Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle hailed President Obama on Tuesday as he signed into law the Golden Hour Reimbursement Act (GHRA) of 2014. The bill, introduced by senator Dianne Feinstein (D) of California, will offer government reimbursement to U.S. citizens who–according to the bill–” experience a crummy sunrise or sunset, whether at home or while traveling abroad.”
“If you can’t ride off into the sunset in California, where can you?” asked Senator Feinstein as she addresses the Senate subcommittee on iconic landscapes in early March, “What kind of message are we sending to our citizens, our artists, our dreamers, our children, if they can’t be inspired by an amazing and dramatic sky at least twice a day?” The bill passed through the Senate and House of Representatives with few problems.
According to the GHRA, U.S. citizens who experience a lackluster sunrise or sunset will be eligible for reimbursement in the form of another chance to see a more beautiful sky at a later date. This could come in the form of an additional paid vacation day from work (participation by employers at this point is voluntary), or a complimentary one-night hotel stay in order to extend a vacation (all major hotel chains will be required to offer this as a subsidized option by 2017). Critics call the application process for reimbursement lengthy. ”One night in Texas is all anyone needs to satisfy their lifelong desire for beautiful sunsets–they’ll never need to wait weeks for another pretentious Californian sunset again. This can only further contribute to the end of the free market economy,” huffed senator Ted Cruz (R) of Texas from the senate floor on Tuesday.
“While we simply can’t guarantee scenic beauty to our country’s visitors, I am proud to extend this opportunity to our citizens, knowing they’ll be inspired for a lifetime, not having to get up early, only to be left saying, ‘meh’ in response to another lackluster sunrise,” said President Obama in a brief statement outside the Oval Office. He went on to say that his administration has learned a valuable lesson from the healthcare.gov “debacle” and that the website to submit applications under GHRA–sunset.gov–will be up and running without bugs by early September.
Despite criticism, the bill has largely been welcomed with open arms. Landscape photographers in particular are celebrating this as a victory for the industry. In the wake of GHRA’s announcement on Tuesday, we interviewed several well-known landscape photographers to ask a simple question:
What do you think about GHRA?
“For years I have had to endure burdensome expenses, like severe lack of sleep, boring photographs, and excessive frustration, due to mediocre or poor sunrises. When I signed up to be a photographer I was under the impression the light would show would go off every morning! Alas, not in my country. Finally we have an administration that is willing to do the right thing: help hard working but dawn-disadvantaged photographers like me compete with photographers in sunrise-subsidized countries like France, Spain and Japan. It’s about time. Now I know when I wake up at 4am and leave my warm bed, if I don’t get the shot at least I’ll get a check from Uncle Sam. Damn right.” – Phillip Colla, www.oceanlight.com
“It’s a step in the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough. Clearly having just one sunrise and one sunset in a 24-hour period is a policy that benefits the privileged 1% (of photographers whose creative wealth allows them to still make images outside the golden hours). The government should step in and speed up the Earth’s rotation so that sunrises and sunsets are more frequent.” — Guy Tal, www.guytal.com
“All those hours learning how to fake dramatic skies in Photoshop were all for naught! Where was this law five years ago?” — Ron Coscorrosa, www.coscorrosa.com
“Thank you to the do-nothing Congress for finally doing something worthwhile! I just wish that lawmakers would make this policy retroactive, as 2013 was a rough year for my photography because I encountered an almost endless string of the conditions this bill seeks to address. Still, something is better than nothing and I will certainly have some claims ready to file for 2014 once the system is up and running later this year.” – Sarah Marino, www.sarahmarinophoto.com
“This is a great start, and certainly long overdue, but the new law is essentially toothless without also having the park service place camera icon signs in the right areas. Because honestly, what good is an impressive sunset, if one doesn’t know where to stand to shoot it?” — Robin Black, www.robinblackphotography.com
Disclaimer: Alpenglow Images Photography makes no claims as to the accuracy, reliability, or even the reality of this news story.