Update on Fatali Incident

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On Feb. 1, Michael Fatali was sentenced to two years probation by a federal judge in Salt Lake City. During this period, Fatali is prohibited from entering Arches and Canyonlands national parks. In addition to 150 hours of community service, Fatali had been ordered to pay $10,900 in restitution to the Park Service.

During court proceedings, Fatali also admitted to setting two fires in the Needles district of Canyonlands in 1997. Federal officials have seized all the negatives, originals and prints of the firelight photos.

While the Assistant U.S. Attorney had asked that Fatali be banned from all NPS lands in Utah, the judge denied the request saying that the penalty would be "onerous."

Watch out Zion National Park!

-- Matt Long (long@ycsi.net), February 02, 2002


The man has paid his debt to society, why don't you give him a break and leave him alone! Pat

-- pat krentz (patwandakrentz@aol.com), February 02, 2002.

Yeah. I second that. How about leaving him alone. You don't even know the guy. Nor the incident in question. Have you gone to the site of the incident and seen any damage? Until you do then let it be. James

-- james (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), February 02, 2002.

The post is reporting what the newspapers printed of what happened in court. Taking the bearer of the news to task us uncalled for. Like it or not, the incidents and the criminal court proceedings happened.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), February 02, 2002.

So, who cares. The matter is over. Let him alone.

-- Alec (alecj@bellsouth.net), February 02, 2002.

Pat and James:

With the exception of the last tongue in cheek comment, I am merely paraphrasing an AP report of a subject that has been the topic of discussion in this forum. Take it or leave it, but don't make assumptions of what I may or may not have seen at Delicate Arch.

I might suggest a 1:1 dilution of single malt scotch to soothe ruffled feathers.

-- Matt Long (long@ycsi.net), February 02, 2002.

Or a tall Gin and Tonic.. lots of ice and a slice :o)


-- Nigel Turner (npturner@earthlink.net), February 02, 2002.

I think he got off cheap. I wonder if all of you who say lay off the poor guy (Fatali) also piss and moan about the National Park Service Rangers giving them grief. Next time you start to get on a high horse about that subject think first of Michael Fatali setting fires in the Parks to serve his selfish purpose and his self righteous posturing.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (ellis@ellisvener.com), February 02, 2002.

I agree he paid his dues to society, lets give him a break now. I don't know him personally but I guess he must feel quite dumb and sorry about what he did. I am sure he didn't intend to harm the Delicate Arch area, he just didn't think ahead. Anyway he is still a good LF photographer. He made a mistake, who doesn't, lets hope he learned from it.

-- Georges Pelpel (gpelpel@attbi.com), February 02, 2002.


I don't think Fatali got of cheap. I think the outcome of this will seriously effect his business in the long run, not to say anything about his reputation as a photographer.

What he did was wrong.. He knows that.. You know that and the courts know it. But he made a mistake and is paying for it in more ways than one.

I know Michael personally. We go back a few years when we used to shoot in Lower Antelope Canyon, before most people had ever heard of the term 'slot canyon' and I know he would never damage a place of beauty on purpose.

As for the National Park Service, I personally think they are the biggest hypocrites ever. They talk about environment issues such as excessive traffic in the parks, but at the same time penalize commercial companies with outrageous entrance fees and permits. I'm a one man band, and for example visit Yosemite no more than twice a year running photographic workshops, and they require $5,000,000 liability insurance just to enter the park.. do you have any idea how much a policy like that costs? Then you have an entrance fee of $125.00 for a fifteen passenger van. Where is the sense in this??


-- Nigel Turner (npturner@earthlink.net), February 02, 2002.

Nigel, I too doubt that he would damage that which he worships on purpose. But I also doubt that Captain Hazelwood grounded the Valdez on purpose.

His bigger crime was that he felt comfortable teaching a workshop full of students hat what he was doing was an okay technique. Even if the immediate damage to Delicate Arch had not occured isn't it fair to suppose that perhaps not all of his students or the people they pass the trick to would be as careful or know to be as careful? Sure this is suppostion on my part but that suppostion is based on what I know of human nature and also the nature of lessons taught and learned.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (ellis@ellisvener.com), February 02, 2002.

