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What’s Up with the Guy with a telescopic lens at 13th and Clifton St, NW?

by Prince Of Petworth June 13, 2014 at 10:30 am 98 Comments


“Dear PoPville,

Just curious- has anyone else reported a guy standing on the roof of Cardozo HS by the parking lot with a giant, camo colored telescopic lens? He’s been there around 8:30/8:45a the past 2 days, taking pictures of either an apartment in the Wardman Court apartments or the roof. Really weird, but he’s not trying to hide himself, everyone who walks by notices him.”

  • What is there to “report”? Did you notice anything illegal?

    • It’s a bit suspicious looking, no? And honestly try not to get hung up on semantics.

      • KenyonDweller

        I don’t find anything suspicious about a guy with camera taking photos in plain view. Clearly others do.

        • Yeah, that’s kind of my point. I suppose there’s always the “hiding in plain sight” angle that you could play on, but unless this faces the girls’ bathroom or something I don’t see anything wrong here. I mean, maybe he’s not supposed to be on the building? I dunno. You could always just shout up “Hey, what are you doing up there?” and he’ll probably tell you, especially if he’s been there for 2 days now.

      • Anonymous

        It would be suspicious if we was trying to hide and was not in broad daylight.

        • Anonymous

          He has a camo lens though!! :)

  • annonny

    Private Eye? Do such folks even exist anymore?

    • Beau

      Apparently so – Donald Sterling just hired four PI firms to investigate the NBA.

    • Allison

      There are still private eyes. They’re often used to gather evidence for lawsuits (i.e. proving the guy who claims he’s injured is faking by photographing him jogging, or proving your spouse is cheating in a divorce case). But they usually try to blend in a bit more.

    • Oh yeah, they do. One of my friends is one. His stories are A+ material.

      • Can you get him to start a “best of the worst of PoPville” series in here, where he tells these awesome stories (personal identifying information removed, of course) about local residents? Or I am I being too gossipy?

        • He lives in Charlotte (my hometown), so most of the gossip wouldn’t be pertinent to anyone here ;) It’s mostly stuff that people do when cheating that they think they’re getting away with. He’s not there for the confrontations after (a la “Cheaters”), but the preludes are always funny enough.

          • textdoc

            I think mrbigtime’s interest is just in a good story, rather than dirt on D.C. celebs. That’s what my interest would be, anyway.

          • Anonymous

            His stories would be great material for something like This American Life!

    • Priiiivattee eyes, they’re watching you. They see your every move….. (Mssrs. Hall and Oates)

      • Anonymous

        Yep. my uncle owns the larges firm in Southern Florida and he employed me from the age of 13 to chase philandering husbands and wives, hide in the bushes with cameras..etc. Usually we are more discrete than that (not that i do that anymore!)

      • Music

        FYI – Hall and Oates are playing at Wolf Trap next week. Honest.

    • Bitter Elitist

      They’re watching you. They see your every.move.

  • Anonymous

    It’s very common for yearbook staff to take photos of their school at different angles because it provides a unique view for students on where they spent the last 4 years. Those photos will probably make their way into the 2015 yearbook. If it’s not for the yearbook, then promo materials.

    • Allison

      Could also be taking pictures of other buildings for insurance or architectural purposes.

    • Anonymous

      I worked on yearbook staff in high school as well as college and I think it would be pretty unlikely for a high schooler to own that type of equipment. These lenses cost thousands of dollars and are camouflaged because they are often used by birdwatchers.

      • Anonymous

        High schools these days actually have photography programs (so cool!) and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had equipment for the kids to borrow.

        • hmm

          That’s a $4-6k lens. I went to a well funded magnet school that had a dedicated photography major. No public school is going to have that lens.

          • Anonymous

            You can rent lenses.

          • annonny

            You never know. At my high school the yearbook got an annual kickback of sorts from the publisher. Depending on how many copies sold the previous year, the photo dept got a “budget” that could be used to buy pretty sophisticated equipment from the publisher’s wholesale-price catalog. We actually had two of these lenses.

      • Anonymous

        I was on yearbook staff senior year of HS, and we had a contract with a photographer, I think through the company that published our school’s book. We’d schedule him to come out for 5 or 6 events through the year.

