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Behind the Scenes: Live Camera Operations

by Katharine Green, Head of Camera Operations

ASK KAT

Why do camera operators show some people and seem to zoom away at top speed from others? And why do they cut off the heads of people in most of the views? Why don’t you show the people walking across the bridge and fishing at Brooks Falls?

It does seem like we’re sending mixed messages, doesn’t it. But there’s a really good reason. It’s because explore.org respects people’s privacy and emphasizes its importance in all camera operators’ training guidelines.

Because there are so many different camera locations and partner requirements, the guidelines are not always clear-cut. So the best way to explain our policy is to share it with you.

Explore.org does not violate people’s privacy by showing them if they haven’t agreed to be filmed. Camera operators should not do anything that could compromise this policy. 

Do your best not to show views of employees, visitors, equipment, personal property, houses or automobiles.

If you’ve watched many of our cameras, you know that this is sometimes impossible. So here are a few examples of our exceptions to the rules.

Exception: Visitors to the Kitten Rescue Sanctuary are right in front of the camera in a small room. Our primary focus is always the kittens and cats. However, we will also show their natural interactions with people because we think it’s important to share the love that the volunteer, guest, or (in this case) the newly adoptive parent gives to these kittens. That is Jason, who is going home today!  

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On the other side of the sanctuary are adorable baby kittens and special needs cats who need extra care. We’ve been asked to focus on the adorable kittens who are receiving their special care and love, and not the faces of those who are providing it.

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Exception: We also like to show the moments when a kitten gets special camera attention at Big Cat Rescue’s Kitten Cabana.

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If our partners are in the scene, training or interacting with the animals (Penguins, Kittens, Dogs, etc.), focus on the animal.

Exception: Aquarium of the Pacific’s Penguin Beach offers a unique opportunity to show the keepers interacting with the Penguins, so we share the entire feeding event.

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Exception: Audubon’s Puffin Burrow when Bucky, this season’s star puffling, is being weighed before fledging or the camera is being adjusted because this exuberant puffin knocked it over!

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Exception: Happiness Village Baby Panda Garden’s keepers are an integral part of the toddlers lives and we make every attempt to show all of the feedings and interactions.

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The owner at the
Service Dog Project (SDP) even appears in her robe sometimes, so you know that they are a very camera friendly location! Everyone who works, visits or volunteers at SDP agrees to be shown on camera. You’ll see many views of volunteers helping the new mother care for a litter of newborn puppies.
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And we always show feedings on camera as an example of the excellent ‘wait’ training these future service dogs receive from the time they are old enough to get treats.

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If a person in the view is unavoidable, you should make the primary focus the animals that are beside them… not the person themselves. At all times strive to show the view without showing the person’s face or any other indiscreet views.

These are the cases where you see part of a person, and all of the animal itself. Future service dogs are the best examples of this.

We especially respect the privacy of the people who are learning to adjust to new and future service dogs and don’t wish to share that experience in front of our cameras. Only when the partner organization agrees for the sessions to be filmed, will we show the interactions. If not, we won’t show the training session. We communicate these instructions to our camera operators on a case-by-case basis.

This  Warrior Canine Connection volunteer is so lucky to be holding that puppy! If we showed their face, her smile would probably blind out everything else in the view!
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And, when we’re really lucky, you’ll see views like this:

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Exceptions: When we show the beaches at Pipeline Surfing, Waimea Bay and Beach, Santa Monica Beach and Pier and Malibu Beach, it is impossible to not show people or boats. But, our main focus is never the person. It is always the scene. 

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So, you won’t see us focusing on people walking by the camera in bathing suits (which will be such a relief for me, personally, the next time I go to North Shore!).

However, we will show surfers on Pipeline. Because that is one of the reasons we have a camera there… to show the amazing surfers.

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Camera operators should know when camera actions are more along the lines of surveillance and invading people’s privacy. 

If there are people in your view, please move the camera to another area, if at all possible.

Exception: Sometimes, people are fishing in the river on Brooks Falls Brown Bears and it seems like they are really close to the bears (the distance can be very deceptive). We move away from the people as quickly as we can because people detract from the natural beauty of the scene. But sometimes there is great bear action in the foreground. In those cases, we will show the bears without using a closeup, so we can share their antics with you, while still adhering to our own policy of not focusing on people. 

