The Illegal HDR Follow Up

Wow! I posted yesterday’s story because Scott mentioned it on his blog on Monday morning, and I had a couple of people ask me for the story. I honestly had no idea it would lead to the comment-fest that it did. Anyway, I wanted to post a quick Q&A follow up to it but please do me a favor. Don’t feel compelled to post a follow-up comment. I’m not going to defend anything so I don’t expect your comment to be different today than it was yesterday. Most of you agreed with me. If you didn’t, that’s no problem. I asked for it. You’re not going to change my mind and I’m not going to change your mind, so let’s just leave it at that.

Q. Why didn’t you take a 5-shot HDR photo and get out of there fast?
A. Because the lighting was extremely low and the light coming in the windows was really bright. There’s no way that +/- 2 stops would cut it. I tried it out earlier and realized that +2 stops was still WAY too dark of a photo to create a good HDR. Remember, the over-exposed photos are the most important ones in creating good HDR photos. If you’re indoors in a dark place, getting those photos means some really long exposures.

Q. Did you try to get permission to take the photo ahead of time?
A. Yep and I was told that if I did qualify for a media pass that I’d be taking photos from the media area which was way off to the side of the church.

Q. Matt, don’t you feel bad by doing such a thing in a house of God?
A. Not at all. My 79 year old uncle is a priest (actually a Monsignor) in the Catholic Church. I told him the story. He chuckled and absolved me from any sin. So I think I’m OK in the Big Guy’s eyes. Plus, I did make a $20 donation to St. Patricks when I walked in. And while I was originally going to send them the photo via email, your comments yesterday made me realize I should indeed send them a print.

Q. But taking a photo there is disrespectful right?
A. Nope. Remember that taking pictures in St. Patricks is perfectly fine (in designated areas which I did indeed stick to). You’re admiring a beautiful place and the Catholic church doesn’t consider it disrespectful. I stood where tens of thousands of other people have stood to take a photo. I just happened to capture a sharp/non-on-camera-flashy version of the photo as opposed to the one that everyone else gets.

Thanks again for the discussion yesterday. I know I asked for it by asking “What would you do?” and I appreciate the honesty of both sides of the fence. Great discussion.

Author: Matt Kloskowski

Matt is the full-time Director of Education for Kelby Media Group and a Tampa-based photographer. He's the Editor-in-Chief of Lightroom Magazine, the lead instructor on the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom LIVE Seminar Tour and author of several best-selling Photoshop books. Matt also hosts the world's top Lightroom blog, LightroomKillerTips.com, where he's built up a massive library of Lightroom videos, presets and tips. In addition to teaching Photoshop, Lightroom and photography seminars around the world, he's an instructor at Photoshop World and one of the full-time staff writers for Photoshop User Magazine.

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204 Comments

  1. I Agree. Last year I was in Zaragoza, Spain in a large cathedral. Above the entrance was a clear sign not to photograph/film, but once inside everybody was photographing. If the church-people felt this was an insult to their church they would have done something…

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    • That is exactly what I think. They could say something to express their concerns about taking pictures in there.

      I don’t see any differences in taking pictures with poin-n-shoots/cells or with a slr and tripod. If people with a cell take a picture of it why then shouldn’t I use my slr to capture it?
      That doesn’t make sense to me…

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  2. People were painting God in different images for ages and doing it good was the right thing. An insult or disrespect is a bad frame made in full auto, with a flash and still blurry, with wrong white balance. A good shot, I think, gets God’s blessing automatically.

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  3. Oh, I quite forgot one thing. When talking about faith, we often misplace words «God» and «Religion» which are different things, really.

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  4. Matt, really interested in this issue. I’m fanatical amateur who has been into photography for 40+ years, but I’ve encountered exactly the same blocks in the UK, and they are becoming the norm!.

    English Cathedrals and Churches are reasonably happy to allow hand held photography, (provided you pay the fee). I have also noted that I will be challenged for a permit to photograph when I use my SLR kit, but others using ‘fun’/point & shoot camaras or camera phones are ignored.

    Tripods tend to cause intense excitement with H&S as the most common reason.

    Persistence in advance, and willingness to stick to ‘off peak’ periods has generally helped in getting approval, but what is always irritating is when I’m continually challenged even after I’ve arranged permissions.

    In the UK, Anglican/Episcopalian establishments are regarded as ‘public’ buildings because the Church of England is ‘established’ (within the state). Other denominations are classed as private, but there has always been a great interest in encouraging access to heritage sites. So there’s the anomaly, everyone wants the visitors, but if you are a serious photographer you are likely to be challenged because you use a tripod, and charged because you used a more sophisticated type of camera.!

    Strangely, I have taken photos in a number of Hindu temples , Sikh gudwarhas and once in a mosque. In all these instances I was a guest, but when I asked permission, it was freely given and no restrictions were imposed.

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  5. Completely agree. Nobody cannot blame security person, while she followed her orders and did her job, on the other hand You haven’t been any threat and as far I understood the ONLY problem was tripod but not taking photos… so You took photos on illegal tripod, but IMHO photos itself are legal ;)

    There are many laws which are not exactly logical, but should we follow them all? And as good catholic shouldn’t You spread the word (or picture) about nice Churches around the world?

    By the way, I think sending them print as donation is great idea. Probably they did not feel they need it, if they did they will probably hire professional and close church for this time :)

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    • I photographed the Gloucester Cathedral last fall with a Nikon D300 and no one said a word to me. I didn’t use a tripod as I have been blessed with very steady hands :-)

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  6. You focus the question wrong, and surely deliberately. If you are not allowed to take a picture, is not allowed. It’s simple: if you want respect you, start respecting the rules. Often the prohibition of pictures have begun for cases like yours. Should be less selfish and think of others. Thanks to you will be more difficult to take photographs in St Patrick. Well, you don’t care, you’ve got your picture … The next time you will not let you take a picture Remember, it’s probably because of a Matt.

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    • I agree. Sadly People like Mat feel they are above the rules the rest of us try to follow. And than to make a joke, “absolved me from any sin” is just arrogance.

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    • I don’t agree. If they want respect they should create laws that respect the people.

      It was not forbidden to take photos, only the tripod was forbidden. Why was it forbidden? Because if you set up a tripod in the middle of a crowd it is a security problem as people can stumble and fall.

      But Matt waited until there were no people in the area and did not disturb anyone, I have no problem with that and would have done the same myself.

      Last time I was stopped from taking a photo I tried to take a photo of a ferry in New York. Outside, from at least 500 meters using only a compact camera, no tripod. A police officer told me it was forbidden to take photos of public transportation due to security. This was in 2009, so way after 9/11. The rule is clearly made so I don’t go around documenting fire exits and what not that can be a security issue. But to stop me taking a picture of the Hudson with a boat on it? They don’t get my respect from that, so I took a new picture when the police officer turned away. Call it what you want, but I don’t respect rules not made for respect.

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      • So let me get this right? If you come to a traffic light and its red- but nobodys around- its ok to go through it??

        @Adam- last I checked- by having laws keeps us from living like sheep and the other beasts. I believe the word is called- “civilized”

        The point here is what Matt did was simply wrong. Any professional photographer knows that a picture is never worth endangering a subject- such as wildlife or disturbing the peace when there are rules put into place. The only exception is perhaps the news- which this, clearly was not.

        And if you still cant see whats wrong with it- consider how many of you are trying to justify breaking a law to do it as well!

        Clearly not the actions of a professional photographer! But I guess- who ever said Matt was?

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      • Ouch! That “professional” comment is hitting pretty low isn’t it.

        @Richard – And about the traffic light thing. I have absolutely gone through a stop light when no one was around. It was late one night and I was coming home from work. The light at the end of our road was red so I stopped. And waited. And waited. About 4 minutes later it hadn’t changed (and it usually does after 1 minute) so I crept forward to see if I could trigger it. Nothing. I waited more and nothing. Since it was about 2am and I hadn’t seen a car in sight since I stopped I went through it. And you know what? I didn’t feel bad one bit. Should I have waited all night? What would you have done? Find me a place in the law that tells me it’s OK to run a red light. There probably isn’t one, but I don’t feel I did anything wrong and I don’t think a police officer would have either. Basically, once the safety risk was removed I decided it was best to go through the light. Kinda like the tripod. I waited. Once the safety risk to anyone was gone, I used it. I made a logical decision rather than looking at it as black and white.

        – Matt (not a professional because Richard said so) Kloskowski

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      • Undoubtedly there are many silly rules, regulations and laws in the world. After all we humans made them and we’re a pretty silly species. The question is, ‘how important is it that I make this image vs any potential repercussions that making it will cause?’. If you are a photojournalist recording an important event, it may well be that the image and its publication may be worth violating a sorts of laws. OTOH If we’re shooting for our own pleasure (as Matt apparently was) the equation may be different. I would not have made the same choice Matt did under the circumstances as I understand them, but impugning Matt’s status as a professional photographer because you disagree with his choice adds nothing to the discussion. Gratuitous insults are never enlightening.

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      • It is just hard for me to believe that using a tripod has caused Richard to go off the deep end by call people unprofessional. Richard, I am sure you have done things that are not straight black and white. You need to chill. If there are any people that are not professionals its you Richard.

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      • But what Matt is saying here is essentially this: On the red light issue I might maybe agree with him. He waited a long time and no one came, so he went through taking all due care not to harm anyone. At 2 am in the morning I can see that point. But he points out that a police officer would surely have agreed. Fair enough I think they might just have, maybe. But the difference between that and the photo story is that there was a “police officer” there to tell him not to do it and he proceeded to do it anyway. That is like saying to a cop in the US: “Hang on officer while I cross this intersection on a red light and drive up to my house and then shout at me when I am safely inside”. I don’t think any cop would have taken that. He would have had his car shredded to pieces by bullets.

        That’s the difference.

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      • I believe the tripod is prohibited because of fire regulations. I worked as a security guard at a privately owned national historic site in Boston while in school. We had similar rules about tripods. The rules were dictated by the Boston Fire Department. Local fire departments can make rules that apply to particular buildings. As silly as it sounds (and is) the regulations apply even when the building is empty. I suspect that it is an egress issue and that there could be hefty fines for the building owner if they do not enforce the regulations.

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    • @George, maybe you should reread it, because pictures are allowed where he was standing, it was only the tripod that wasn’t supposed to be used…. not a big friggin deal here :-l

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    • Bloody hell, anyone would think Matt had murdered a child with the kind of responses he received! Seriously, he used his own judgement and decided it was safe to use the tripod in this situation, despite what the over-zealous security guards said. That seems perfectly reasonable to me. If we all follow everything we’re told without a thought, then we’re nothing more than sheep, and I’ve never seen a good photo taken by a sheep.