  • Alan

    I’ve seen him there, is he not just a photographer?

    • Anonymous

      Most likely….

  • Anonymous

    Ask him instead of snapping photos?

  • kbloomingdale

    It’s a long, either Canon or Nikon lens with the camo reflective covering on it. Popular with people who shoot wildlife. He’s taking photos. Of what? Doesn’t matter I suppose… he’s in public.

  • bruno

    There is nothing wrong with taking photographs.

    • I think the curiosity comes from the fact that it is on the roof of school.

      • bruno

        Take it from me, no matter where a photographer stands, people think he is “suspicious.” :^) I get it all the time.

        • hahaha I hear ya! Believe me – I get questioned all the time too!

        • KenyonDweller

          People have the oddest views of privacy these days. They leave their most intimate details scattered all over the internet, but if you take their picture in a public space, they act like you’ve stolen their soul.

          • Anonymous

            And then there are those of us who mostly try not to scatter our most intimate details all over the internet — who also don’t like the possibility that our pictures might be taken in public places.

          • There’s a pretty easy way to ensure your photo isn’t taken in public places.

          • Anonymous

            cloak of invisibility, right? That’s what I use.

          • Anonymous

            What easy way is that justin? Avoid public places — including stores with security cameras, streets with traffic cameras and anywhere that someone might have an iphone? Yup. Easy.

          • annonny

            Nobody said staying home/out of public was fun. But sure, it’s easy. Just use peapod for your groceries and watch TV all day. Works for shut-in/recluses all the time.

      • Anonymous

        That really isn’t the roof. That’s the parking lot that is over the new gym.

  • bruno

    That hill offers excellent panoramas of downtown/the Capitol, etc.

    • Anonymous

      This was my first thought as well.

    • oh2dc

      Impressive use of that long of a lens without a tripod

  • Anonymous

    I can’t imagine anything remotely nefarious happening here to be honest. He presumably got permission from the school to do this – must be some good reason for the school to assume that liability.

  • Anonymous

    The camo lens makes me wonder if he’s a bird photographer, and maybe there’s a nest there.

  • Anonymous

    This should be a caption contest

  • Anonymous

    It’s a telephoto lense and the high school also happens to be on a huge hill with a great view of downtown dc. He could be capturing any number of scenes. Also weirdos and pervs usually don’t drop $10-20$k on a lens like that.

  • dat

    My guess? Photography student taking either (1) wildlife photos — birds and such or (2) taking candid city life photos

  • NoKethup

    I walk by there every day and saw him this morning as well. Guy was there last week early evening a couple times. He is taking pictures or just practicing his camera zoom with birds flying around.

    I too was curious and he was moving the camera around like he was following something…I looked up and it seemed to follow a couple of birds flight paths. Dude is doing nothing weird. Probably taking up wildlife photography as a hobby.

  • Anonymous

    This guy is my friend- he is a very dedicated birdwatcher and wildlife photographer. He is taking photos of American Kestrels that are nesting right by there.

    • Anonymous

      Called it! :)

    • I know who you must be! Thanks for letting them know.

    • Pixie

      Very cool! Does you friend post the photos to a blog or Flickr page? I’d love to check them out.

  • TacoPants

    Just looks like a dedicated photog doing what it takes to get the shot

    • Exactly! There’s a lot of down time, but if I blink too long, I might miss the perfect shot!

  • hmm

    Am I the only one who is impressed he’s hand holding the shot? His back must be killing him somebody get the poor guy a monopod.

    • It’s only ten pounds- great for building arm strength without having to go to the gym!

  • I’m the guy! My name is Matthew, I’m a conservation biologist and wildlife photographer, and I’ve been documenting a family of falcons that have nested in the building across the street from Cardozo High. The school administration gave me permission to use their property, and next week I’ll be working with some students. For more info, I have a photo essay work-in-progress that might answer some questions:


    • Pixie

      Awesome photos! I’ve seen bald eagles, red tailed hawks, and ospreys around here, but I’ve never seen a kestrel. Thanks for sharing!

      • You’re welcome! It’s definitely exciting to see Kestrels BREEDING in the city. They overwinter in cities a lot, but I tend to only see them breed out in open country. I certainly specialize in Washington DC wildlife when I’m not in the tropics or something- as my photography indicates, DC is home to some incredible species- you just need to take out those earphones and pay attention to the environment around you!