And yes I know how much liability insurance costs. You should make the cost part of your cost of doing business and incorporate it into the fees you charge.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (ellis@ellisvener.com), February 02, 2002.

At the risk of being pedantic, Fatali won't have "paid his debt to society" until his probation is over, his community service has been served and his fines have been paid. IMO, suggesting that people should let him off the hook now, the day after his sentencing, is a bit premature...

-- Jeffrey Goggin (audidudi@mindspring.com), February 02, 2002.

Hmm. Now how does that go, "Let he is without sin cast the first stone." I for one think Fatali had paid for his sins by simply coming forward and cleanup any damage. I believe the court sentence is ridiculous.

-- Stephen Willard (willard@peakpeak.com), February 02, 2002.

The fact of the matter is that there are signs at the entrance to Arches which read "NO CAMPFIRES." I don't think there are any signs off the coast of Alaska reading "NO OIL SPILLS." Accidents happen... oftentimes when laws are broken. The damage to the area around Delicate Arch obviously just made matters worse for him, but Mr. Fatali should never have lit the fires in the first place. I'm sure the judge in the case took into consideration how much money Mr. Fatali has brought in through photographing in the parks and on other federal lands and figured he should know better. Now we all do. I'm going to be Baby Bear, here, and say the sentence was juuuuuuust right.

While we're on the subject of illegal photography (a concept which I happen to dislike): I think it is in the latest issue of Arizona Highways that there is an essay on Lake Powell. The article contains, oddly enough, photographs...by five different guys. One of the photos is of Rainbow Bridge, which as I recall is actually on Najavo land and is roped off to prevent tourist-types from trespassing. The photo, I believe, is from the "back" side (i.e. not the side from the water approach). Who wants to wager that this photo was taken illegally?

-- Chad Jarvis (cjarvis@nas.edu), February 02, 2002.

Time has not been served at this point so his dept has not been paid. He purposefully broke the law for personal gain, and no I don't think the fine was harsh enough. We are talking about icons of our American heritage that he put into jeopordy, and more than once. I would hope we would hold these places closer to our hearts and soles than a lame $11k. I hope I am wrong that he did this for personal gain and just truely got caught up in an inspirational moment, then again you would think some rational thought would come into play during the time lapse of the event..... So many sides, opinions and views....

-- James Christian (jcc928@aol.com), February 03, 2002.

Let's see....

Michael Fatali did a little creative photographing. Enron did a little creative bookkeeping. Whose creativity did the greater damage? Who will accept responsibility, be held accountable and who will not?

-- John Powers (jopow@earthlink.net), February 03, 2002.

Good Lord! What does ENRON have to do with the price of tea in China??!! If there is someone out there who has done worse things, then he must be innocent?
Personally, I think what he did was far worse than just setting a fire - far worse than the same act if done by a tourist.
He has taken groups into the park for years, derived income from workshops there - he is a PROFESSIONAL, and as such knows the rules, knows what damage could be done - and knows better!
Yet he intentionally violated the public trust.
It was an incredubly arrogant and selfish act - no amount of sugar- coated "right of expression" or artistic BS can mask that fact.
What damage was, or was not, done is not important. He did not just "break the rules", he thumbed his nose....
Anything short of a lifetime ban means he got off easy. But not as easy as the rest of the party in the workshop - they all should share the penalties. I find it very hard to believe that no one else in the party knew this was wrong!

-- Matt O. (mojo@moscow.com), February 03, 2002.

Well said, Ellis and Matt O.

-- Ross Martin (info@rossmartinimages.com), February 03, 2002.

Well, if I had been part of that scholarly (?) group, I MIGHT have thought he had a permit to do it. I might have.

As for the zillion $ liability, we can thank our tort claim lawyer friends. The US had a lot of money and there is no reason why they shouldn't have some of it. So insurance to beat that off the Treasury.

-- Richard C. Trochlil (trochlilbb@neumedia.net), February 03, 2002.