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      • gawd. do people really think they can’t trust their own self-regulation? that’s just flat out scary. and ha! Adam. you forget about “Cooper the Photographer Cat.” but then, he’s not a sheep either.

        so nasty people. doesn’t take much, does it?

        spot on, A.

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    • What is wrong with you people, there is a huge difference between a Law (running a red light, etc.) and a rule. It wasn’t even breaking a rule to take the pic, just using a pod and since He waited to do it in a respectful manner, you all need to stop being so judgmental. Maybe you wouldn’t do it, just say I wouldn’t do it. Tar and feathers are not necessary!

      By the way MATT, that’s the most BEAUTIFUL and AWESOME Professional image of the inside of a church I’ve ever seen!

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      • Yeah, right… Too bad he broke the rules and cheated with the officer lady to take it. Ooops I forgot… That’s being professional… Sorry!

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      • A privately employed security guard is not a law enforcement officer, merely an employee with a script to follow like someone on a help desk. In my experience they are seriously misguided about their powers by their employers’ instructions and are poorly trained in the understanding of Health and Safety legislation. I have no idea if this was the case here.

        These days it’s very common for employers to use Health and Safety as an argument to restrict an activity, when in truth they are actually concerned about reducing the cost of their public liability insurance by including a restriction in the conditions of entry or by putting up a sign.

        The restriction may or may not have implications for Health and Safety legislation.

        In this case I would suggest that the restriction was there to ensure that if someone comes along and takes a classy shot of the place, the occupier can get a piece of the action should that shot become commercially desirable. As photographers we realise that this is a naive restriction, since it is possible these days, in the right circumstances, to take a saleable shot with relatively inexpensive equipment.

        The question of whether Matt was being disrespectful to another persons request is one that can never be answered definitively as it is purely a question of personal ethics, which has been debated endlessly for centuries, and to be frank, there are much more serious examples to be considered than ‘ was someone correct to use a tripod in a church when asked not to?’.

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      • I should add that it’s a good thing for people to be considering the ethics of this situation and be putting their points of view. I hope I didn’t appear to be against that.

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      • Twenty years ago I worked as a security guard at a privately owned national historic site in Boston while in school. We has similar rules about tripods. In fact we had many rules. I cannot imagine what rules have been added since 9-11. We knew we were not law enforcement officers but we also knew that some of the rules would carry fines and penalties for the property owner (also a church in this case). We had people who wanted to break one rule and then filed complaints about seeing people breaking other rules. See, it was OK for them to break the rule that they thought was minor, silly, asinine, trivial, etc., BUT those other rules?

        As a security guard people accused me and others of being petty, vindictive, officious, etc. And, of course, we were always deemed to be stupid. No, we did not understand the reasoning behind some of the rules. Some were the result of lawsuits. Some were the result of local fire regulations (like the no tripod rules). But, from supervisors, tourists, fellow employees, and fire inspectors (who made regular and unannounced visits) the security staff had people constantly (fairly and unfairly) assessing their performance. More than one person lost his job because of a rule that went unenforced. And on occasion there were fines for unenforced rules.

        You are invited into a privately owned building and asked to observe some rules, some of which stem from fire laws. But, if the rules are inconvenient are you free to violate them at will?

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  7. Yesterday I (facetiously) suggested that you should have used a shift/tilt lens. Today I will suggest something you actually can (should?) do before making prints of your purloined HDR photo. One problem with shooting interiors is that the color balance between the interior and the light coming through the windows is different. Note that the windows are mostly blue which is not the actual color of the stained glass. to correct it make a duplicate layer, adjust the color balance for the windows (everything inside will go orange), then add a mask while holding the alt key. Finally paint the windows back in with white. That’s how I got this shot http://jims-ramblings.blogspot.com/2009/08/st-johns-of-wilderness.html in a similar situation. I had permission so no absolution was needed for my image.

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  8. Hypothetical (but serious) question: you’re in some part of the world where the local population believes that if you take their picture, you’re taking part of their soul. You know that they believe this. You personally don’t believe this. What do you do?

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    • A lot of Amish live around me. As a part of their religion they don’t like to photographed, so I don’t photograph them. It’s a matter of respect.

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    • That’s not the point. The point is that it was a rule of theirs to not allow tripods in the center isle. You broke the rule. It’s not a defense that no one was around. It’s still against their rules. They asked you to not do it at the beginning and you did it anyway.

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      • I get that. I think had it been me, I may have tried to talk to the security guard a little more to see if something could have been worked out. Maybe if Matt had told her who he was and that the photo was most likely been used as an educational tool rather than just a tourist photo, than maybe she would have been more inclined to let Matt use his tripod while she stood next to him to make sure that people were protected.

        I have found that people respond really well when you can give them details of your intentions. It’s when they are left to guess and make assumptions that problems and over reactions can occur.

        But, I really wonder – had this story taken place in a football stadium with the exact same series of events – would the rule braking still bother people?

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        • “But, I really wonder ? had this story taken place in a football stadium with the exact same series of events ? would the rule braking still bother people?”

          I was thinking the same thing myself but I took it a step further… Do you think people would be having the same reaction if this story had taken place in a Mosque?

          With some of the comments I’ve read here, I’m starting to think that the answer is, “no.”

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        • In response, had this series of events taken place in a football stadium…? Now that all depends (kinda like everyone’s opinion huh…) would anyone else care-probably no one except the person who didn’t get the shot-cause that’s the real objective here right-and no LAW was broken. As far as security guards are concerned they’re there to enforce rules tha protect the interests of the public and the organization for whom they work (mostly the latter) needless to say they’re obligated to move along anyone that is lingering-tripod or not. As far as breaking rules at a football stadium for which you have permission to photograph on field…well if you want to retain the privilege of photographing at the NFL level stick to the rules and perhaps take a hint from the sports photogs and use a monopod.

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    • What a confusing mess… I’d like to think I would respect their beliefs, but I will say that if I had no problem doing what Matt did (as regards the security guard) I would certainly have no qualms whatsoever about not respecting the wishes of people who may not even know a photo is being made of them. I’m kind of confused about how that is different from disregarding the wishes of someone who knows you’re making a picture…
      Here’s another question: if there were a security guard in this hypothetical “local population” wiht the express purpose of keeping people from photographing the locals, would you try to take a picture?

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      • with… I meant with.

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  9. Question: If I have to use high ISO for dark locations and notice some noise in the images, should I try to remove the noise before going to hdr pro or after coming back to lightroom? If I do remove noise from one image (before going to hdr pro) do I need to synchronize all the images? Thanks Eric

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  10. Quite the entertaining read. I do appreciate, greatly appreciate, the method used to take the picture. For the most part I read this blog for tips and tricks of photography and editing. I didn’t expect to get as much dogmatic humor too.
    Matt, the picture looks fantastic, no matter if you had to sell your soul to Satan. Seems to be a fair price these days.
    Likewise, appreciation of a religious place of worship is not a sin, nor should it be considered as a sin.

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    • “Sin” is a very subjective word. I couldn’t care less if anything I do is a sin, as I don’t believe in a god. I do, however have morals – just not from religion.

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    • HA!! ” no matter if you had to sell your soul to Satan” Too funny and very nice use of dramatic humor!

      Matt- the shot is very nice and I’m sure all these people making such a big deal about this NEVER go over the speed limit, use their work time to surf the internet, or do anything to “stretch” the law/rules. It is amazing that people can be so self-riotous about this and not concede anything. IMO if you don’t have a problem with it and didn’t put anyone in danger…no harm to anyone. The security guards have a job to do and they did just that! Love the blog and all the help I get from all your & Kelby Training Vids!
      Thanks!!!

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      • I do break the speed limit occasionally, but if an officer pulls up behind me and turns his lights on, I obey him and pull over…. in Matt’s situation I would likely have interpreted the rule as he did, but if the security officer asked me to stop I (hope I) would have stopped. Of course, one can’t know with certainty until facing the same situation; it is hard to pass up a good photo opportunity….

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      • By the way, I like the new word you came up with; “self-riotous”. The self-righteous rioting… :-)

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  11. My question to you, Matt, is given that you use the same ISO for each shot in a sequence, the longer exposures are bound to have more noise than the shorter ones. So, do you go through each shot in the sequence to do noise reduction individually before you do the merge? And if so, how does this affect PS’s processing in lining up details?

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    • Hey Gene – I processed this one in CS5’s Merge to HDR Pro. It was absolutely noise-free so I didn’t have to do any noise reduction to it.

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      • Any chance you can do a comparison with a dedicated HDR tool (since noise wasn’t an issue) and show comparisons ?

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  12. I just have to chime in again.
    Some of you mistake rules for laws. They’re not. No, I would not break a law but I’d bend a rule. (not completely true as in CA I drive with the flow which is always above the posted, okay, lets not go there)

    I don’t believe the tripod poses a security problem. The purpose of the no tripod ‘rule’ is probably a liability problem. No people doesn’t matter. Tripods nick pews, crack glass, and if used properly, beat the ‘hell’ out of sinners. You know sinners, they’re the ones breaking the rules.

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  13. I’ve been to St. Patricks and photographed it many times. Who wouldn’t? It’s gorgeous. What irks me about what you did here is that you seemed to forget that you were a guest of St. Patrick’s. If I make a respectful, reasonable request of guests of my house and they don’t abide by them, there’s a very good chance they won’t be welcome back.

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    • Well said! For me, the ramifications would be more along the lines of being barred from entry- just because I have a tripod! What am I suppose to do? Stash it outside? Run back to Penn station and rent a locker? What if it dosnt fit?

      Perhaps Matt can come back and hold them for us so we can go in and do the right thing!

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  14. @Matt- here in New York- Suffolk County- they are placing cameras on the traffic lights. Guess what- if you go through it- you will now get a ticket! Its the law. And no judge will ever side with you cause it was late and nobody was around!

    Sorry if I hurt your feelings- lol- I may have some doubts about your professional photography ethics- but your lightroom skills and teaching abilities are still top notch !

    And if you ever get your Lightroom ideas into a book form- I will buy it as well!

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    • I still have to disagree Richard. Judges don’t see in just black and white. That’s why we have judges and the court system is not automatic. I feel 100% confident that if I received a ticket for that red light (given the circumstances) and went to court over it, it would be tossed out. But hey, we’re both “professionals” right so we can agree to disagree ;-)

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    • @RichardP – Your ongoing comparison between using a tripod and running a red light is so far off base, it’s laughable. As mentioned above, there is a difference between ‘rule’ and ‘law’. And to humor you, red light cameras snap when the light turns red. Taking pictures continuously over a 4+ minute interval on a deserted intersection is hardly a reasonable assumption.

