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First of all, sorry if this question is off-topic - I have looked at the help section and I believe this falls into the "techniques and best practices" category, and similar questions have been asked before, but I'm still open to suggestions about editing, moving or closing this question.


My wife loves macrophotography and can often be found alone, lying on her stomach in a field of grass or in a forest taking pictures of a flower, mushroom or insect for hours without any noticeable movement. This is fine and well, but sometimes one or more random passersby come up to check up on her: to see if she requires medical assistance.

She is already used to this and just tells them she's okay, but still feels bad for needlessly worrying those people, not to mention that the next time they see someone lying still, the same people might not check up on someone who is in genuine distress.

What would be the best way to let laypeople know that the motionless, prone person is, in fact, taking pictures and needs no assistance? Preferably this method would

  • work from a distance and
  • not involve lugging around and setting up heavy or bulky equipment (like a meter-wide banner saying "TAKING PICTURES"),
  • nor involve sounds or movement that might scare away the animal being photographed (mouse, bird, insect, etc.).
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    At least these aren't voyeurs thinking she is shooting people making out in the bushes (true story...) – xenoid Nov 29 '20 at 16:37
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    How about lying on a towel or blanket? People do that in parks, meadows and beaches all the time. – that other guy Nov 30 '20 at 5:24
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    Is her camera not visible? – Acccumulation Nov 30 '20 at 7:38
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    How about also not preventing someone eventually checking if she does actually have a physical/medical problem while lying in the grass shooting macro? – Zeiss Ikon Nov 30 '20 at 12:11
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    @ZeissIkon that's actually a really good point, thanks for bringing it up! – zovits Nov 30 '20 at 20:59
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A blanket or equivalent, as suggested in the comments, looks like the best solution to me.

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  • It will be considered, but I guess it will be summarily rejected, as space is at a premium in a camera bag, with all the lenses, batteries, flashes, reflectors and so on. But if the blanket could be fitted to the outside of the bag, it wouldn't soil the precious equipment with leaves, twigs, bugs and dirt either. Hmm... – zovits Dec 1 '20 at 15:11
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    @zovits I think I have seen rescue blankets which are extremely thin. Might be something to look in to. – Prof. Falken Dec 1 '20 at 15:41
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    Rather than the flimsy rescue blankets suggested by @Prof.Falken's comment, a lightweight tarp would be good. I've got a couple that are drab green on one side, silver on the other, thus doubling as a reflector and camouflage (actual camo pattern also available). My smaller one is something like 2.4x1.2m (8'x4'), costs next to nothing on eBay, and folds into a pouch less than half the size of my flash. You may be able to get a 6' version. Something like this – Chris H Dec 2 '20 at 16:17
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    In the end this is the solution that got implemented: a multiple square meter piece of thin, almost transparent plastic film originally intended as protective covering for internal painting work was bought and suitable sizes are cut so that multiple plies can be used to provide both protection from both moisture and dirt and to serve as a sign of intention towards onlookers. If the subsequent real-world usage results in another approach being tried, I'll update the Q&A accordingly. – zovits Apr 20 at 11:16
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While this is a rare instance of need, it's a shame there isn't a photographic equivalent of the red field with white diagonal stripe "diver down" flag, or the more internationally-recognized blue-and-white "Alpha" flag.

Perhaps she could fashion her own "photographer in action" sign, with a combination of symbols for instant recognition (a finger in front of lips, meaning "shhhh"/quiet, and a camera), with words saying a photographer is trying to shoot skittish wildlife closeup, staying still and quiet. That should be enough for people to leave her alone. A couple of those signs placed 10–50 yards away, from the most anticipated approach locations, should be enough to at least reduce the amount of well-intended interlopers.

The sign probably only needs to be about 20" by 15", maybe smaller. It can be foldable, or depending on you or your wife's craftiness, could be rollable, or even printed on fabric or lightweight tent material.

The support could be a telescoping pole for easy transport, or perhaps a lightweight inexpensive tripod for easy setup.

