April 18, 2017

A Nice Note from the Jim Bridger Power Plant

If you’ll recall from a couple of weeks ago, I sent a print of this image to the Plant Manager of the Jim Bridger Power Plant. (you can read the story below)

I just received a nice note from him:


P.S. Here’s the original story:

I was heading to Death Valley by way of Wyoming when I spotted a huge steam plume to the north of I-80. It turned out to be the Jim Bridger Power Plant.

It was a cold and sunny day and the white water vapor almost glowed against the dark blue sky. I shot three exposures. My practice is to name my image the first thing that pops into my mind and so I named this “Jim Bridger Power Plant.” But what I wanted to name it was:

“No You Can’t, Yes I Can.” 

And here’s why.

I was photographing for only a short time before a security guard drove up and said that I was not allowed to photograph the power plant. I’m used to this protective (yet ignorant) behavior and politely asked if I was on a county road or a private road, to which he responded “a county road.” 

I then explained, still politely, that I was allowed to photograph the plant as long as I was not trespassing. The next exchange went like this:

“No you can’t. Yes I can.”

I could see that I was getting nowhere and so I asked him to call out the Sheriff to settle this dispute. I was hoping that he would be better versed in the law than the security guard, but from past experience I was giving it only a 50/50 chance. 

About 20 minutes later several men arrived and one approached, introducing himself as the plant manager. (I was feeling bad now, for disrupting his day over something like this)

He proceeded to tell me that I could not photograph the plant, and I again asked if this was a county road or a private road to which he responded “a county road.” I again made it clear that I could photograph anything I wanted as long as I was not trespassing. Again the verbal dance:

“No you can’t. Yes I can.”

It was clear that this conversation was going about as far as the other and one so I offered to show him the images, to put his mind at rest that my activities were harmless. He accepted my offer and was quickly satisfied that there was no “clear and present danger.”

We ended the encounter by him explaining his post-911 concerns and I acknowledged those as legitimate. But I said, I still have the right to photograph the power plant….and around we went again!

“No you can’t. Yes I can.”

And that is why I wanted to name the image 

“No you can’t, Yes I can.”

We ended the standoff, by agreeing to disagree.

I’m going to send him a print of this image, he was a nice guy who was just trying to ensure the safety of his power plant.

11 thoughts on “A Nice Note from the Jim Bridger Power Plant

  1. What a great follow-up. That you both kept cool heads made the situation so civil when it could have been ugly. And, yes, you made that power plant into a work of art.

  2. The note is unexpected and an appropriate courtesy. The expressed appreciation for the image and the free print is kindly. They likely realized you were a “real” photographer. That said, I’d bet they still reckon that without previously arranged permission the camera, and its operator, are illegal intruders. Thus the somewhat jaded quip, “Its always better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.” This is even more true when no permission is required.

  3. Cole,

    Love the image and the back story. I had a very similar experience at my local power plant. I could get a great view from a local beach, which was public property. A security guard came over as I was leaving and “invited” me to accompany him back to his office. Like you, I kept my cool, which in my experience is the only thing you should do, and politely declined his “invitation”. He tried pushing the issue, but after about five to ten minutes he relented and I went on my way.


  4. Hi Cole, long time.
    Really made me smile. This is such a knock-your-socks-off image with huge impact, and I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall when they opened the package.
    There’s just no way they could’ve preconceived what what you saw and created.
    Great story.


  5. Cole, so wonderful for it all to have worked out that way; they get to see, and have, some of your wonderful work and you get to revisit without a guard in the middle of your camera. Perseverance works!

  6. Hi Cole,

    I just had the same experience in Scotland! I was merrily taking photos of an oil refinery near Edinburgh when security arrived. I’d pulled into a car park to try and find someone for permission but the buildings were empty. The guard was very pleasant but said he had to call the police and could I wait 10 minutes … well, I wasn’t about to make a run for it! They were really nice and obviously happy to let me go when I apologised and said I just adored taking industrial photos. They even told me about a power station currently being decommissioned only 10 minutes drive away. At least I got the pics and what a great memory to go with them!

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