Pictures Don’t Lie. Or Do They?

by Kerry Dougherty

Virginia Beach is dancing a weird waltz with the governor.

Privately, city officials and local businessmen express fury over Ralph Northam’s capricious decision to ban sunbathing on the beaches. Publicly they’re groveling, as they beg him to reopen the sand before the tourist industry is a smoking ruin.

No one will want to come to Virginia Beach and stay in one of the city’s 11,400 hotel rooms if they can’t grab a chair and spend the day on the beach. That’s just a fact. They’ll head to Ocean City, the Outer Banks or Myrtle Beach instead.

As I’ve said before, if Northam has a study showing that sunbathers are more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus than fishermen are, he should produce it. Otherwise, he should let the people enjoy THEIR beaches and withdraw his silly no-sitting-in-the-sand edict.

The governor’s a doctor. He should want people outside soaking up Vitamin D, boosting their immune systems and enjoying nature. You know who’s getting sick? People who stay home. Just ask Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Earlier this month he said he was “shocked” to learn that 66% of the people who’d become ill in New York had been staying in their houses.

Saturday was a perfect day to get out of the house. After a cool spring, the day dawned warm and sunny. Temps climbed high into the 80s and the sun was dazzling.

This is what we used to call a perfect beach day. But we won’t have any perfect beach days until the governor gets his boot off the neck of Virginia Beach.

I went out for a late morning walk down the Boardwalk and then strolled up the beach to the North End.

What I saw made me sad.

I took this picture at 11:15 Saturday morning from 38th Street on the Boardwalk. On a normal day, the beach would be filling up about this time.

I took this picture at 11:15 Saturday morning from 38th Street on the Boardwalk. On a normal day, the beach would be filling up about this time.

The Boardwalk was busy but the beaches, in the resort area, were mostly empty. Except for the occasional lifeguard.

Farther north there were quite a few fishermen, some umbrellas and chairs but nothing approaching what anyone would call a large “crowd.”

Looking north from 42nd Street around noon. A few umbrellas. A few chairs. Lots of fishermen. Ordinarily the beach would be far busier than this by lunchtime.

Looking north from 42nd Street around noon. A few umbrellas. A few chairs. Lots of fishermen. Ordinarily the beach would be far busier than this by lunchtime.

So, imagine my surprise Saturday evening when The Virginian-Pilot posted a photo showing massive crowds on the beach. Immediately, others who’d been to the oceanfront that day also expressed astonishment. When last I checked there were more than 1,000 comments on The Pilot’s Facebook page, many asking if it was an old photo.

The photo was shot Saturday afternoon, the editors assured a disbelieving public.

Take a good look at the image and see if you notice anything unusual. How about the way the curve of the shoreline juts out into the ocean like Cape Cod? Problem is, the shoreline is straight in Virginia Beach, right up to Ft. Story.

I’m not a photographer, but I do know that telephoto lenses can compress the depth of field and create a distortion. It can also make people look as if they’re standing close together when they aren’t. I recently stumbled on an articleby several Danish photographers explaining how this is done.

Even the Pilot reporter who was on the beach Saturday, Kimberly Pierceall, described something far different from what the photo accompanying her story seemed to show.

“While the sprawling beach nearby was not at all packed, and groups were keeping their distance, there was no lack of beach blankets, towels, tents and umbrellas set up near the water,” she wrote.

The Governor’s order is heavy-handed and nonsensical. I don’t care if folks violate it, and neither should you because there is nothing dangerous about sitting in a beach chair. Yet if history is any predictor our petulant governor may see the newspaper photo and decide to punish the city even more.

That would be catastrophic.

On Saturday, beachgoers – in smaller numbers than usual – did what they’ve always done when the sun shines: They came to Virginia’s vast beaches where they stretched out, read books, listened to music, built sand castles with their kids and waded in the chilly water.

That shouldn’t be a crime.

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28 responses to “Pictures Don’t Lie. Or Do They?

  1. so, if i add a $10 fishing pole to my beach accoutrements, i’m in line with the Gov’s stupid edict… a no brainer…. come on people — work ‘within’ the system!

  2. Just compared the Pilot photo to the webcam. Straight beach. You may have a point. What does the revenue for restaurants and hotels look like? If you are right, this is pitiful.

  3. If policy regarding public spaces is to be set using photography, let’s stick with drone shots.

  4. Not the first time VP has lied or screwed up. They don’t print a lot of the mismanagement, abuse of funds and power in Chesapeake.

  5. Looking around, not all beaches south are fully open either.

    something is not right about the two shots… I agree…

    The thing is, I suspect the folks who want the beaches open – don’t want ANY restrictions – they want to go back to the way the beaches and tourism worked before.

    They don’t want the social distancing or restrictions on businesses, etc, if some restrictions are loosened, they’re just going to continue to push against other restrictions.

    Northam and other Govs just end up being the bad guys if they try to set any restrictions.


  6. Seeing that picture, I suspected instantly it might likely be a big lie, using photographic lens to distort truth into lie. Why did I have this suspicion? I use to climb multi day sheer walls thousands of feet high, some overhanging most of the way. A liar with telephoto lends could replicate sections of those climbs, when only 2 feet off the ground.

    This photo is a metaphor for main stream news today, how too often it distorts our reality, easily flipping truth into lies. Often distortion is the rule now, not the exception.

    When the dust settles we will clearly see how much this coved-19 virus, and its response, has been distorted and driven by such reporting of MSM. Unfortunately, the damage already caused by this malpractice is beyond calculation and will haunt us for generations, including at Virginia Beach apparently.

