Photographer charged after flying over feedlot

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A National Geographic freelance photographer who took pictures of a western Kansas feedlot from a paraglider was charged Thursday with criminal trespassing.

Photographer George Steinmetz, of Glenn Ridge, N.J., and paragliding instructor Wei Zhang, of Beijing, China, were arrested June 28 and briefly detained in the Finney County jail before paying $270 bond. Both were charged with criminal trespassing.

Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier said she didn’t know whether the men have attorneys.

Steinmetz is a frequent contributor to National Geographic, and many of his pictures of the world’s deserts were taken while piloting a motorized paraglider. He was working on a series about food that will be published sometime in early 2014.

Finney County Sheriff Kevin Bascue told The Hutchinson News that Steinmetz and Zhang didn’t get permission to launch their paraglider from private property and didn’t tell anyone they were going to take photos over a feedlot that’s filled with thousands of cattle.

A feedlot employee alerted authorities when he saw the paraglider and also said an unknown vehicle was parked on the ranch.

Steinmetz and Zhang eventually moved to a different location but feedlot executives still wanted them arrested for trespassing, Bascue said.

“Much discussion has ensued surrounding the arrest of Mr. Steinmetz and his employee regarding the right to airspace and to take photographs,” Richmeier said in a statement. “The charges in no way are related to those two issues and focus on the landowners right to privacy and control over their property.”

Beth Foster, a spokeswoman for National Geographic, said recently that the organization does not believe Steinmetz broke any laws and will provide him and Zhang with legal help, if necessary. She didn’t immediately return an email from the AP on Thursday.

Richmeier said the landowners don’t want their names released.

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