"As for the zillion $ liability, we can thank our tort claim lawyer friends."

Geez , silly me! I thought it was because of the people who damage OUR park resources by using it as their personal playground and refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (ellis@ellisvener.com), February 04, 2002.

Bad HTML! BAd HTML! Sit!

-- Ellis Vener Photography (ellis@ellisvener.com), February 04, 2002.

Well, when I see all the venom spat on Fatali in this forum, I feel sad and ashamed to be a part of the LF community. I am in the middle of preparing a portfolio for some US galleries but am at this very moment somewhat discouraged and disgusted.

I think we (with my friend Paul, well known in this forum) should invite Michel Fatali to come to Switzerland for some time to get rid of this howling. Fires are allowed here in most places. You bet he would bring back some fine pictures.

I wish good light to all of you.

-- Emil Salek (e.salek@salekphotography.com), February 04, 2002.

Who Fatali? Where Canyonlands?

Sorry - no speak Americano.

So, back to LF...

-- Stuart Whatling (swhatling@hotmail.com), February 04, 2002.

Firstly I was not castigating the bearer of the report on the Fatali incident alone but all of you. Who on this forum went to Delicate Arch after the incident and actually looked at the damage? Anyone? Who on this forum has spent more than one day picking up all the damn cigarette butts, beer cans, and trash left by all the tourists that descend on Delicate Arch everyday? Who on this forum actually read all of the accounts of the incident and the appology Fatali offered? ME. Anyone else? You "should" be indignant of what he did. You should be indignant of all the damage visited on Delicate Arch by all the damn tourists that visit because the National Park service advertizes the Park around the world. It spends more on advertizing outside the US than inside it. The damage caused by Fatali wasn't done on purpose no more than somneone having an accident on a rain slick road. He tried to do something that backfired. He thought he was taking enough precautions but was guilty of not thinking it through far enough. The fires in the pans didn't cause the damage but the act of putting out the fires in the dark and tracking soot around the area which 3 weeks later I couldn't see. Hell the Park Service cut a trail along a rock face to facilitate the publics access to the place but no one castigates them for that. There are plans to install handrails along the ledge to lessen the liability to the Park Service. As with most things the Park Service(now that's an oxymoron if I ever heard one) does they are the worst offenders of all. When I say leave Fatali alone I mean let's get on to bigger and better things like writing your representatives about the stupid rules they enact that exacerbate the crowding in the parks. Fatali should be the least of your concerns. And if you could have seen the minor smudges on the rocks(which were very hard to make out, if that was them to begin with, you would see how over blown the Park Service made this out to be. Example. You were speeding and you misjudged the turn and hit someone and caused a fender to be bent. The police give you a speeding ticket and you pay to replace the fender. You didn't mean to cause the accident. And you pay for it. Fatali tries something he thinks will make a nice image. He means no harm but in his oversight he tramps some soot over the rocks. He did't mean to but it happened. He offers an apology and pays for the cleanup. He then is severly(in relation to the actual damage caused) punished. He files no appeal. He takes his lumps and goes on. If you count "all" the things stemming from this incident, I think you will see that he has paid his due. The loss of workshops and print/poster sales through the Arizona Highways alone was probably close to tens of thousands of dollars. His reputation is continually tarnished by repeated newspaper and magazine articles detailing the trial and incident. I think this is enough. Oh! You mean that you don't like landscape images or images that are full of color as so many of you espouse here? Well too bad. Get a life and get over it. If you didn't go and see the paltry amount of damage right after the incident then how can you accurately judge the severity of the crime and the severity of the punishment? Why not use that energy and tackle the biggest problem. The Park Service which is your biggest enemy. Oh. And go look at all the topurist names that are carved into the rocks around there. You won't find Fatali's name there at least. James Mickelson

-- james (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), February 04, 2002.

"Firstly I was not castigating the bearer of the report on the Fatali incident alone but all of you."
Gee, James.... I found your post at the very top, before anyone else had posted...I guess you knew what was going to be said...