      Anyway, the point I’m making is that the church set up an arbitrary rule (arbitrary in the sense that they don’t have to justify it, or enforce it if they don’t want to). It is for liability reasons, and had Matt caused injury to someone, they would have solid ground to make him the liable party.

      You’ve made your point and your amazingly inaccurate comparison several times. We get it: you disapprove. Trying to aggrandize the point with ethical and legal examples is not making your case very well, and many people disagree with you, too. I’m among them and said so yesterday.

      For the rest of the world, this issue also has nothing to do with Christianity or the church or God: it’s a private building that can set their own rules of use and consequences (to a point). At the worst in this case, Matt could be charged with trespassing for failing to follow directions. Or get sued had someone gotten hurt.

      I’m pretty damn certain Matt is aware of this, as any experienced, let alone professional, shooter would be. You don’t get to do this job without knowing the risks, big and small, and making informed decisions.

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      • Its not about traffic lights and tripods. Its about professional ethics and attitudes. Its about setting precedence.

        Sadly- there are too many people out there who seem to think their “art” is more important than rules or laws. The real damage here is those who set the rules are indeed taking notice- and making the rules more restrictive.

        And it does seem that there are also plenty of people here that also agree with playing by the rules so that everybody can play!

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      • @RichardP

        you go out talk about ethics, rules and moral as a whole and how it is important to obey to these rules.

        Seriously? You are the one coming out here swinging at other people. Where are your manners? I think, that you should for yourself obey to these rules.

        Stop insulting people. Live by your own rules. You pray for respect, but you yourself don’t show any respect. Do not let your temper overwhelm you. Think before your write.

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      • William Egglestone, who I personally consider to be one of the true great artists of photography, could never have achieved his vision if he hadn’t taken his camera to places he shouldn’t have been at times he shouldn’t have been there. The same could be said at times of Cartier-Bresson. No one would consider either of these geniuses to be anything other than totally professional in their approach. I have no idea if the same could be said for Mr Kloskowski in the case in question as I wasn’t there, but in all the videos I’ve seen he seems to be a thoroughly nice chap, and looking at his portfolio, a fine professional photographer.

        However, it is worth pointing out that even as intrepid photographers, it would be foolish and highly unprofessional for us to venture into situations that would clearly endager our own or others safety or even lives! (unless Nat Geo stump up the readies in advance of course)

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  15. I do not see any sin/problem. Great job!
    don’t worry about anything.

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  16. thats the problem with mindless laws, nobody cares about the why just the what
    i think you are fine b/c you understood the meaning behind the rule and made sure you didn’t violate it.
    I don’t fault them for having it, the guard for doing his job, or you for respectfully taking the pic (epically sending the print and donating when you came in.)

    Weddings at some churches can be ticky for this same reason; my last one had a no photo policy; but they were fine with video; i think what they really had in mind is don’t get in the way or use a flash or make noise; i wish that had been the policy; i was glad my 7d shoots great HD video :)

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  17. it seems to me people forget that the word ‘church’ means a gathering of God’s people, and not a building. it is only since organized Christian religions got in on the act that church has come to mean the building and not the people in it. sad.

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  18. Yikes……remember: “HE THAT IS WITHOUT SIN AMONG YOU, LET HIM FIRST CAST A STONE AT HER.” (John 8:7)

    We have ALL done something “illegal” or against the rules in our lives. We just don’t blog about it and get “caught”.

    Give Matt a break, he is human after all; professional or not!!!!

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    • I’m really no longer commenting on the photo taking – just (as paul harvey might have said) on the remainder of the fore-shortened story of the casting of stones..because that wasn’t just PART of original lesson … seemingly often used just as a convenient soundbite to excuse behavior, as if the real event didn’t matter…. Jesus waited for everyone to back off, go away and then asked the guilty woman – where are thine accusers ? and then he taught the ultimate lesson of the story: He wasn’t casting stones either – but still told the woman: GO, and sin no more… Perhaps his 1st public teaching; repent. ;)

      just my $.02.

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  19. Matt- Great shot, the rules thing isn’t an issue for me, you do what you have to do to get the shot and as long as noone is hurt, who cares.

    I do have a question though. Someone futher up mentioned mixing ISO settings for an HDR, has anyone tried this yet, I’m somewhat intregued by this and wonder what kind of effect it woud have if you had done this and used noise reduction on the higher ISO exposures before merging to HDR.

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    • Good question, Michael! I’d like to read Matt’s answer to this, as well. I’ve tried it, but the ISO changes in sensitivity are too great to make subtle exposure differences nicely – you still end up bracketing the shutter speed *and* you spend more time changing the ISO (unless your camera can do this automatically – some dSLRs can). In my case, the noise was just too high above 400, so it wasn’t worth the additional effort.

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  20. Wow, Wow and Wow! Really people? Sheesh! I was once in a mall with a small video camera doing a project. All I wanted was some footage of my daughter coming up the elevator. I was immediately told to take a hike. I came back with the camera in my purse and did a little gorilla shooting to get what I needed for my project. No harm, no foul.
    Matt, your photography is amazing! I for one appreciated the story behind the picture. Shows you what a professional will do to get a beautiful photo as you did. I would have done the same thing! People are jealous! Don’t let them rain on your parade!

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  21. Matt all of us have pushed the envelope to get the shot. All great photographers have. I appreciate all of your blog info, articles and Kelby Training videos they are a great help to me. Keep up the good work.

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  22. Hey there Matt,
    Before anything else, Just want to reiterate on the great shot you got at the church. As a wedding photographer, I know how some of the churches we shoot in can have some really strict rules and where as other do not.
    I hate to see all this being said about you and your actions. As I said yesterday, there are those before us (photographers) that have ruined it for us true professionals that shoot weddings in churches that have the up-most respect for the service,the priest and for the church itself. Again the bloopers I have seen on various blooper shows of photographers who have absolutely made things that way they have for us.
    I believe that they will love the print that you are going to give them ( and the 20!) Maybe this is something we photographers could think about. Giving a small gester back to the churches we shoot in. Next wedding I may do that just to say thanks for letting me take pictures there.
    Take care Matt and love all you do for us!
    Robert Roth
    Robert Roth Photography & Design
    Hamilton Oh

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  23. Awesome shot Matt!

    I just think it’s great that everyone (me included) has the time to read through all of this and comment.

    Y’know, we COULD be out shooting……

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  24. well, great picture matt and great story as well. I was expecting another discussion about HDR though :-)

    cannot believe what some of the ppl above are thinking who they are …. anyone of you got a speeding ticket in your live? or even worse, speeding without getting caught? ha? who is going to cast the first stone now?

    take care matt and take further shots nobody else will ever take (or have the heart to take :-)

    greetings from munich, where I have never experienced such rules at all

    ingoman

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    • I’ve been in many churches in Munich. Photography is easy there because they’re usually very empty (including the Frauenkirche) Saint Pat’s on the other hand is usually pretty crowded.

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  25. Great job

    If we dont take the Photos who will..

    That tripod thing..you cant use a tripod at any of our presidents memorials either..reason thinking maybe you can put a gun on a tripod..

    I use a Camera not a gun..I take beautiful photos i dont kill people..

    I will continue to take Beautiful Photos…no one will stop me!!

    Hugh

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  26. On the issue of why take a 9 shot HDR – As a Canon Shooter I was really confused by this. So I asked a Nikon shooting friend. on my Canon can only Auto Bracket 3 shots but the range between the shots is more flexible. You could for instance shoot 4 stops over and 4 stops under, but with the Nikon the max is bracket is one stop between exposures, so to get 4 stops in either direction you need to take 9 total shots. Do I have this right Matt?

    I am curious Matt if you actually use all 9 shots, and how different your results would be if you only used 3 or 5.

    I am also curious about the chandeliers which are still blown out was this an artistic choice or were they still blown out even on the 4 stops under exposure?

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    • Sorry guys, I should have clarified that. While I took 9 photos, I only used 5 of them in the Merge to HDR dialog
      +/- 2 and +/- 4 stops as well as the one right in the middle.

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  27. I think some of this discussion is simply about the letter of the law versus the spirit. Perhaps Matt didn’t follow the rule to the letter, but he was mindful of its intent.

    Having now seen what a beautiful place St. Pat’s is, I might be more inclined to visit myself and leave a donation that the church would otherwise never have received.

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  28. If we choose to not abide by the rules, we would do well to keep it to ourselves. And we certainly would do well to not try to justify it.

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    • Hear, hear! It is not so much the act as the smug tone and justification that I object to in these two posts.

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  29. Matt, I’m not sure about sending a print to the church. What do you say? Do you thank them for allowing you to use a tripod? Do you not mention it at all? Do you send anonymously? Do they find your blog and read the controversy?

    If you had permission, by all means. However…maybe it is now better to let it go.

    Thanks for the distraction, I’ve been unmotivated lately and needed a break.

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    • I’ll just send them the photo with a “I hope you enjoy” note attached to it :) They’ll never know how it was taken.

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      • Really. Matt. I actually think that you totally lost it here. Your attitude really lacks respect. You think that the church won’t understand how your picture was taken. So what? Are they idiots because they don’t know HDR? Why make fun of them? I don’t like your attitude towards them. Not at all.

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  30. I once used a tripod to take a photo, so I’m getting a kick out of these replies. :)

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    • Hey Michael!! Me too! Thought I was the only rebel out here! Maybe we could start a flickr group? ;)

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  31. Photography is art! To disallow it is like telling Michelangelo to have removed his statues, white wash the Sistine Chapel ceiling. But in true Catholic attitude, they accepted your $20 anyway. tisk tisk

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  32. Interesting read, both yesterday and today. Matt, I probably would have done the same thing – set up the tripod and work under the “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than ask permission” theory. What bothers me however, is that once the guard asked you to leave, more than once, you pushed the limits (or patience of the guard) a little too much, in my opinion. I can understand trying to stall for 1 more shot but you needed several! In the end however, not a big deal! In some ways, you’re fortunate you didn’t encounter a guard determined to escalate the situation.

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    • Hey Scott, you’re absolutely right. I read the guard and the situation and realized I could indeed work with it. You have to remember this whole exchange took no longer than about 90 seconds. I didn’t stand there arguing for 5 minutes throwing up my arms and getting mean. I was very pleasant and for the most part so was she.
      Now, had the guard walked up to me and put a firm hand on my shoulder and asked me to leave, I would have been smart enough to read that as a more aggressive situation and been gone right away. What some folks are missing is that we’re all smart adults here capable of absorbing a hundred different circumstances and making decisions in a split second based on the situation. That’s precisely what I did.

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  33. Were all your shots in the cathedral HDR’s? I’d be interested to see some none HDRs.

