George Steinmetz, National Geographic Photographer, Arrested Taking Photos Of Kansas Feedlot [UPDATE]

07/11/2013 07:28 am ET | Updated Jul 15, 2013
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A freelance photographer working for National Geographic was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor criminal trespassing in Garden City, Kan., The Associated Press reports.

George Steinmetz, a New Jersey-based aerial photographer, was taking pictures of a feedlot outside Garden City from a paraglider prior to his June 28 arrest with paraglider instructor Wei Zhang. They were held briefly at Finney County jail and each was released on $270 bond.

The Huffington Post reached out to Steinmetz, who would not comment on the advice of his attorney. Steinmetz's work has also appeared in The New Yorker, Smithsonian magazine and in February was featured on NBC's "Today" show. Steinmetz often works from a motorized paraglider, a lightweight machine with a small engine and parachute that he assembles.

Finney Country Sheriff Kevin Bascue told AP the two men were charged because they didn't have permission to take off from private property and hadn't told anyone they intended to take photos. Calls by The Huffington Post to Finney County attorney Susan Richmeier for further explanation were not immediately returned.

The sheriff didn't mention Kansas' ag gag law, the Farm Animal and Field Crop and Research Facilities Protection Act, which became the nation's first when it was signed into law in 1990. The law bars individuals from entering and photographing an animal facility not open to the public.

National Geographic's vice president of communications, Beth Foster, responded with a statement:

George Steinmetz was briefly detained by authorities in Kansas on June 28, 2013. He was shooting aerial photographs for National Geographic magazine, as part of a series of stories on food issues that will appear next year. We believe he did not break any laws and have reached out to local officials about the incident. We are awaiting more information. If the matter does require legal action, National Geographic will provide for his and his assistant's defense.

Below, watch Steinmetz's segment on the "Today" show.

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UPDATE: Finney County's Office of the County Attorney has released a press release further explaining the charges leveled against George Steinmetz and Wei Zhang. It denies that the trespassing charge was in any way related to Steinmetz's photography:

Much discussion has ensued surrounding the arrest of Mr. Steinmetz and his employee regarding the right to air space and to take photographs. The charges in no way are related to those two issues and focus on the landowners right to privacy and control over their property.

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