Thursday, September 15, 2005

Street photography

I had dinner with Dave Timmons at Nick & Stef's tonight, a great dry-aged prime steak with both red wine sauce and caramelized onion/blue cheese sauce. Mmmmm. I just happened to have my camera and tripod with me, and when I stepped outside I was met with the sight of two gleaming skyscrapers that were framed perfectly by some courtyard trees with white lights on them. I started to set up to take the shot, and a security guard came running out to tell me that the "management requests that no photos are to be taken on the property." I asked where the property line was, and he pointed to the sidewalk, and then asked what I was shooting. It turned out that he had been shooting for 25 years, and just got a new Nikon D2Hs. We ended up discussing photography for several minutes, and even traded our site details! I let him look through my fisheye lens, and he decided he had to get one. Anyway, I followed his request and moved to the sidewalk and took the photo.
A few steps further on, I saw a second interesting view of a skyscraper, down an alley. I set up on the sidewalk and another security guard came running out, this time from the Mellon Bank. She said, "You can't take photos on this property."

I replied, "I'm on the sidewalk, is that OK?"
Security: "You're not allowed to take photos on our property."
Me: "Where does your property end?"
Security: "The bricks are all our property."

So I moved my tripod just off the bricks and into the gutter of the alley. Now, this seemed fairly reasonable to me, what with it being legal for me to be there and all. I even said, "Is this off your property now?"

Security: "I have to ask you to move across the street."
Me: "Well, I'm not on your property now, correct?"
Security: "Why can't you just move across the street?"
Me: "Because this is the angle I want on my shot. I'm not on your property now, so this spot isn't a problem."
Security: "Okay, I'm going to have to go get someone to ask you to move across the street."
Me: "Okay, you do that."

So the moral of the story is that you should always be polite and respectful, and ask permission to take photographs on private property, even if it seems like it's just an outdoor plaza. And as soon as you're not on the property, the security guard will stop telling you to move and start asking you to move. They are trained to use the Voice Of Authority, but you can safely ignore any stern requests that don't apply to you. They really hate it when you know the rules and laws and boundaries as well as they do.

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