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    • Honestly, I won’t show them. Personally, they don’t look very good. The lighting is horrible and 1 exposure just doesn’t do it justice. I very purposely processed the photo this way. To me, I like the fact that it looks almost surreal and like a rendering. Just my taste though. Do a google image search for St. Patricks and you’ll find lots of other photos of it.

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  34. Wow. What an uproar! Everyone and the world would be much better served if you channeled all that energy towards actually helping others instead of attacking a guy for using an unapproved tripod.

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  35. Slam me if you like but….I would have loved to see all the ‘rebels’, calling those who try to follow the rules ‘sheep’, with their tripods and ‘I can do what I want’ attitudes, pulling a stunt like that in downtown Toronto during that G20 Summit. Those cops certainly wouldn’t have given you a moment before throwing you in the cage with all the other self-entitled ‘rebels’.

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  36. Firstly this is a fantastic image. Bravo Matt!
    Now the whole breaking the rules thing is getting out of hand in some of these comments. Way too many people here are nitpicking.

    Fact: The catholic church allows you to take pictures in the church. They do not consider it disrespectful, or a “sin”, or anything of the sort. Attacking Matt in that respect is just wrong. In fact the work that Matt did to capture the shot honors the beauty of the church, those who designed/built it. etc.

    Other cultures/religions are against some photography based on their religious beliefs. Matt was not there. If he was I am pretty sure he would respect them. That is completely different then the rule he didn’t follow here. People need to get off that tangent.

    The reason why these Tripod rules exist is because of fire code, or because of wheelchair access. Some towns prohibit you from using a tripod on public areas for that reason, for liability (in case someone trips on your equipment), or because they want to make sure if you are a Pro you got the right permits and paid some money to the town. Breaking this rule is not some kind of moral/ethical issue! Hell if any of you have pulled over in a “no parking fire zone” you are just as guilty.

    Did Matt break a rule to take the shot? Yeah. But you know what? These are the lengths that have to be gone to in order to get some of the images we have today. Sometimes we have to climb up a insanely high mountain to get *that* shot, or hike several hours in the heat, or travel to some remote jungle, or go dodge bullets in a war zone, or just trespass for a few minutes to get a special shot no one else has. If people like Matt didn’t stretch boundaries and stick their necks out every once in a while we would be denied thousands upon thousands of amazing images that show us how beautiful/strange/amazing/etc/etc our world is.

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  37. “You?re not going to change my mind and I?m not going to change your mind, so let?s just leave it at that.”

    It was a good try, Matt, but I think everyone that chimed in yesterday is back today with the same thing… :-)

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    • Man! You’re not kidding. Next time I want a lot of comments I’ll make sure to say “Please don’t comment” :)

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      • Note to self: to get tons of comments on my blog, write something about HDR, bending the rules, and ask people not to comment.

        I hope people put as much passion and effort into their photography as they did making comments ;)

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  38. Matt,

    I’m happy and proud to see that photography still has the ability to invoke such strong emotions and reactions. I agree with you completely and I’ve done exactly the same thing myself on occasion at cathedrals in Europe once all the other admirers had moved safely away from my area so that I could set up and shoot safely. Though you weren’t expecting the visceral reaction that you’ve received, I commend you for sticking to your position and not reacting by throwing some of the, ahem… (poo) back in anyone’s face. Thank you for the image, the story behind it and the continued tutorials.

    Michael Napier

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    • Thanks Michael. I totally understand where most of the folks here are coming from. One thing I’ve learned by running this blog is that EVERYONE has their own opinion and that EVERYONE will find something wrong with everything. I could stand out in front of Walmart handing out $100 bills all day and it wouldn’t be long before some one walked up and complained that I didn’t have five $20’s instead.

      While there’s a lot of negative stuff, if you go through and count the majority is actually with me so it’s no sweat. Thanks though.

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      • Boy, ain’t that the truth! The internet instills a certain amount of bravado in many folks to say things that they wouldn’t say to one’s face, and that’s sad.

        Keep on doing what you do, Matt….I met you briefly at the forum party at PSW Orlando, and for someone who can talk to a stranger like he’s known him/her all his life, I know in my heart that this incident was, in no way, malicious on your part. You’re an extremely fine and decent man.

        Don’t listen to all the sanctimonious jerks in here.

        Mike

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      • I will preface this with saying that I have seen enough of you on Kelby Training to have the sense that you are a good guy. I, for one, am not accusing you of maliciousness.

        I know what you’re saying about it being impossible to please everyone, but you did ask for people’s opinions yesterday (so the Walmart analogy really doesn’t quite apply). There were a few people who behaved with “bravado” in their comments, but there were a lot of others who disagreed with your decision in a sincere, thoughtful, and polite way. I felt that there were relatively few commenters who could be described as “sanctimonious” (at least yesterday — today’s conversation seems to have degenerated somewhat).

        Have a good holiday weekend.

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  39. Still love your confidence and the image!

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  40. Some thoughts since yesterday:

    Would an ambassador to the world on behalf of photographers everywhere conduct themselves this way? Have you broken down doors for photographers or closed them by your actions?

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    • I wouldnt call Matt an Ambassador to Ihop. He’s the best Lightroom Instructor out there.. and a hell of a photographer. The more you elevate him, the more you’re going to go out of your way to find Sins.

      He’s just a guy people.. let’s take a deep breath.. they’e not coming to take everyone’s tripods because of his actions.

      RC

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      • I wouldn’t say that James, at your age that could be any time now! :)

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      • People in my family live well into their 80s or 90s. I’m healthy and not not leaving soon. :-)

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      • Every professional is an ambassador of their profession. Whether Profession, Hobby or Passion, we are all ambassadors to that which we embrace.

        Was the cause of photographers everywhere helped by these actions or hindered?

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  41. Richard is a tool, wtf makes a professional these days??? Is it solely making money, or is it the quality of your images? Most professionals I’ve met I could give a crap about after meeting them. They are self absorbed and their skill is weak. Because they might follow some rule, they are far from any kind of professional in my eyes.

    It is easier to just try and if you get away with it more power to ya! I don’t know how many times I’ve gone past a “do not enter” sign or trespassed to get my shot. If people don’t like it, they call the cops and every single time the cops just want to know what you are doing then ask you to just move along. And I can say that Matt is completely right, I got a ticket once for running a red light after 2 am and it was dropped later since it was empty around town.

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  42. Well, I for one found your story very amusing and entertaining. It is a great picture and was worth the effort.

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  43. Let’s remove the whole church thing out of the equation. What happens if it was Washington DC at the White House, or the Smithsonian or one of the memorials, etc. Instead of being politely asked to leave after multiple requests, you might be facing the wrath of the Capitol police or more serious still, the Secret Service.

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    • In the case of WDC, it would be perfectly acceptable since it has become the mecca of corruption, lies, and side-stepping of every law, procedure, and ethical value.

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  44. Let’s face it Matt, YOU SINNED AND ARE GOING TO GO TO HELL FOR IT !!!!
    Ok , not Hell, but San Francisco, which is very-very close !

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    • Actually Tim, you’re mistaken geographically speaking. Dallas is much closer to the surveyed center of hell but perhaps San Francisco could fit into the maybe the 3rd ring of purgatory.

      Michael

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  45. but he didn’t do it at the white house, it was a church and was not a big deal. Wrath of the capitol police, just like that couple that crashed the white house party?? Oh wait, nothing happened to them!

    Matt is only going out and doing what he loves to do. Don’t go bashing him for posting a great picture when you are just jealous you didn’t do it first. You are probably mad at Kelby also for being such a tool and getting access to shoot at NFL games. I’d guess most of those guys work their asses off to get that kind of gig and he walks in and gets to do it just cause he knows a guy. Must really suck for the “professionals”. I suggest others do their thing and not worry so much about what someone else is doing. Hell, the ones hating probably hate hdr also, and that says a lot about how old and irrelevant you are anyway!

    Just keep doing your thing Matt, they are just bitting the hand that feeds them anyway! Mindless F@c$s couldn’t get an original idea without you leading the way.

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    • Since you quoted my comment I want to make it clear that I wasn’t bashing Matt. I think the photo & his work is great. My comment was to point out that religion & churches had nothing to do with the issue. I’ve seen such rules posted in public places, museums, transit centers, etc. Yes, these rules suck, but I assume these rules exist to reduce liability since we live in a country overrun with litigation.

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  46. Matt,
    Please, you are giving these D-Bags undeserved attention by replying to them. Stop coddling these self-righteous ego maniacs. You are the man, they are not. Why don’t you guys get a life, get off mom’s computer, and go find a friggen job! Nice work Matt.

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  47. Listen closely peoople….Matt is a great teacher of photoshop which is why you come to this link…Matt doesnt have to live up to any preconceived notioins you may have of morality…..

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  48. Matt, you have captured the absolute majestic beauty of this church. Is it not good for others to be drawn to the church rather than repelled by it? Good on ya’.

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  49. Have you considered that the diocese of New York has an exclusive license with a major NYC photographic studio that grants them exclusive rights to all professional photographs and that’s why they have tight controls on the use of tripods.

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    • That is a very salient point. I would be interested to know how that photographer would weigh in on this discussion.

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    • The question of a property release is a appropriate one. Just as with model releases, identifiable property can require that the photographer obtain a release. You could take a photo from the street without one but interior views are another matter and require the consent of the property owner. OTOH Matt isn’t selling the photo, just posting it to this blog. I think it would take a copyright lawyer to resolve that question.

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  50. First I’m really don’t want this to sound mean-spirited… but as a pastor of a small church and photographer (and well human — I know odd combination… ) I’d have to say what Matt did was not some horrible sin… quite simply it was just rude — sort of cute — but rude none-the-less. The world will keep spinning and folks will either excuse it or not.

    Why do I think it was rude — well if you are invited to someone’s house and they ask you not to put your feet up on the table (for whatever reason) and as soon as the host (or their security guard) left or turned their backs and you thought it was “safe” you plop your size 12s on the table with a cute grin…. then when your host comes back and asked you to remove them and not to keep doing it and you respond and joke with the host and tried to delay removing their feet… What would we call that…. simply rude…. not life or death… but rude… lack of manners. No law was broken just bad manners. The world keeps spinning….

    I wonder if we would instruct our children to do the same… disregard the rules if you can talk your way into getting what you want…. maybe we would… I’d hope not…. others would see the child manipulating another person and getting their way as being…well rude.

    Nothing horrible… nothing earth shaking…. may or may not set a precedence in the future at the place…. actually the way Matt told the story is entertaining… moral of the story is being rude can get you what you want. He appears to be happy with it…That is ok I guess if you are ok with being rude. Beautiful shot… not so beautiful of an attitude.

    Just another opinion… which you have gotten a few of….