  7. Traffic volumes are clearly up in Fairfax County. Lots more people walking on sidewalks and trails in McLean. Many people’s moods seem down. Less waving and hellos. Dogs are still having the time of their lives. Most people going into grocery, liquor, wine/beer, drug stores seem to be wearing masks. The vast majority of walkers/joggers/bike-scooter riders are not.

    Interestingly, I see a noticeable number of couples walking, where one is wearing a mask and the other isn’t. Very seldom do I seen any children masked.

    There was an interesting back and forth on Nextdoor Digest started by a person who ranted and raved about inconsiderate people out walking and running without masks in violation of law and spreading the COVID-19 virus. By and large, the reaction was negative, especially on the claim that Virginia required masks anytime anyone was outside.

    The current situation reminds me of the very strict parents who don’t allow their children any freedom even as they grow – something that often results in rebellion and wild behaviors. The state should have allowed some relaxation in restrictions with social distancing and masks for transactions in NoVA despite the arguments of the local jurisdictions. A slow, phase-in would likely result in less “screw-you” behavior.

    • I walk every day in a few parks where I live and no one is wearing masks even though stores near these parks see quite a few wearing masks (not all though).

      The biggest problem in the parks is people. People who park where they shouldn’t and people who drop trash and virtually all of them do not pick up trash – so much for folks doing their share. The good news is that they’ve stopped dropping their plastic bags full of dog poo.

  8. “No one will want to come to Virginia Beach and stay in one of the city’s 11,400 hotel rooms if they can’t grab a chair and spend the day on the beach. That’s just a fact.”

    It’s not a fact. It’s the point.

    People sunbathing are probably not at a higher risk, but if 10s of 1000s of tourists, coming from Pa, NJ, and god knows where, pack the hotels and beach rentals, then YOU WILL BE.

    Tell me something,Kerry. Why is it everyone has nefarious motives when you don’t agree with what they do?

    Disclosure: I do not own property for rent on Va beaches, but given the VaBeach desire to open, I might invest in a funeral home.

  9. TooManyTaxes says:

    “… in McLean. Many people’s moods seem down. Less waving and hellos. Dogs are still having the time of their lives.”

    I am reminded of my trip across East Germany behind the Iron Curtain in 1969.

    • Look, I struggle daily to avoid comparing Trump to Mussolini**, so do us all a favor and keep this kind of extremism out of this.

      ** Berlusconi is a better match. Elect a clown, expect a circus.

    • See: “djrippert | May 18, 2020 at 11:53 am | Reply

      Virginia’s General Assembly has the goal of monopolizing power without taking accountability for results. They are perfectly happy to sit back and let King Ralph be dictator. He’s the perfect patsy for any problems. He makes all the decisions and he can’t run for reelection. If the General Assembly voted on the restrictions they would become accountable for the results of those decisions. Their constituents would see how they voted. No future in that.

      By the time of the next Virginia election cycle in 2021 we are likely to have been through almost two years of economic misery. The further the General Assembly can distance themselves from that misery the better for them.

      Democracy be damned. We don’t need no stinkin’ republic.

      Virginia’s constitution needs to be completely re-written.”

  10. I’ve seen a lot of discussion about the perspective of this photo. Regardless of angle or telephoto or distance; there were a lot of people out on the beach Saturday. Governor Northam said we were only allowed to be on the beach to fish or get exercise. No swimming, no sitting, no sunbathing, no surfing. I think that’s the takeaway from the picture. These people looked at the situation and told Richmond to “pack sand”. We will be responsible for ourselves.

    It will be interesting to see what Northam’s reaction will be during his press conference today. Does he chastise people like he did earlier last month or does he not acknowledge that it happened? Stay tuned.

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      One silver lining. Fewer shark attacks this summer at Va. Beach.

      • Probably be a different tune sung by the BR soprano when the beach opens just in time for Greekfest. No, wait, they don’t do that anymore.

    • Expect more crowds next weekend, now that Northam and the City of VB have come up with a long list of rules which will allow more activity, and of course will be largely ignored…..To keep the beaches clear would take the National Guard, locked and loaded. In the spirit of the comments, matter of choice, and I choose not to. In fact, spent the weekend working on packing a shelf with crucial supplies for the fall return….Vitamin D into 2021!

      • Well, that’s what Kerry was after all along, right?

        ” Beachgoers will be allowed to sunbathe, swim, fish and surf under the plan.

        Banned are group sports, alcohol consumption, speakers, tents and umbrella groupings.”

        speakers? tents?

        hmmm… the beach as I used to know it is way different now… apparently……

        I still kinda like beaches that are NOT crowded… go out of my way to find them!

        • “People still can not play group sports on the beach, listen to music with speakers or drink alcohol. Groups of umbrellas are also a no-no.“ Yeesh, Gov doubled down on absence of logic.

          And gave ammunition to critics who say he’s sounding like an autocrat “…I will not hesitate to reinstate Phase I restrictions or even the close the beach outright if necessary”

  11. Why are writing about this nonsense so much?

    • Why are we writing about this so much? Because many people, in the millions are being hurt badly, long term, never to recover, in America, and everywhere around the world.

      • For example, there will be a large surge of heretofore untreated illnesses and deaths by reason of untreated illnesses or induced illnesses, and physical and mental abuse, in America by reason of this lock-down alone and the fear mongering by government, media and press.

        For example, projections of suicides to date are some 70,000 Americans based on studies of last “great economic recession beginning 2008.”

        World wide, there will be large scale starvation likely from interrupted food chains in numerous nations, including places such as India. The Covet -19 pandemic, and others triggered by economic lock downs world wide, have only started.

  12. This is the kind of “beach” we do:

  13. historic photo… 😉

  14. Much better!

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