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    Maybe the lightweight tripod is enough of a prop -- I think people would recognize one as a tool photographers use. – Kyle Miller Nov 30 '20 at 5:33
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    @KyleMiller perhaps, but a tripod by itself, with a prone and unmoving photographer nearby, doesn't explain the situation. Seems to me it could be easily be mistaken for a photographer who fell unconscious, in need of help, begetting a situation à la the original question... bringing us back to other solutions. – scottbb Nov 30 '20 at 5:52
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    I was going to post something similar, suggesting a "do not disturb my subject" aspect. I think a sign is helpful, though I like the other answer's suggestion of appropriately personalised kit. I faced something similar in first aid training recently - we were training outdoors partly because of the virus and a little too easily seen from the road – Chris H Nov 30 '20 at 11:30
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    Universal? Wikipedia says that flag is only in the US, and the one used universally is half blue half white... – user253751 Nov 30 '20 at 13:24
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    The stand is a great idea as well, but actually I'm thinking of using a children's bicycle safety flag, like this as it is lightweight, foldable and can be DIYed to have a stake on the bottom instead of a mounting plate. Maybe with a custom print on the flag part. – zovits Dec 3 '20 at 9:02
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Scootbb has a great answer, but I would suggest that you have some custom shirts, hoodies or jackets made for her with wording on the back. Bonus points for you if you give them to her as a gift.

On the back it could say "I am not dead or injured, just taking photos" or any wording you feel is appropriate.

This may preferable to carrying a sign.

You could have the phrase "Macro photographer at work" with any of the following humorous wording suggestions below it:

  • Not dead yet, but grateful.
  • I am communing with nature.
  • Naps are good.
  • I ❤️ worms.
  • My husband thinks I'm a doormat.
  • Can you hand me that lens?
  • Can you smell that?
  • I know that earring is here somewhere.

(feel free to add your own suggestions)

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    But what is the difference between a live person wearing such a hoodie and a dead person wearing such a hoodie? I suspect that a concerned person is not going to look at a potential corpse wearing a marked hoodie and then thinking "Oh, that must be a a photographer at work, I better not disturb them". – Peter M Nov 29 '20 at 21:05
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    I'm imagining a serial killer, with a stock of such hoodies, in which they clothe their victims after killing them. – Dawood ibn Kareem Nov 30 '20 at 1:25
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    @AlaskaMan Also especially as in order to read said pithy slogan you're already going to have be so close to the prone person (because the writing is not on a plane easily seen from a distance) that by the time you have read it, you've already interrupted the prone person simply by your presence. (I'd get really nervous if I was taking macro pics of a subject in teh ground and someone was hovering over me, but out of my vision) – Peter M Nov 30 '20 at 3:38
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    Nobody had "I ATE'NT DEAD" yet? – deamentiaemundi Nov 30 '20 at 4:36
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    @Acccumulation, probably the same as if that happens when no-one else is near enough to see. It's a risk we all take. – Toby Speight Nov 30 '20 at 11:14
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Nature Photographer at Work (Really!)

To put concerned bystanders at ease, you want to make sure they understand the situation. So the most effective message is likely to be a direct one.

Colorful jokes may work sometimes, but if people don't understand what's going on, they may feel compelled to verify.

I'd suggest having the same, direct message on a yard sign (or two) and on the back of a shirt or jacket. The more on-purpose it looks, the more folks will attend to the message.

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Take a leaf out of Terry Pratchett's book (or some of his books at least :) and just put up a little sign beside her that says:

"I ate'nt dead"

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What if she just don't let others see her by camouflaging herself. It might work in some places.

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    She could camouflage or otherwise hide herself. But if she doesn't do this perfectly, then it might just look like someone has tried to hide a body, making the problem worse. – Brian Drake Dec 2 '20 at 7:39
  • Not entirely joking: perhaps a ghillie suit? – scottbb Dec 2 '20 at 21:20
  • Sounds like a good way to get shot by a deer hunter. – Mazura Jan 10 at 21:04

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