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Drone Operators Chasing Thrills Interfere with Firefighting Efforts in California

By Robert V. Nuccio
R.V. Nuccio & Associates, Inc.

It is becoming more and more of a common occurrence: Firefighters battling massive wildfires are forced to suspend aerial firefighting efforts because of unmanned aerial systems, better known as drones.

With California in the midst of a very serious drought and fire season turning from a summertime to a year-round threat, two legislators in California, Senator Ted Gaines and Assemblyman Mike Gatto, have introduced a bill this month that would, “charge offenders a vastly increased penalty for [impeding firefighting efforts] and will also consider adding incarceration as a penalty when the offense involves unauthorized drone use,” according to a statement released on Senator Ted Gaines website.

“Drone operators are risking lives when they fly over an emergency situation. Just because you have access to an expensive toy that can fly in a dangerous area doesn’t mean you should do it,” said Assemblyman Mike Gatto. “The legislature needs to act swiftly to make sure we send a signal that our society won’t put up with this nonsense after seeing drone operators once again interrupt firefighting efforts.”

This sentiment was echoed earlier this month in a speech by Shawna Legarza, Director of Fire and Aviation for the U.S. Forest Service’s California Division, at a joint press conference with Cal Fire, the National Park Service, and the California National Guard.

“Wildland fire response in California is not just one agency, it’s all the agencies together, so federal, the state, the county, the city, the local government, the National Guard, the volunteers,” stated Legarza. “Getting all those agencies to work together can be hard enough, but the increasingly common problem of drones flying into fires makes it even more difficult.”

These calls for action come following FAA issued regulations introduced in February for drones. Unfortunately, drone users seem to be unaware of the regulations to which they are expected to abide.

Just this past Friday, July 17, officials said five drones hovering in the area delayed firefighters from dropping water buckets from helicopters onto a fast-moving wildfire that crossed a freeway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Eric Sherwin of the San Bernardino County Fire Department told CNN, “Fortunately, there were no injuries or fatalities to report, but the 15 to 20 minutes that those helicopters were grounded meant that 15 to 20 minutes were lost that could have led to another water drop cycle, and that would have created a much safer environment and we would not have seen as many citizens running for their lives.”

In comments to the New York Times, Rich Hanson, the director of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, a nonprofit whose members fly model airplanes, shared his opinion on drones and those individuals who are piloting them.

“These [drones] are being sold by the thousands, and many of these people buying them are not traditional modelers, and they are certainly not aviators.”

Hanson continued, “These people have no idea that the FAA even exists, let alone what the regulations are. They are just having fun and looking for some kind of self-aggrandizement or some fame on YouTube.”

In an effort to educate drone owners, drone industry leaders have launched a campaign and website called Know Before You Fly to raise awareness of the FAA regulations for drones, and to provide a resource for questions regarding drone safety.

If you operate a drone, be sure to follow all FAA and other UAS regulations.

 

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Organize Your Camera Gear, Receipts, and More With This Smartphone App

Do you have all the receipt records for your photography gear? Do you know all the specific dates of the warranties on that gear? Wouldn’t it be great if there was an easy, digital way to keep track of your camera gear and all the documents associated with it? Great news! There is an app for just that.

Developed by Marc Silber of Advancing Your Photography, a new app called Zither is optimized for photographers to help keep track equipment, receipts, serial numbers, owners manuals, and warranty information all in one place.

Every time you buy a new piece of equipment, adding it to the Zither app is a breeze. First, you scan the bar code on the equipment’s box with the app to identify the item. Next, you snap a photo of the receipt and the serial number so they’re stored inside the product entry. Zither then automatically looks up the correct owners manual for the scanned product, providing an easy way to reference it at a moments notice.

Zither also keeps track of the warranties on your camera gear, It will give a reminder as each warranty get close to its expiration date, allowing a photographer to take action on necessary repairs before they’re no longer covered under warranty.

How much is this app you ask? You can get Zither for FREE in the iTunes App Store.

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How To Protect Your Camera Gear from Thieves

National Geographic photographer David Alan Harvey offers this 40-second tip on how you can protect the theft of your camera gear.

It’s pretty simple: you just need to be wise about how you wear your camera bag.

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How Touchdown Antics Almost Ruined One Photographer’s Game

With more than 15 years of experience in the sports photography business, Matt Zimmerman was considered one of the most well-accomplished photographers in the area. He got his start at the age of 16, taking sports photos for the high school paper. Within a few short years, he went on to work for a weekly newspaper and then started his own sports-centered photography business.

Through the years, Matt’s abilities were always in high demand. There wasn’t a game he couldn’t shoot or any action he couldn’t capture. Though he covered a variety of prep sports, high school football was his favorite. Between the action, the raw emotions, and the fiery crowds, he was sure to always get some good photos.

