Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Crystal Cove Update: The Good Guys Win (sort of)

Many thanks to all who commented on my last post. Glenn's photo buddies share John's , Bob's, and Wendy's suspicions that the ban on "unauthorized" photography in state parks may boil down to a revenue issue—so Glenn looked up the requirements for getting an official permit to take photos in the state parks.

He found that in order to get a permit, one needs to have at least $1,000,000 of insurance. That's right: ONE MILLION BUCKS. Apparently, the rules were written with the assumption that anyone with a tripod must be planning to film full-scale Bollywood musical productions on the beach or something. Yikes!

So I took Doug's advice and sent a slightly dressed-up and sanitized version of my last post to the Orange County Register (haven't heard from them yet), and Glenn wrote to the Coastal Commission. This move paid off almost immediately: someone from the Coastal Commission e-mailed him back within the hour, and shortly thereafter, forwarded Glenn's letter to a park official responsible for Crystal Cove.

This began an e-mail exchange in which the official confirmed that the bright line between "professional" and "amateur", for the purposes of the permitting rule, was whether one was shooting for profit: merely planning on posting photos on a blog or having professional-level equipment is not sufficient reason to be expelled from a state park. And Glenn was offered a written waiver that would allow him to continue his sunset photo trips to the beach. Victory!

Yet not a complete victory. Several of Glenn's friends have said they they've also been interrogated (not nicely) by park officials, though none have been kicked out as Glenn was. And clearly some rangers, such as the one Glenn encountered last week, don't fully understand the rule.

And during this ordeal, we thought of something else: most photographers and birders are great, but there are just enough jerks out there to ruin things for everyone else. Such as Wetsuit Boy , the bane of Bolsa Chica photographers and rangers. Unfortunately, Murphy's Law of PR says that people will tend to notice and remember the one moron who steps on nests in pursuit of a good angle, and not the several dozen responsible photographers/birders nearby who actually respect their subjects.

Let's not give them any ammunition.


John said...

I'm glad you got that straightened out, and I hope that the solution holds. New York recently tried to do something like this until the photographers in the city raised a major stink. I have seen attempts at restricting photographers in the DC area too. The strange thing is, these restrictions are coming at the same time as we are getting filmed by the increasing network of security cameras.

Felicia said...

Ah, the conspiracy maven in me agrees with you: perhaps our increasingly revenue-hungry park services fear people with big cameras just because they keep everyone honest: if the park service decides they want to sell the parks off to build a toll road or whatever, the last thing they want is a bunch of amateur photographers trotting out recent photos of all the endangered bird and animals that live in those parks! And what better way to keep them away than to declare photographers public nuisances or force them to pay exorbitant fees just to enter parks with their gear?

I really hope I'm wrong about this one!