    Bob

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  51. I’m glad you got the shots you needed. The picture is absolutely beautiful, and I feel a little more spiritual. Do I agree with what you did? You didn’t murder anyone. You shared a piece of God’s beauty with us. This works much better than the guys on the corner preaching. Thank you for sharing. I’m sure God will forgive you for touching our spiritual hearts, because that doesn’t come along to frequently for me.

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  52. who hasn’t broke a rule or 2 while photographing something? If you say you have not, then you are either straight out lying about it, didn’t know you did it, or have not lived much. Get off your high horse or keep your thoughts about right and wrong to yourself. Matt nor anyone else here really gives a crap what you think is good or bad. Trust me. You don’t fill our pockets with money and have no right telling us what is right and wrong.

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  53. @Joe….. there really is a difference between breaking a rule you are aware of and one that you are not… big difference…

    Peace…

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  54. Ok just out of curiosity I decided to contact in around about way someone from St. Patrick’s and share these two days of posting. Had a good exchange of emails with them and it now appears they may be considering place a few more restrictions on what may be brought into the cathedral. I think from the tone of a couple of the notes I exchanged they were surprised at the number of photographers that would attempt to get away with this approach. At the very least I think they are going to instruct the security guards to be more alert to these situations.

    So the good news here is for Matt… fewer photographers may have the ability to capture the image like you did…. therefore increasing this particular photographs value…

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    • wow Bob, you are a real prick calling the place and getting involved in something you have nothing to do with. And there is NO difference between not knowing and knowing. Learn your laws buddy. Ignorance is never a defense in court that holds up. Jealousy is running crazy on here with people mad about not getting to do what Matt did. You old timers need to attach the camera to your walker so you can do it also and stfu.

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      • Joe… it was a rule not a law…. get a grip to your own walker my friend…

        As for talking about with the church… well gosh no big deal right they already knew about it. If this is all fun and games then heck what is the big deal.

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      • Bob are you the same “keyboard commando” on the Adobe forums?

        I think I will contact Adobe and have you banned from the forums.
        If your the same Bob, I had a run in with you on a lightroom request.

        You are an arrogant prick and had no business contacting anyone.
        If Matt has any issues as a result from your doings, i am going to reverse IP you and google earth your house. you will be hearing from many of us in person.

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    • Bob:

      So.. a bunch of you said that Matt’s thing hurt photographers in the future, but you ACTIVELY made a call to make sure that happened..

      Great job.

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      • Exactly RC! Bob wanted to purposely make sure he hurt people in the future by doing so. It is sad there are photographers out there like Bob who are so jealous of anything not happening to them that they will ruin it for everyone if they don’t get to do it. Well done Bob, you big baby.

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    • I think Bob has secured his place in this world as one of the biggest jerks out there. Yesterday he had nothing better to do than be a jerk. Hope you are happy you prick.

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  55. Oh for frig sake people, give the guy a break! I can’t believe someone would actually contact the church about this!! Now there’s a topic for a whole new blog session! So… is it Matt’s fault if the church cracks down on photographers or is it the fault of the person who contacted the church and reported the “crime” ?? Appreciate all you do Matt… and great looking photo!
    PS – my daughter is a cop so maybe I should hate you!!

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  56. Cool photo. I agree, just because someone makes a rule doesn’t mean anyone has to follow it if they don’t like it.

    I mean, what the heck? If I go into someone’s house and they ask me not to use a tripod because the house is small and crowded and someone could get hurt, if I see an opportunity to take one in a situation where I figure the owner’s rule is a bit silly, out comes the pod!

    Rules are made to be broken.

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    • Really? Well, let anarchy rule. Rules are there for a reason and you might not agree with it, but that’s how it is. If you took photos in my house after I asked you not to, you’d lose your tripod and your camera (and don’t come asking for compensation: hey rules are there to be broken !!).

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    • When you are a guest you should have some respect both for yourself and the “owner”. If you don’t like the rules then don’t go to the house. But some folks will always find a way to excuse they boorish behavior. Speaks to character of the person and their maturity. A real shame folks can’t see that. I guess I would have been more worried about damaging my image then getting “the image”.

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      • I wouldn’t worry about people damaging their Image, BobC

        As much as Flamewars are self righteous and Vitriolic these days, the one thing you can count on is a commenters short attentio….

        What was that?

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  57. I didn’t chime in yesterday. Matt… I think you’re a hoot.
    We all take pictures in places we shouldn’t be. We’ve all torn our pants scaling a fence with a No Trespassing sign and most of us take a photo of the No Trespassing sign, too! I’ve taken pictures in St. Patricks loads of times and once in a while my flash accidentally goes off at a Station of the Cross.

    The only time I got a little scared was in St Paul’s in London. Being swarmed by a pack of foreign police isn’t that fun. (with no tripod)

    As for God… I don’t speak for Him, but I’ll bet He’d like the publicity a good photo could bring.

    I’ve always liked you because you’re relate-able, not because I hope you walk around with a rule book. Yes, there is that pesky tripod rule, which in Manhattan causes problems even outdoors but as a Catholic, and not to sound jaded, I believe there are more concerning rules being broken for the church to worry about than the tripods of fans of what they have to offer.

    Anyway… nice picture and great story. What would I have done? Probably chickened out way before you did.

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  58. ummmmm I think the church already knew.

    So if it is no big deal why not talk openly about it with the church. It is after-all their place and they can make all the rules they want and when people break their rules they will be tougher standards put in place. Matt admits that if the security guard was tougher he probably would not have proceeded. I wonder why so many security guards (as others have cited here) come off tough and forceful? Then we complain about what “jerks” the security guards are. We are our own worse enemy here.

    It is really funny how many folks are willing to excuse bad behavior. I wonder if Matt would care if people started misbehaving while he tries to teach a class. It really is not the actual act, it is the underlying character and behavior that is so telling.

    I for one would support the church banning all photography. Then they could provide pictures for sale. Gosh that way some photographer could make money and the church can make some money. (I bet this thought will elicit some negative vibes after all we photographers we have the right to behave badly. Right? )

    How about this wonderful scenario. Get permission by asking nicely. If one is refused accept their decision (for you really do not know why they would say no, there can be a whole host of reasons, and it is not up to the asker to determine if the reason is valid or not).

    Not abiding by the rules of the “house” is very disrespectful, it is not “cute” or “funny” to flaunt such disrespect. I really surprised a what of bunch of whining immature babies we have as photographers. I want my way, your rules stink, I’m going to do it anyway, can’t stop me, I know better than you, it is my right to take what I want when I want it, whine whine whine. As one poster put it RUDE but for the sake of the picture I guess some think it socially acceptable.

    Great lesson for the kids to take home.

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    • Again, looking at the Vatican, I don’t think the Church (at least the Catholic church) doesn’t need any more money. Not for a long time.

      But I do agree (as per my post below), that Matt was not right to take the photo against the express wishes of the church and the guards that told him to move on. If they had been real cops with handguns at their side he would not have argued. Just shows that if those security people are kind of friendly they get walked over, which is why they are (often) such nasty people.

      I also agree that Matt probably made it harder for others in future.

      I really love this blog and I think Matt does some great work on it, but on this one he does not have my support.

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      • Money comment was an attempt at sarcasm….. because we also know photographers really don’t need the money either….

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    • BobC:

      When talking about Immature – Why do you feel the need to lecture everyone here? What you did is tantamount to

      “I couldn’t get the picture Matt got, I’m gonna tell Mom”

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      • Well put RC. I wish Bob would take his ball and go home.

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      • Wow pretty out there RC… said I was discussing it…. didn’t “tattle”… they already knew (security guards fill out logs)…. the person I talked to is a friend and I thought they would be interested to see what others were saying about this subject… they then said policy might have to change… gosh why would it change… because folks like Matt are being disrespectful to a SIMPLE request.

        Immature is what Matt did…disrespectful… just plain and simple it was rude… then to make a “joke” about it and continue to justify it… is lame…

        Has nothing to do with the actual picture…. has everything to do with the attitude… I wonder if we should teach our kids to just ignore the rules…. hummmm

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  59. You were very lucky I would say. I was in the Vatican a few weeks ago. A lady walked into the Sistene Chapel and took a photograph when it clearly said you were not allowed to (at all that is not only tripods or flashes). A security guard walked up to her and demanded her camera. He then deleted the photo and looked through her saved images to make sure there were no others.

    I have mixed feelings about this story. On the one hand I feel like you do, in that I can’t see why you were not allowed to use tripods. On the other hand I feel that if there are rules, you should obey them. It’s like saying you broke the speed limit or went through a red light. You might not agree with the light being red, but you should still stop. I know it’s not the same thing (in terms of consequences), but where do you draw the line? Rules are there because someone thinks it’s important to have them in place. Whether you agree with that or not really doesn’t matter.

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  60. Ok so I have to admit I’m amazed at the discussion Matt’s HDR image has generated.

    I’m still trying to get my head around how people feel so compelled to write their ‘disgust’ at what Matt did, but hey come on…what did he do really? Next thing we’ll be hearing is that ‘Photographers’ are agreeing with the ‘no tripod’ rule in major Cities around the world.

    So it was ‘against’ the rules…and? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating going out there and being some kind of Photograph Maverik but I just wonder….how many of the ‘great’ images throughout the years have been taken when they shouldn’t have been, in places they shouldn’t have been and so on???

    I along with the majority here have absolutely no problem with what Matt did. With all the rules, regulations and so on that surround us these days when I’m out on a shoot I will on the vast majority of occasions go by the moto of “It’s easier to apologise than to ask permission’ … Geez I can hear the sharp intakes of breath right now :)

    Bottom line…the original post was really about the creation of an image…any chance we could keep it to that, cos when all is said and done it is a great example of photography and HDR.

    All the best to you Matt,
    Glyn

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  61. Wow. I just decided to have a quick read of this and am amazed at the almost personal attacks on Matt. For what ? Taking a photograph. That’s all he did. He didn’t punch a priest in the face. He didn’t give a choir boy a wedgie, he didn’t steal the church collection plate. He took a photo in a place where they’d have preferred him not to for reasons established to protect people from being inconvenienced.
    But it was empty, it’s a beautiful picture of a beautiful place. It’s not for commercial reasons and in Matt’s defence (spelt correctly – yes, defence) he takes a mean photo with great equipment and also knows how to make that photo even better n post producton, that’s why he is who he is !

    There are ‘rules’ in life but generally the less important ones such as these are really just guidelines to cover eventualities. Snce when has a tripod been a weapon of mass distruction, or in Matt’s case – distraction ;o)
    I went on the set of ER at Warner Bros studios, they said don’t take a photo. I did. For me, a memory captured, no harm done. Secret Squirrel.

    It’s well and mighty to get on a rather high horse (or in Scott Kelby’s case, maybe a very small one) and chastise Matt but at the end of the day there are more important things to get rattled about than a photo of a beautiful place of worship.