The touchdown takedown

While working a homecoming football game for the school, the action and the excitement grew as the teams were tied up and the rivalry was high. Sensing a touchdown was near, Matt positioned himself at the edge of the end zone, hoping to catch a shot of the winning touchdown. He had his camera on a monopod and set his bag of extra equipment down next to him in order to free his hands.

Quickly, the home team’s quarterback threw the ball far into the end zone. The receiver had to run deep but snagged the ball for the winning touchdown. In celebration, the receiver spiked the ball onto the ground and proceeded to do an extravagant end zone dance ending with a disastrous back flip.

Matt backed off, but forgot about his bag on the ground. Not aware of Matt or his bag of equipment, the receiver hurled backward through the air. He landed squarely on top of Matt’s bag, crumpling like a ragdoll. Medics swiftly came to the player’s aid, but it quickly became apparent he suffered a potentially serious injury.

Matt felt terrible. The teen might not be able to play the rest of the season, let alone might be permanently injured. All because he left his bag on the ground. Then when he thought of the financial ramifications of the incident, he felt even worse.

The player’s ankle was broken and needed two surgeries to repair the damage. And, his hopes of college recruitment were dashed as this was his final year in high school and could not recover in time.

The player’s family sued Matt for damages in the amount of $1 million. He’d never been sued before and was shocked to discover that the legal defense cost $450 an hour! Luckily, Matt protected his interests with the photography insurance program exclusively available through R.V. Nuccio and Associates, Inc. The insurance company defended Matt, and the court found him liable for just the medical costs associated with the ankle.

Matt learned about the importance of photography-tailored insurance firsthand. If he hadn’t secured the correct coverage, the claim would have wiped out his business and possibly his personal assets too!

Industry-Tailored Protection

Need comprehensive coverage for your business? The RVNA Professional Photographer’s Insurance Program provides everything you need in one convenient place: Property Plus, Liability Plus, and Crime Plus Insurance. This tailored insurance coverage package provides specialized “A” rated protection. Endorsed by the National Alliance of Special Event Planners, R.V. Nuccio and Associates is the only online nationwide insurance source for photographers, offering the most customized protection at the most competitive rates.

Note: This case study is based on real claims scenarios. However, the story has been fictionalized to protect the privacy of those involved.

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School Photo Session Meltdown

Photographer Mike White specialized in school portraits. He traveled to dozens of schools every fall taking student photos. The students and faculty loved working with him because he was positive, professional, and knew how to make even the grumpiest kid smile.

East Ridge Primary was one of his favorite schools to visit every year. He enjoyed working with the kind staff and the gregarious children, who knew how to ham it up for the camera. Mike was especially looking forward to this year’s school picture season. Since business was going well, he reinvested some of his earnings in new camera equipment and lighting. Mike was sure this year’s photos were going to be his best yet.

While the photographer’s away…

As usual, the staff at East Ridge Primary let Mike set up his photography equipment and backdrop in an unused computer lab. This worked for him because he was out of the way and had space to work.

Mike ran his lights, backdrop, and camera equipment across the room, taking care to tape down cords so children wouldn’t trip and fall. He took all the necessary precautions to keep everyone safe.

Set-up had gone quickly and smoothly, so Mike had an hour before the first students were scheduled to get their pictures taken. Having forgotten his lunch at home, Mike decided to dash out and grab a bite to eat. He left the room and shut the door, leaving his equipment behind him.

After lunch, as soon as Mike returned to the school parking lot, he knew something was amiss. All the children were lined up outside and there was a fire truck and two police cars in front of the school.

The kids will play

While Mike was gone, three boys had snuck into the classroom where he had all his equipment. They thought it would be funny to take some candid photos of themselves to see what Mike’s reaction would be when he found their pictures on his camera.

One of the boys turned on the special lights Mike uses. And in the process of the pranksters taking pictures of themselves in various silly poses, the lights were knocked over. The heat of the lights quickly melted the carpet and caught fire.

Luckily, the boys escaped uninjured and managed to pull a fire alarm. Firefighters arrived and were able to extinguish the fire before it spread to other classrooms. But the damage to the room was extensive. The computers and equipment in the lab, valued at $150,000, were destroyed. Also, there was extensive smoke and water damage and the room had to be gutted and rebuilt from the ground up, costing another $75,000.

Fortunately, Mike protected his interests with the photography insurance program exclusively available through R.V. Nuccio and Associates. The insurance company defended Mike and paid $225,000 on his behalf. The court found Mike negligent in that the equipment was accessible and not secured.  Mike learned firsthand the importance of photographer-tailored insurance. If he hadn’t secured the proper coverage, the claim would have wiped out his business and possibly his personal assets too.

