.

Screen shot 2009-11-09 at 10.11.35 PM

(You might want to click on the image above to see it full size)

I started off with my heaven shot… my background.  Set my camera to ISO3200 and shot 30sec @ f5.6  This gives me heaps of bright stars due to the high ISO and no star trails due to the 30sec exposure (lucky I’m shooting with a Nikon)… Canon would probably give me a shit-load of noise…. OK… couldn’t resist that jibe… seriously though, the D700 is awesome at this high an ISO.

Then I started my first white light run on the face with the fluoro light.  Aftger that I saw clouds coming over, so I redid my heaven shot.  The the next two images were more light painting on the face from different angles.  Once I felt I had the face captured from the right angles, I light painted the bushes in the background.  I then did two frames of the face in blue light (using cold cathodes).  This was to give me some blue light on the face from the blue fog.  I then thought that perhaps I might light up the face red to see what it looked like in contrasting colours emerging from the blue fog…. however when I previewed it in Photoshop I didn’t really like it, so I didn’t use the red images.

The final image is of the blue “fog” that I created with Electro-luminesent wire.  This stuff is wicked.  It creates cool water/fog effects.

Then I just started working the blending in Photoshop. The trickiest part was making an accurate mask around the sculpture that was sticking up in the sky.  I used a contrast mask for that (see my cool shit tutorial series for video on how to do that).

Here’s a couple of my other shots from Sculpture By the Sea.

horse sculpture

I loved the look of this horse from the moment I saw it.  It had “light painting” written all over it.  I loved the way it overlooked the water.  I used contrasting colours to really try to highlight the insides of the horse.

This last shot was from my first night’s shoot.  I just wanted to do something a bit abstract and different with it, so I threw the sky into almost total blackness and focused on abstracting the sculpture and the surroundings.

Sculpture by sea 1

For those that want to learn this type of photography see my Light Painting Workshop Page.  Still a few spots left for the Nov 09 workshop.