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However, just because we move the cameras away from people does not mean we don’t report serious intrusions, including a person walking into the falls to have their photo taken with bears in the background.  It’s not funny when it happens, and we take these situations very seriously.

The National Park Service manages Katmai National Park on behalf of the public and has specific rules and regulations that apply to Brooks River. Here are two great resources:

https://www.nps.gov/katm/learn/management/lawsandpolicies.htm
https://blog.explore.org/bears-and-humans-at-brooks-river/ 

We also show scenes like this, because they take our breath away… and we imagine we are the ones getting ready to disembark the plane and enter this amazing natural wonderland.

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Thanks to all the camera operators who volunteer their time to bring you great views while still adhering to our Privacy Policy and Partners’ guidelines. Our goal is to always show nature at its best and show you (and us!) amazing views… every day.

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If you’re interested in joining us on this amazing journey, we always have opportunities for new volunteers. Just contact us at volunteers@explore.org

  • Jana Kralovna

    Everything in this blog makes sense except the last one–moving the camera away as quickly as possible when a person walks into the falls. When a person is in an area that is allowed, of course we should respect their privacy. When they are in an area that is forbidden, they should have no such rights. I understand that it is not explore’s job to enforce park rules, but if people understand that there are cameras there and they COULD be seen, they might behave better.

    And for that matter, how is a web cam any different from the camera of some other tourist? If you go to a place with a lot of cameras about, chances are you’re going to be filmed somewhere.

    • http://explore.org explore.org mod

      Hi Jana. We understand your perspective – if someone is behaving badly, perhaps a camera on them would influence better behavior now or in the future. This would make more sense if explore.org’s purpose was in part to be a security camera, but we are not at all intended to function this way.

      • Jana Kralovna

        I understand that, but what I don’t understand is the special effort to move the camera away from them. It sends a message of “we’re going to try our hardest to look the other way so you can do whatever you want.”

        • http://explore.org explore.org mod

          To provide clarity on this – just because we move the camera away from viewership during events like this does not mean events like this go unreported.

          • Mollie Cook

            Good that you reemphasized the fact that events do not go unreported. Appreciate the information in this blog. Now if we just had more “enforcers” !

          • http://explore.org explore.org mod

            Thanks Mollie. We want to be really clear about that – we’ll never “look the other way” if something bad happens. In fact, our cameras have helped to mitigate several situations that would otherwise have likely gone unnoticed.

  • Elaine Solomon

    Thank you very much for the explanations! Appreciated!

  • Elnora Chambers

    Thanks so much for explaining all that! Are all camera operators volunteers? And do they all work from remote locations? By that, not actually at the site where the camera is located.

    • http://explore.org explore.org mod

      Yes, they are all remote-working volunteers with the exception of the employees in our New Earth program in Los Angeles: https://newearthlife.org/portfolio/explore/.

      Africam runs its own separate volunteer network for their camera operations, but several of them are explore.org chat moderators.

  • AmyKY

    Are CamOps needed? If so, how do I apply?

  • lolo53

    Great blog ! Plethora of information. Thx !!

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  • Cathy Weyant

    Kudos to Explore… all the amazing volunteers that dedicate their love of our creatures of this world.. the amazing scenery that is never the same ever Thank you for always offering information about each species… that can possibly save them from extinction… never stop learning… never stop teaching. And always show kindness, it comes back ten fold

  • https://www.facebook.com/camopkat CamOp Kat

    I updated our view policy in the bear comments section to further clarify our position and provide some useful links.

    Sometimes, people are fishing in the river on Brooks Falls Brown Bears and it seems like they are really close to the bears (the distance can be very deceptive). We move away from the people as quickly as we can because people detract from the natural beauty of the scene. But sometimes there is great bear action in the foreground. In those cases, we will show the bears without using a closeup, so we can share their antics with you, while still adhering to our own policy of not focusing on people.

    However, just because we move the cameras away from people does not mean we don’t report serious intrusions, including a person walking into the falls to have their photo taken with bears in the background. It’s not funny when it happens, and we take these situations very seriously.

    The National Park Service manages Katmai National Park on behalf of the public and has specific rules and regulations that apply to Brooks River. Here are two great resources:

    https://www.nps.gov/katm/learn/management/lawsandpolicies.htm
    https://blog.explore.org/bears-and-humans-at-brooks-river/

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