    So he took the photo. Meh. (Some of) you raise your blood pressure, I’ll enjoy the photo. They asked him to leave and he did. Okay, he threw a couple of swerve balls to get the photo but we’ve all tried to wriggle out of situations before now to get an end result. Well, I have anyway. There’s a video doing the rounds about non-commercial photography on public transport. There are many jobsworths around throwing ‘health & safety’, ‘national securty’ and ‘just because I said so’ but there is rarely any harm done, just a few people flexing muscles. Sometimes it takes the challengng of the reasons to understand better the ‘rules’.

    Thanks Matt for an interesting article, the follow up and a stream of mostly positive comments and some funny negative ones. I’m now putting my flame resistant suit on….. Have a great weekend everyone ;o)

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  62. Next time you do something like this bring a friend (works best with an older person) and when the photo cops start closing in, have the friend fake a fall in the back and cause a momentary distraction. Should give you enough time to finish those last few shots.

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  63. First time weighing in on this subject. I would have read the story, chuckled a bit, admired the photo (though I’m not a fan of hdr) and gone on to other things. I’ve shot images where ‘no photography’ was posted and, as in this story, nobody was around to be offended. Big deal. What really gets me, what I’m really suprised at, is the crap throwing and mean-spirited name calling that’s gone on in this adult debate. Do these people talk to others in this way in person? I hope not. No, I’m not naive – been roving around for too many hard decades.
    I look forward to Matt’s next installment on another subject.

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  64. Since I chimed in yesterday about my indifference to the photo itself I’ve got to come back today and say I’m amazed at the self righteous pinheads pontificating about breaking the rules. You sound like a bunch of 5th graders tattling to the teacher that “Matt was running in the hallway and you said don’t run and he did and that’s terrible Mrs. Smith, right?”

    Carry on Matt, I like the website, I appreciate your hard work and the things I learn about LR and PS here.

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  65. Oh Oh- heres comes the janitor- I mean RC. Why is it anytime there seems to be a disagreement with the folks from the Kelby Enterprise- you always show up a day or too later to side with your bosses?

    Matt asked us what would we have done! We are telling him. Bob is a pastor- perhaps its his job to report these things? Clearly there are enough people here who really dont think highly of what Matt did to get the image.

    Alot of you folks seem to think that the reason for the rule is liability. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it has something to do with 9-11, in which case Matt just shit all over its victims by ignoring our rules.

    Either way- if the people from the Kelby Enterprise dont like our NY Rules- dont come here! One thing is for sure- the next time you boys are in town- New Yorkers will be watching you!

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    • Hey Richard:

      As a NYer – and based on your site at http://www.modelpower.com/ a neighbor of yours in Long Island – I just find it to be poor form when people come into the blog and start swinging their comments around like a hammer believing that the blog owners are magnanimous enough to “Take the high road” and let you just insult them while they smile. One of the best things about doing what I do, is that i’m entitled and “empowered” to have my -own- opinion on things. If I just towed the line, it would be disingenuous.

      I’m allowed to take offense to you coming onto the blog and saying things like “…Clearly not the actions of a professional photographer! But I guess- who ever said Matt was?”

      I’m allowed to take offense because You say that not because you want to tell him what you would have done – you did that because you wanted to be crafty with your response, and insult someone. That’s not constructive – and you know it. You’re just trying to be cute.. and it’s not working.

      You want to talk about setting Precedence with things? You want a normal dialog that sides with your point of view by name calling someone and questioning their ethics, character, and professionalism – because they used a Tripod.

      -and- you have the Audacity to actually TRY to find a way to fan the flames even further by loosely linking the Tripod thing to 911 and their families..

      -and- you find it Appropriate to call me a Janitor for your insolent and self righteous posts as the ‘ever vigilant New Yorker’ keeping an eye out for the great city. The next time we come to NY we have to keep an eye out on whos watching out for us? Seriously?

      As a Mexican American, should I take -additional- insult to the fact that you found it appropriate to call me a -janitor-?

      The short of it is – I don’t go to your blog and comment on the lack of its design, the quality of its design, the choice of fonts, the quality of the pictures, nor do I draw any correlation between that and your intelligence, character, charm, wit, Physical Appearance, or ability to do Karate.

      I take you as a commenter – a person who can share an opinion.. and be able to disagree, without being a Troll about it.

      RC

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      • What is your point RC- if your are a true New Yorker- as you claim- than you know what Matt did was simply wrong. We go out of our way now here to watch each others back. Thats it. Its not an argument or discussion. YOU DONT DO IT!

        You coming to this discussion a day late – making your comments simply serves no purpose other to annoy those of us who feel strongly about this.

        I APOLOGIZE FOR WHAT APPEARED TO BE AN ETHNIC REMARK- I have no idea what your race or nationality is- but I have noticed in the past- you seem to come a few days later as if to reinforce your bosses point of view. It reminded me of a janitor.

        Matts actions were not professional. And anybody who claims it is- clearly are not pros either. If anything- I was giving him an out for his actions.

        I have been shooting and earning a living with my photography for over 30 years, and it saddens me to see the blatent disrespect for others peoples property and right to privacy that exisits today for the sake of an image.

        You just demonstrated my point by attempting to post a website I have nothing to do with. You betrayed your own company ethics! What point did that serve.

        What I find really amazing, as an upcoming WWPW walk leader- that you folks even have the audacity to suggest breaking rules may be ok- if the image is worth it. What shall I tell my walkers- if the sign saids- no trespassing- but the image is worth it- go for it!

        Im sure we will be welcomed back real soon!

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      • Richard, poor form on the janitor comment. And you have been shooting for 30 years, I think it is time you put down the camera and started waiting on jesus to come get you. Spend some time with your family, enjoy what little is left of your good years… At this point dude, you should resign yourself from leading a photowalk. Let someone else less racist do it for the better of everyone.

        RC, don’t bother with pricks like that. You do amazing things and work very hard at what you do. The thing I notice about the Kelby group that dick, I mean Richard pointed out was each other coming to the aid of others there. It shows to me that everyone there is like a family and you don’t find that much anymore in the workplace. I sure can’t! And if you guys ever need a bumbling idiot to hold your coffee or tell jokes or just show how not to do something, well I’ll move my family down the next day! :) It would sure beat my current situation but a few miles! :/

        Take care RC and Matt, Enjoy the 4th of July and if you ever get around the Louisville KY. area I’ll be signing up for whatever you bring to town. As long as there will be pie and soda of course! :)

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    • Wow… Richard. Did you really just try to equate this blog post to the victims of 911 and drop a racist comment on RC at the same time while threatening the entire Kelby Group with violence the next time they come to NYC?

      Please tell me you are not that much of a complete and utter loser because that is sure what that just sounded like to me.

      I think you need to be blocked from this site immediately and crawl back under the rock from which you came. Shame on you!!!

      Whatever point you are trying to make has just been completely negated. You sir are nothing but a troll. Now go get a real life and let this thread die.

      BTW – Matt, I loved the picture. As a former New Yorker myself who has been to St. Pat’s many times, I’ve never seen it like this. Thank you.

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      • lol- I never implied violence- but since these guys seem to think they can do what ever they like- where ever they like……..I suspect the next time they are in town- people will be watching them to make sure they follow the rules like the rest of us do.

        Again- in case you dont get into town much- alot of the new rules around the big apple are about security. I too have been to St. Pats- a can remember walking around with my tripod- no questions asked! That all changed after 9-11.

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      • Thank you Richard for negating your own argument.
        Matt did not “shit all over 911 victims” just as you did not imply violence towards the Kelby guys in your post. I hope you understand by your own words and actions how easy it is to be taken the wrong way and painted in an unfair light.

        Your responses would have people thinking that Matt was swinging his tripod over his head and howling obscenities whilst drinking the holy water from St. Pat’s fonts if they had not read his original story. We all know that he waited patiently until there was no one around before attempting to get his shot.

        If anything, Matt’s story reminds me of certain tactics taken by another famed NYC photographer – Jay Maisel… of course, Jay doesn’t use a tripod but from what I’ve seen of that amazing KT class, Jay has done things to get the shot too. ;)

        All I’m saying is that this has gone way too far. Between people calling St. Pat’s and vomiting all over Matt’s blog, I feel the only thing you guys have done is ensure that Matt will never teach his readers how he gets his great shots ever again and after this, I wouldn’t blame him.

        I tried to find your walk on the WWPW page but I couldn’t find it. If you really are leading a walk, please do us all a favor and post the following on your walk page:

        “NO TRIPODS!”

        Now, let’s all try to get back to learning Lightroom, ok?
        :)

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    • I find your comments way more offensive and disrespectful than using a tripod in a church. And I think you owe every janitor an apology.

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      • What is someone going to do with a tripod? Hit one of these elderly photographers in the head with it? I just don’t see a terror connection there… And for anyone wanting to make racial comments toward RC, that is going overboard and you should be castrated immediately to avoid producing anymore white trash in this world. Thanks :)

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  66. Did you know that in some cities you can get thrown in jail for spitting in public? A wife can divorce her husband if he doesn’t provide her with enough coffee? It is against the law for a wife to walk beside or in front of her husband?

    These are a few of the absurd “laws” that still exist on the law books. If you research laws for your area I’m pretty sure you find some in there that are still “LAWS” but no one follows, can they be enforced today? Certainly. Will they be? Most likely not.

    Where would we be today if there weren’t “law breakers” and “rule benders”? We wouldn’t have a United States…

    The consequences are at the “discretion” of the guards and property owners.

    Common sense and awareness of the situation. Just be mindful of those around you, and respectful to your fellow humans.

    Just saying…

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  67. And they say a picture is worth a thousand words.. This must be a REALLY valuable picture!!
    :)

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  68. Hey Matt – I found the location of your next photo shoot —> http://www.hell2u.com/ :D

    Seriously though, I approve of respect. But if you are going to preach about it, then you had better back up your words with your own actions. Name calling and swearing are the highest forms of disrespect a person could ask for and 100% un-professional. In other words – “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.”

    Had this event not taken place in a church, this wouldn’t be an issue. Everyone would have found Matt’s sneaky method clever and we all would have had a good chuckle over it.

    Even with manipulation programs like Photoshop, photography is still one of the most reliable forms of historical documentation that we have at our availability today. The written word is subject to personal objective and reconstructed memories. Who’s to say that the gorgeous and artistic construction of that church or one like it, will no longer be standing in years to come? You have to admit that buildings like that one are few and far, as well as no longer being made. I am willing to bet that Matt isn’t the first person to attempt to bend or even brake the tripod rule in order to capture it. And now that he and others have done so, we will have a record of this Renascence greatness to pass on to generations to come.