        • Anonymous

          Love your photos!!! Several years ago a friend and I rescued a baby Kestrel falcon on the 1800 block of T St NW. It was sitting atop a parked car, terrified and malnourished. We took it out to a raptor rescue place in Virginia. They said it was barely old enough to fly and had probably fallen out of a nearby nest. They were going to rehabilitate it and release it to the wild when ready…. I like to think it made its way back to DC.

    • hma

      Great photos.

    • L2

      Your work is awesome.

    • Shawn_DC

      Wow! The photos are stunning!!

    • Anonymous

      Nice work! What species is the “dinner to go” bird in petworth, and where was it taken?

    • Anonymous

      Time for an edit, PoP! – mystery solved!

    • Bitter Elitist

      What is the name of the brownish-black bird with white dots? They’re ubiquitous.

  • I also wish you would have just talked to me instead of taken my photo and posted here. Plenty of people have asked, and I’m always more than happy to talk and teach people about wildlife/birds/falcons!

    • jcm

      Wow, I just looked up your site. You take some astonishingly good pictures. POP should do an interview with you.

      • Thanks! Most of my wildlife photography is from the DC metro area, and I’d love to eventually show my work somewhere! (Currently finishing up a masters degree, so I don’t spend any time marketing myself). And I’d gladly do a PoP interview!

    • Anonymous

      I think we sometimes enjoy spectulating about an odd scene. Don’t take it personally!
      P.S. – the tinyurl you posted above isn’t working.

    • Anonymous

      So… this photographer don’t like having his picture taken without his knowledge, even though he is in public. (Isn’t that the street photographer’s defense?)

      • It isn’t that he/she took my photo, it’s just that I would have liked to talk to anyone who was curious enough to post about it!

      • Anonymous

        He said he wished someone would have asked him what he was doing instead of posting to a blog and speculating he is a pervert / creeper / etc…

        Quit trolling

    • brightwood

      Why do we feel it appropriate to run to the Internet everytime we see something we either find shameful, suspicious, sad, amusing etc. Why can we not just talk to each other? (Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the fact that technology captures some pretty amazing things around the world. I say at least once a week “I freakin’ love the Internet!”)

      You’d be amazed at what you can learn about yourself, your peers, your enemies — the world — just by starting up a conversation.

      • anon

        Fair enough… but some people are shy when it comes to striking up a conversation with strangers. Or they might be fearful of getting a response of “Mind your own f***ing business!”

        • Anonymous

          I’d be wary about startling someone who’s perched up high like that and holding a very heavy and expensive piece of equipment.

      • But if someone hadn’t come “running to the internet” the rest of us would never have known and we wouldn’t have been introduced to a pretty cool photographer.

        • anon

          +1. This gets him more exposure than if the OP had just approached him and asked.

          • Anonymous

            And gives him a funny story to share with people. I’d be pretty amused if something like this happened to me!

          • Yes, while I do wish the poster had talked to me, this has been a fun (and pretty hilarious) little experience!

        • Anononon

          So true!

      • Anonymous

        To be fair, it’s kind of hard to have a conversation with someone who’s 15 feet above you.

        • To be fair, how is it hard? I’ve had plenty of conversations with people when up there, and no one seems to struggle with it! ;-)

    • anonymouse_dianne

      That’s an awesome set of photos, Matt. I am one of those strange people who really love crows and magpies. I was so upset when West Nile virus killed the crows around my church in Bethesda (which is a certified habitat). I was super happy when I heard them caw caw ing again!

      • Same here! The corvids have always fascinated me, and that big population crash in the late 90s was scary!

        • Oh, and thanks, Dianne! Glad you like the photos. More to come, for sure.

  • bruno

    So this raises the question: Who took the picture of the birg photographer? And what were they doing??!

    • bruno

      birg = bird

  • Just wanted to give an update- both Kestrel fledglings are alive and well! I’ve continued to document the family, (from a different spot this time, which is why you probably haven’t seen me around) as the young ones are learning to hunt and act like adult Kestrels. There are LOTS of photos on my website- still organized chronologically and the captions describe what’s going on.



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