Industry-Tailored Protection

Mike protected his interests with the photographer insurance program exclusively available through R.V. Nuccio and Associates. Need coverage for your business? The RVNA Professional Photographer’s Insurance Program provides everything you need in one convenient place (Property Plus, Liability Plus, and Crime Plus Insurance). Underwritten by one of the largest, most respected carriers in the country, this tailored coverage package provides specialized “A” rated protection. Endorsed by the National Alliance of Special Event Planners, R.V. Nuccio and Associates is the only online nationwide insurance source for photographers, offering the most customized protection at the most competitive rates.

Note: This case study is based on real claims scenarios. However, the story has been fictionalized to protect the privacy of those involved.

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Photographers: Here’s What You Need to Know About Subcontracting

As you’ve probably noticed, the photography business is staffed by plenty of subcontracting arrangements. However, if a session results in a lawsuit, your exposure and risk can greatly vary depending on your subcontracting status. There are two important rules to keep in mind.

Rule 1: From an insurance point of view, an employed photographer is one that must be supplied with equipment in order to perform the photo shoot at the venue. An independent contractor photographer is one that has his or her own equipment, and does not have to be supplied with equipment by the insured photographer. Insurance coverage only protects the insured photographer and its employees. It will not provide defense or judgment coverage to a subcontractor or independent contractor.

Rule 2: When purchasing insurance, an accurate photographer count is essential. If a claim occurs and it is discovered that there are more photographers working for you than reported on the policy, the insurance company will deny coverage based on misreporting of photographers, and you’ll have no protection.

Below are two examples of these rules in action

Rule 1 example – Subcontractor loses her business
A-One Photography had a family portrait session scheduled for Thursday night. When owner Jon Andersen received a request to work a wedding at the same time, he hired subcontractor Angela Pederson Photography to work on his behalf, covering the wedding under the A-One Photography company brand.

While Angela was working the wedding, she went out onto the floor to snap some spontaneous shots. Unfortunately, an elderly guest doing the electric slide didn’t see her and knocked into her. The guest ultimately fell to the ground and broke his hip. He subsequently sued A-One Photography and Angela Pederson Photography for damages of $350,000. The court determined that it was a contributory loss. A-One Photography was responsible for $125,000 because the company had hired Angela Pederson Photography to work on its behalf. Angela Pederson Photography was held liable for $225,000 of the loss.

A-One Photography’s liability insurance policy provided defense and judgment coverage for A-One Photography, but not Angela Pederson Photography as she was a subcontractor and should have had her own liability insurance policy. Furthermore, A-One Photography had purchased liability insurance for only one photographer, so even if Angela had exclusively worked for A-One Photography as an employee, the coverage wouldn’t apply due to inaccurate reporting. As a subcontractor, Angela had assumed she would be protected by A-One Photography’s policy. Because she had no liability insurance, Angela became personally responsible for her portion of the loss. Needless to say, it was financially devastating.

Rule 2 example – Help has unintended consequences
Frank Ryan’s photography business was booming. To help meet demand, Frank subcontracted Vern Miller to work for his company exclusively. Frank thought it was the ideal situation – he could grow without hiring and paying payroll taxes.

One night, Frank and Vern both had family portrait sessions. They knew Vern’s event was going to be lively – he was shooting a large family reunion. All was going according to plan until one of the aunts tripped on a camera cord and injured her back. She slipped a couple of discs and was out of work for several months.

Although Vern had worked the event, Frank was sued for $300,000 because Vern was working on behalf of Frank’s business. In the eyes of the insurer, the exclusive subcontracting arrangement made Vern an employee. During the claim investigation, it was discovered that Frank’s business had two photographers when he had only purchased coverage for one. The insurance carrier denied coverage on the basis of mis-reporting the correct number of photographers. In the end, it was determined there was no coverage and Frank’s business had to pay the $300,000, which sent him and his business into a financial tail spin.

How can you avoid these costly situations?

  1. If you work as a subcontractor, secure your own liability insurance. In the first scenario, Angela could have avoided a $225,000 bill if she had her own liability policy.
  2. If you hire subcontractors, obtain a Certificate of Insurance from the subcontractor as proof of liability coverage. A liability limit of $1,000,000 or more is recommended.
  3. Regardless of whether you have subcontractors or employees, make sure you purchase insurance to cover the correct number of photographers. If you don’t, your insurance may not protect you as intended.

Need coverage for your business?

The RVNA Professional Photographer’s Insurance Program, exclusively available through R.V. Nuccio and Associates, Inc. provides everything you need in one convenient place: Liability Plus, Property Plus, and Crime Plus Insurance. Underwritten by one of the largest property and casualty insurance groups of the world, this tailored package provides specialized “A” rated protection. Endorsed by the National Alliance of Special Event Planners, R.V. Nuccio and Associates is the only online nationwide insurance source for photographers offering the most customized protection at the most competitive rates.

Note: These examples are based on real claims scenarios. However, the details have been fictionalized to protect the privacy of those involved.

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