Sunday, January 23, 2011

Perils of the Post Apocalypse Terrain Maker

When I venture into a new historical gaming period or conflict, I usually spend the better part of a year researching the subject before spending the first dollar on it.  I like to learn about the peoples involved in the conflict; culture, religion, ways of daily life, perspective about life, motivations, what are they fighting for, etc.  I usually learn a lot, probably misunderstand more than I learn, and then get to the game.  The beauty of sci-fi/fantasy games is that I don't have to spend a year researching to get to the game.

So I decide to finally build my PA terrain, and what am I spending the most time on...researching.  Kind of a funny idea really, researching what hasn't happened. Most of it involves looking at abandoned and destroyed places, and noting damage and decay.  Mostly it involves collecting info about those things that would populate the PA landscape, but it also involves the perils of gathering that information. 

The funny thing about abandoned places is that they are never abandoned.  You find all sorts of interesting people, some of them just curious, a photographer, an artist spraying the side of a building, a homeless person,  people exchanging a package, people looking funny at you and your camera..time to leave.  Interestingly, I've not been directly threatened by anyone in these situations, though I did have to make some effort to avoid an unhappy dog one time.  As far as people go,  a menacing glance maybe, but no real threats.  Can't say the same for people in the "civilized" places.

One day, I was walking around town, taking photos of detail items; street signs, storm drains, roadway markings, etc.  While taking photos of the highway overpass near my home (and featured in my PA terrain), a car veers over towards me, honks its horn, somebody inside screams an obscenity. I'm on a sidewalk,  I turn, see whats happening, (taking photos the whole time) jump back as the car jumps the curb, loses part of a now shattered wheelcover, and blows its tire.  They miss me by 18 inches, veer off of the curb, and continue down the street on the fresh flat.  What are they thinking?  They just screwed up Dad's new Toyota, could have seriously hurt or killed me, and we are only like 40 feet from a police station.  

Another day, I figure I'll take a couple of pics of the vending machines by Walmart.  As I'm walking over to them, I notice a car parking in the handicap spot with no handicap plackard (the driver, a young, athletic and affluent looking woman (at Walmart??) had no obvious disability), another car was parked in the fire lane in front of the store, and kids on skateboards where running over people on the covered walk outside the stores in the plaza (skateboarding there is a violation of local ordinance, and is posted). 

I take a side view pic of the end vending machine, a couple of shots of the fronts.  A couple people are looking at me, as I do this.  Funny how when you take photos of things, people look at you like your murdering a bus-load of orphans.  I stood there for a moment , just about ready to leave, noting some details of the bottons/hardware on the front of the machine, when I hear, " Sir, I need to ask you to step away from that pop machine".  I turn, and there is a security guard standing there with his hand on his can a mace.  You have got to be kidding me.  The 14 year olds on the skateboards have just run into someone coming out of a store, the empty car is still parked in front of two "No Parking, Fire Lane" signs and on the giant "NO PARKING" letters painted on the ground. Handicapped people are walking from Mongolia to get to the store.  And I have to step away from the machine? 

"Sir, what are you doing?"

"I was taking photos of the vending machines"

"Sir, why are you taking photos of the vending machines?"

I think quickly, knowing that explaining that I'm building the end of the world in my basement for little people to fight and die over is not a good answer, and say, "To build miniatures for a model railroad."

"Well sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

Really surprised, I blurt out, "You're kidding."

I then mention the illegally parked cars, the kids on the skateboards, and question why he stops a guy from photographing a vending machine, an act not in violation of state or local law. He then threatens to call authorities and have me forcibly removed. So I willingly go home, without pepper-spray eyes, where I will build a model of a blown-up, burned down, looted Walmart with the remnants of an over-zealous security guard being munched on by turkey vultures.

Let this be a warning for you post apocalypse terrain makers,  the post apocalyptic wasteland is a dangerous place.


  1. That guy was an idiot! Please, put in the mini walmart the vultures stuff!
    By the way making photos of PA places is cool. I've been doing some photos of a ruined house the other day, and want to do some of an abbandoned gas station near my house...

  2. Your story is not a uncommon one in the photographic community. It used to be that peopel seen someone with a camera and they would all try to get in the picture, now they look at a photographer as a Terrorist, Stalker, Pedophile, Kidnapper, Rapist, etc... Even when the photographer has every right to be taking the photos he/she is taking. Technically the security guard had the authority to ask you to leave since WalMart property is considered private property, and they do have the right to ask you to leave. Now if you were taking photos of the store from a sidewalk along the road or even across the street, they they have no right to stop you, and if they do and end up detaining you till the police get there they have committed false imprisonment, and a good lawyer might also try to further the charges to kidnapping, since they took you from public property and held you against your will.

    Then again Security at WalMart is a joke, I was at one local Walmart and watched a driver driving agaisnt the traffic in the aisle of the parking lot hit another car that was pulling out with the security right there, and the secutity guard just looked the other way, also passing I dont know how many cars parked illegally in Handicap spots, or even in the space between the spots where there's no parking. I have also watched as a security car drove by a women get her purse stolen right with the security guard next to them watching, yet the guard does nothing, same goes for cars getting broken into. All the security is there for is to make it look like WalMart is a safe place to shop, when it comes down to it the security have very little power to do anything.

    Now back to taking the photos, I am lucky in that I have a press pass that wear when I go out shooting interesting scenes, I have been stopped once and when I showed them the press pass and explained what the photos where for I was told that I was OK, it also allowed me during a local parade to get out in the road in the middle of the parade to get some photos.

  3. I can appreciate that the security guard was just doing his job. And maybe they have even had people messing with the vending machines; there might be specific reason for him to watch them. It does strike me as kind of funny, given the "snapshot" of the goings-on at the time.

    I don't really mean him any ill will either, though I probably should include some vultures in my games (hadn't considered them previously), and will probably build the Walmart now that the idea popped into my head.