    As for the air of Matt’s “attitude”, I understand how this might be rubbing people the wrong way. My father has worked for the Catholic faith all of his life. Before my parents met, my father was in the monastery studying to become a priest and my mother was in the convent studying to become a nun. Because of that, I’m sure you can imagine how I was raised and how I feel about this event. Do I think Matt could be a little more verbally respectful in this conversation? Perhaps I do. But, I also know that Matt is one of the most easy going and laid back people I have ever met. And it is because of *that* attitude that he is able to connect, educate, and inspire just about anyone that comes in contact with him. A very unique quality that many of us just don’t have. And that is something that I can really respect.

    Having said that, a quote comes to mind: “With great power comes great responsibility.” When you are being watched the way that Matt and the Kelby crew are, sometimes casual stories that you normally wouldn’t think twice about can sometimes turn into major events like this one. I’m willing to bet that Matt has learned something from all of this.

    But, I’m willing to bet, that he’s not the only one.

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    • Well said! Let’s all hope (all of us because if we didn’t appreciate Matt’s knowledge we wouldn’t be here reading this) that Matt hasn’t learned to censor himself in the future. We all would lose in that event. I don’t personally know him or anyone else here, so my comments could be categorized as self-serving. Okay, I’m hungry for more.

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      • No worries Steve. For better or worse, I’m not censored. If I had this whole situation to do over again I’d do the same thing and I’d write about it here the same exact way :)

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    • please don’t censor your material. I loved the story myself and found it very humorous with no reason to believe it was disrespectful or that you have any less of a value system than anyone else. I wouldn’t even bother with these people saying they have such high values. Remember everything looks pretty when it is typed on a computer screen. You have a ton of people watching your blog as well as the Kelby media monster that Scott has created. The few you might lose are not worth the respect you will gain from the rest of us.

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  69. Matt, I love the image; it’s a stunning rendition of a beautiful part of this building.
    I don’t have time to read the zillions of comments today and yesterday (doesn’t take many to get the gist of the few flamers), but the thought that I had while scanning a few today is that the mistake you made was asking “What would you have done?”.

    BTW, I would have done just what you did.

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  70. matt, please go on to another topic ,some of these comments are making me ill. To the dummy spouting off about photography rules in NYC, let me enlighten him.I do architectural photography of finished construction projects. In investigating a job in NYC I got a letter from the mayors office describing their photography rules. The main point relevant to this discussion is that a ttripod is considered “handheld equipment” and can be used all around NYC! I am based in DC and wish the laws were that liberal. To that bum who tattled to the church ………never met anyone like you before,stepped in something similiar i think. I cant even think about this anymore. Lets talk CS5 and Lightroom 3

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  71. Geez, you go away from a favourite website for a few weeks and suddenly you find all Hell’s broken loose when you come back! And if I thought the recent-ish posting on Scott’s blog re: HDR stimulated a intense debate re: HDR, Matt’s posting has taken this to a different level. Funny how HDR photo’s always seems to provoke strong responses from people ;-)

    So where do I start? Well I think folks should all count to ten and see if that might help to calm things. I think things have gotten a bit too personal here and whilst in person or face-to-face, some of the comments may come across differently where you can hear the light hearted tone or see the jest in someone’s face, the written word is always a hard one to master. LOLs and smiley’s don’t always communicate such subtleties well.

    So in this instance Matt broke or pushed the boundaries of the rule of that particular church in order to get a shot. I can see that a being a bit rude or disrespectful but let’s not judge the guy by this action alone, he did after all make a donation to the church too which I’m sure many other visitors to the church may not do, despite taking pictures of the building. And let’s put it into perspective – what was the impact of this. Well at the moment only a very emotional discussion – let’s hope the strong words used by some individuals, come to nothing more than that (and also that the church doesn’t get wind of all this and tighten security even further by banning photo’s period – I’m sure fingers of blame would come pointing back at Matt’s door if this were to happen)

    Personally I probably wouldn’t have tried that shot but that’s my choice based on my own code of ethics / respective / belief. Matt’s (obviously!) made his choice from his values. Let’s not throw stone’s at Matt without first thinking of what rules (not laws remember!) insignificant or otherwise that undoubtedly most of us may break or push the boundaries of periodically for our own reasons e.g. how many of use have taken candid photos whilst at music concerts with our mobile / cellular phones when we’ve been advised that photography at such events is barred? How many people have queued in a ’10 items or less’ checkout aisle with 12 items?

    This debate has gotten way to heated & personal by parties on both sides of the fence. Perhaps as Firgs has said Matt’s been a bit flippant in his remarks, perhaps his comments / actions have been perceived as disrepectful, perhaps this has hit trigger points for certain individuals and their anger is vented in strong words, which in turn has reciprocated even harsher tones. But given the location of Matt’s photo i.e. taken in a Christian church, doesn’t anyone else find this all a bit ironic? I mean all those who are incensed by Matt’s actions, can’t you see the religious parallels in casting stones at him? Maybe bearing in mind the rules of the Church, such stone throwers could also bear in mind the beliefs behind that Church and the ‘rules’ that are part of that faith. So put down those stones, stop the judgments and whilst you may not condone or excuse Matt’s behaviour, you could at least try to forgive him for his action(s) that incensed you.

    Anyway, now trying to bring this discussion back purely to the photography, Matt, I really like this HDR photo. I think it’s a good example of judicious use of the process – I presume you’ve done this through CS5 HDR, rather than Photomatix? If I have one criticism, it’s that I’d like to see it ‘finalised’ though using the new lens correction functionality on LR3 / CS5 – any chance of posting such a picture or should this image now be retired until the storm has died down? ;-)

    Best wishes,

    David

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  72. I want to thank you for doing what you did the image was by far the best I have ever seen of this church. As a wedding photographer I take photo’s in churches of all kinds every weekend. I have ran up against all kinds of policies most are to either preserve the sanctity of the ceremony or preserve paintings from harsh lights. I respect most of those policies most of the time yet I bend the rules to capture the shot. No one was hurt no paintings were ruined give Matt a break he did just as most of us would have done and if you don’t thinks so and stick to the rules all the time then you really can’t call yourself an artist. Because those of us who do are always taking risks that is how art is created

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  73. You know, this was a pretty interesting and intense discussion until religion, the words ‘prick’ and ‘shit’ and all the other incidents of name calling and impugning of somebody else’s talent entered the mix. Looks like the comments section of the Toronto Sun. Full of bad grammar, hyperbole and invective. Sad sad sad. Next tip please, Matt.

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  74. At the very least, Matt might have had the Dept. of Homeland Security, the ACLU, or even a Jihad waged against him if it had been a Mosque. Excuse me, I’ve had a couple of beers in advance of this American holiday weekend. MY America. Land of us free. It wasn’t a Mosque. It was a Catholic church. It is America. I’m a disabled vet in defense of my free America. Whether he wants it or not, I stand in defense of Matt’s decision to take a few photos of a church in the USA.

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  75. Hey all,

    Interesting debate here. Here’s my quick take for what it’s worth.

    A few things strike me:

    1) Religion is a hotbed issue. Understandably, many take a very passionate stance on this subject. I’m not suggesting this was a religious issue, but I wonder if the criticism would have been as loud if the location had not been a church?

    2) Tone is difficult to convey in e-mail. Believe me, I’ve learned this the hard way before. I think the comedian Arj Barker was onto something when he suggested there should be fonts like Sarcastica and Good Times Roman. From reading many of the comments is seems as though many felt in his writing Matt was flaunting a lack of respect for rules and authority. I don’t really think this to be the case, rather Matt thought it might be fun to share what he considered akin to a “James Bond moment” for the average joe.

    3) I can appreciate both sides of the argument here. But at the end of the day, we all develop our own code of ethics and disagreements are inevitable. And I don’t think anyone should be losing any sleep over this one.

    4) While some will debate the choice Matt made in this situation, it’s hard too argue the significant positive contributions he clearly makes to the field of photography through his work.

    Keep shooting Matt.

    Cheers,
    Greg

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  76. I see the word ‘risk’ being used again and again in this rather ugly debate. From thefreedictionary.com: Risk – The possibility of suffering harm or loss; danger. I would hardly think that pushing the patience of a security guard constitutes risk. Would you? If yes, get real. It is a photograph inside a church from an uncommon angle. Nothing more.

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  77. Firstly …. OMG!!

    Then … 2 more things.

    1) This is not about the rule, its about risk and reward. There was a risk he could get thrown out or have is equipment confiscated. His reward for taking the risk is clear for everyone to see.

    2) @ the other Richard – Not professional ?? Did you see the see the picture we are talking about?

    Matt, next time you are in Dubai, drop me a mail, I’ll bend some rules with you.

    Best Regards
    Richard

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  78. I really hate people like this that think they have to correct every little thing. Get a life

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  79. MATT MATT MATT!
    Go for it my friend! I once shot a couple on a university campus. Long story short, as I was shooting, my assistant notified me a security truck was coming. As I shot, it came closer and closer, still shooting, finally the truck stopped, still shooting, my assistant said he’s coming, still shooting, last shot (the one that they purchase) click and a tap on the shoulder from security. I left got the shot. You GO Matt!

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  80. Good grief, this has all gone way beyond stupid. Have all you people got nothing better to do?
    I skipped to the end pretty quick.
    So Matt took a photo! and wasn’t struck down by lighting.
    I would have done exactly the same – and gone through the red light

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  81. Brilliant! Not the image, the marketing. I got caught up in this controversial discussion like so many others. So I called the Vatican and when I mentioned Matt’s name they put me straight through to the Pope! Hi, Matt, he said. Oh no, I’m not Matt I replied, I’m calling about Matt and his use of a tripod in your church. Oh, Matt has a holy tripod permit that allows him to use it in all our properties. In fact, he continued, it’s a reciprocal permit, he can use it in mosques, temples and all religious buildings, except he has to pay a surcharge in synagogues. Oh, I said, then he is cool? Yep, very cool, tell him I said hi, he’s Polish ya know. We come from the same town.

    So then I went back to the blog and noticed Matt got 27 posts when he first put up the illegal photo, before anyone knew it was illegal. Or was it? Not much response for an image he is very proud of. On version 2 Matt admits it was Scott who posted it on his blog and prompted the full story. Scott is the brains of Kelby Group. He knew exactly how many hits this was gonna generate. All Matt had to do is change a few facts. It was probably the female guard that asked Matt if he wanted to go to dinner. After all he is pretty cute. But Matt had to think quick, he’s married, has kids, but didn’t want to offend the Pope’s staff. hehehe. So he made some excuses and continued to make a perfectly legal image. Permit, remember.

    So congrats to Scott and the Kelby group for attaining over 300 responses to an image that initially only got 27. More than ten times! Now that’s marketing.