As I said in my previous post, it makes NO difference if there was any damage or not.
Let's get right to the heart of this - a photograph, no matter how spectacular, no matter the photographer, is not THAT *&^%$$###'n important!
<<>> <<>>

-- Matt O. (mojo@moscow.com), February 05, 2002.

James, I believe your example would be closer to the mark if you made Fatali a driving instructor with a car full of students. Under these circumstances, he should be exercising greater care, not less, and he should be held to higher standards of performance and/or conduct, not lower standards. Accidents do happen but speeding on a slippery road was irresponsible and I'm sorry if you disagree but I think he should have known better.

-- Jeffrey Goggin (audidudi@mindspring.com), February 05, 2002.

How's this for irony, just three days after the Fatali sentencing...


I sure hope Ms. Spann had the proper permits.

-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), February 06, 2002.

I don't see any irony here Kerry. Now if she was splashing a molten parafin, chemical (sp?) & ash mix and doing so in the dark then we would have irony. As it is we just have marketing.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (ellis@ellisvener.com), February 06, 2002.


While I appreciate the different circumstances in these two situations, I most certainly do find it ironic in terms of the overall messages presented by our federal government.

On Feb 1, 2002 our federal government says:

fire + Delicate Arch = bad, VERY bad (illegal, in fact)

On Feb 4, 2002 our federal government tells the world:

fire + Delicate Arch = good, VERY good (after all, isn't the point of a marketing campaign to create a positive response)

I'm not trying to justify what Fatali did. Nothing of the sort. He broke the law, he faced the charges, plead guilty and was sentenced by the powers that be. End of story, as far as I'm concerned. (it's already been beaten to death here, and elsewhere online). I just personally found it ironic that the same government that would make a high profile case out of Fatali's fires at Delicate Arch would turn around three days later and use fire at Delicate Arch as a promotional tool. I'm not commenting on the right vs. wrong or legal vs. illegal aspects of the two "incidents", just the juxtaposition of fire + Delicate Arch = bad vs. fire + Delicate Arch = good. Given the hoopla that the Fatali case has caused here (and elsewhere), it was the absolute FIRST thing I thought of when I saw that image of the olympic torch blazing away in front of Delicate Arch. Perhaps, not the image the olympic marketeers intended, but none the less, the one that popped into my mind.

Sorry for trying to inject a little humor into this tedious thread. I now return you to your regularly scheduled flame war (oops, there I go again, sorry about that).


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), February 06, 2002.

By god Kerry, I missed that point. My silliness quotient was out to lunch. I say we roast Fatali alive on a pyre of his images at the base of Delicate Arch. the Earth Gods have been angered and they need to be appeased. let the act be commemerated only on black & white film for that is the only film a purist needs.

Now if the runner had tripped and in falling rolled over the torch causing the torch to catch her synthetic outfit (made, no doubt in China or Vietnam by prisoners or child labor) on fire melting it into into the rock as she rolled down toward the base of the arch and In the media crush more camera men and pr flacks fell and crashing into the base of the arch had caused it to fall... Now that would be irony.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (ellis@ellisvener.com), February 06, 2002.

The reaction to what he did makes me wince.

Fatali's work is absolutely georgeous and non of my own work even compares.

My guess is that the stain was in fact rather trivial and probably could have been removed without much trouble or anyone really noticing the difference.

But, with park rangers and others using the incident to grandstand and bash Fatali, I feel he's the one that needs some decent civil protection from the rabid masses.

-- Roer Urban (roger_urban@yahoo.com), February 10, 2002.

I've got some Duraflame logs and want to photograph Fatali's gallery in Springdale, UT and tour van by firelight. Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Anybody got a light?

-- Torchy (wayoutdere@zapped.net), March 31, 2002.

without adding fuel to the fire...as a professional photographer for 30 years and seminar instructor...the sad reality is what 'one' does reflects on ALL photographers. on occasion during my career, i've been 'the next guy' saddled with the task of convincing someone, "we're not all like that!" that's just how it is.

-- jonathan a. meyers (laughingdesert@hotmail.com), January 05, 2003.

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