    Only thing I want to know is how are you on first names with the Pope, Matt?

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  82. I will probably never visit St Patricks in my life time, so i really appreciated your photo in all its HDR quality to give me an impression of what it would be like to see it myself. Its awesome to appreciate the skill of the original architect and builders and the message they were trying to convey about the majesty of God. So from someone on the other side of the planet thanks so much for sharing the image.

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  83. Thank you Matt for sharing your story, and despite being a Christian I don’t think you did anything wrong here. You were respectful and attempting to do justice to a magnificent piece of American history. And you succeeded! I remember wanting to do the exact thing you did, but just didn’t have the courage or forthought to do so. Thanks again for not only sharing the image itself and how you did it, but the story behind it. For those who are outraged or taken aback by your actions…. get a life! LOL

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  84. I’ve been reading through this thread, at times fascinated and at times appalled at the level of discussion and the increasingly frequent personal attacks.

    This shouldn’t be about whether Matt is or is not a professional photographer; whether rules in a church are more or less valid or sacred than in a mosque or a museum; who knows the “rules of NYC photography” better than anyone else. This also should not be about implied or assumed offenses; every use of the word “janitor” does not imply racism (not discounting that it may, but then again I did speak with my rabbi, and we are going to waive the surchage for photographing in our synagogue for Matt so his certificate from the Pope is good here in Connecticut too!), and as a native New Yorker with several friends who lost family members in 911 and who had a family member scheduled for a meeting in the WTC that morning with a last minute cancellation and two other family members working across the street when the planes hit, I know that everything that happens in NYC that I don’t agree with is not therefore disrespectful to the memory of the 911 victims.

    I wasn’t going to join in this discussion, but I changed my mind, in order to pose a question.

    Before doing so, let me note:
    1) It’s a great photograph if you are a fan of HDR (I am, that’s just my opinion), and as a teaching point, well in keeping with the purpose of Matt’s blog. I would not, for example, necessarily have realized that the range of illumination called for 9 stops of bracketing, but I’ll be more alert for that in the future;

    2) Rules are, well, rules, and when you are a guest in someone else’s house (churck, etc) it is courteous to abide by those rules, even when you do not understand or agree with them;

    3) Yes, we are a country founded on individualism and protest, but we are also a country founded with rules (the Constitution, for instance) and with substantial penalties for those who violate them;

    4) There is a role for protest and social activism, but individual rule-breaking is NOT the same thing;

    5) Not all rule breaking is the same in terms of harm or consequences, and it is not at all easy to know whether moral equivalence (it doesn’t matter what the harm or consequence was, the important thing is that “you broke a rule”) or “let the punishment fit the crime” is the better view to take;

    6) There isn’t a person among us who has not consciously and intentionally broken a rule of some sort, and that for most of us that likely includes the “no tripod” or “no picture taking” or “don’t call in sick to work when you aren’t really sick” or “don’t run the red light even if your wife is in the passenger seat about to give birth and you have to get her to the hospital” rules. [I can tell you from personal experience that the "Officer, I was speeding because I needed to get to the hospital because there is an emergency and I'm a doctor" broken rule still gets you a ticket, but there are times when I still break that one.]

    So, given all that, I pose this question to Matt, RC , any anyone else who can contribute. I pose this question, because I have discussions with my kids all the time about the difference between social activism, moral objection (eg conscientous objectors in the VietNam war), and plan old rule-breaking, and because I know both Matt and RC have kids, and these issues do come up:

    How do you determine which rules can/should be broken, and when? As photographers, and as people, how do we balance our desire to “get the shot” (and if we are photojournalists, the _need_ to get the shot) with the rules and morals that circumstances provide?

    It is not a flip or silly question, or at least, I don’t intend it to be. Since this threat has gotten way off the track of discussing HDR imagery, I would instead hope to generate honest discussion about how we, as photographers, can and should behave – without attacking someone who acts or believes differently from you!

    I close with the following: some time ago, I recall reading a discussion about the photographer who made the iconic image of a little girl in Viet Nam who had been severely injured by napalm. You all know the picture; I’m sorry to say I cannot recall the photographer. In any case, the question being discussed was whether, as a photojournalist, his decision to photograph but NOT to intervene to help this unfortunate and severely injured child had been the “right” decision from a photojournalistic, moral, humanistic, etc, standpoint. He (obviously) made the decision to be a photojournalist – observing, but not interfering. What would you have done? Not so easy to know, it is?

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    • The photographer was Nick Út, and after he snapped the shot- he did indeed help the little girl- when she reached him, as well as several other burned children.

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      • Thanks for the info, and the coda to my post. I did not know that part.

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    • Thanks Neil for an interesting and balanced comment. I have waited for your kind of quite reasonable and relevant questions for a while.
      This discussion is obviously important to a lot of us and isn?t really about Matt. We all return to this site and greatly appreciate his work.

      My short answer:
      1. My freedom ends where your begins.
      2. If I want to push the limit, i.e. intrude into your domain, I need your permission.
      3. To knowingly cross your line without permission is disrespectful at best.
      4. If I can?t explain my behavior to my children, I should refrain.

      Crossing lines can indeed make great photographs, but often at other peoples expense.

      The trick seems to be reflection, communication and respect.

      Greetings from Sweden to all commentators.

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  85. No human can “absolve” you of any sin. Are you serious?

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  86. Hey Matt

    I actually did a similar thing in Grand Central station in NYC too. I was there with tripod and set up near the stairs for an overall shot. A security guard came and asked if I had a media pass or permission papers – of course I said I had no idea what that was. I said I didn’t realize the rules and asked him where to go to get that. He pointed me towards the offices and gave me directions. I folded up my tripod and moved in that direction and thanked him.

    20 minutes later I was right back in the same spot, checked for the guy. Took a few shots real quick and left before he saw me. Any harm done? I think not. This was before HDR days so I just need some longer exposures cause I wanted the people moving around a bit.

    Also there is a church in Montreal Canada – famous one called Notre Dame. I photographed it in May and they have no rules about tripods anywhere. You just have to wait patiently while the throngs of tourists move in and out of view.

    Here are some of my shots – the ones with people are single shots, the HDR are 5-6 shots I think.

    http://herviewphotography.zenfolio.com/notre-dame

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  87. Broadway shows have a strict prohibition against photography because it violates copyright, distracts the performers, and intrudes on the enjoyment of the show by others. I have seen theater personnel vigorously enforce this rule. When they do, I am pleased because I don’t feel like a fool for respecting it.

    I was recently at an art museum where they have restrictions on photography including the use of tripods. I was in a special exhibit where the rules prohibit any photography but my 10 year old daughter saw other people taking photographs. She wanted me to take a photograph in the exhibit. I told her that the rules prohibit photography and other people were disrespecting the rules. I like to think in doing so that I am teaching important values.

    Since you have indicated, Matt, that you would do the same thing all over again – would you do it if your children were with you? Probably not. So, if I was at St. Patrick’s that day and my daughter said – ‘Dad, why don’t you use your tripod like that guy over there?” What do I tell her? That you must have special permission to use it? Or that you are disrepecting the rule?

    Hardly a day does not go by that I don’t see someone disregard a rule or law because it is in their self-interest to do so. Sadly, the greater good is not served.

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  88. You would think people have some kind of discretion, and see that no body was being harmed no damage was being done and all you want is to capture a sample of the light being reflected by a building. I was down at the cherry blossoms in DC this year, along the tidal basin, with a unguarded 3ft drop into the water, people running walking, pushing strollers, and yes hundreds of photographers using tripods, not one problem that I was aware of. No body tripped! We are not at school, we don’t need to be shepherded, told what not to do all the time. If you want to use a loop hole the try this, use a wheel chair with some kind of camera support and good brakes, I know not very PC, but honestly is it going to hurt anybody?
    And anyway all churches are nothing more than a pretty building, no matter what the people who choose to use them think. They need to get over themselves and come out into the modern world, I get worn out with all this respect, churches and the religious demand. They need to evolve.

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  89. The man sneaked a picture of a building. That’s about the lowest level venial sin I can think of.

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  90. Oh my….

    Matt If it was a “House Of God” I think your safe. From what I hear he/she is a pretty forgiving soul.

    I think he/she may even forgive all of those tossing judgement your way…

    Now from my Buddhist perspective…your image will probably help a lot more suffering than it caused. ;)

    Your kharma is gonna be just fine.

    The below quote works if you change the words “splinter” & “wooden beam” to “Tripod”.

    Jesus said to his disciples: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother´s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ´Let me remove that splinter from your eye,´ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother´s eye.?

    For “God” sakes people…

    Bravo to you for your candor and honesty. Oh by the way – I think that picture is amazing. Have you ever thought of going pro?

    J-

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  91. MATT:

    You took a great photo – or series of photos… Yes, you violated the rules and for that you should think twice. But I am a firm believer in the fact that if you show respect and admiration in the Catholic Church you should do what you needed to do within reason. I think you acted resonably and the rules were a bit unreasonable in that instance. Keep the posts coming…. nice work.

    KPT.

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  92. To me, Matt is a very good and prepared instructor as far as technique and software knowledge are concerned. If he could have the integrity that real leaders have to have and frequently is missed nowadays, he could really make the difference.
    The “Hey I took a great pic, I broke a rule, cheated with the security guard and I’m proud to showing it off” story is childish and lacks the maturity a man, father and leader should have.
    Having said so, I hope this experience will teach Matt something for the next time.
    And it’s not about rules, tripods and churches.
    It’s a matter of sense of maturity, integrity, reputation and being a good leader, who infuses inspiration and vision in his followers, and who takes every effort in order to not being caught in the judgment, the accusation and the condemnation.
    Having said so, I wish Matt blessing and prosperity in everything he does, and may know that God won’t judge and condemn him.
    Men will.
    Take care.

    JC

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  93. Awesome shot Matt, I am going leaving for Europe this Saturday and I’m probably going to break some rules myself. Don’t worry, it isn’t your fault… I just have a problem with stupid rules. I’m a big fan of D-Town but it’s my first time on this blog and I have to say, I like the content. Keep up the great job and thanks so much for sharing all the awesome tips, and stories. Illegal or not. lol ;)

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  94. Great story Matt! I’m amazed at how many people fell for it! It did generate a lot of enlightening debate about photographic ethics – as you would have expected. I almost fell for it myself but after reading both posts, I realized it was a very clever ruse. There are plenty of clues if you read it all carefully (including your replies) – so much of the story is implausible but many people reacted at a gut level.

    Add to that my sense that you are a photographer of the highest professional standards of conduct and ethics with the resources and skill to get the photo without breaking the rule. Maybe that Monsignor uncle did the trick….. :)

    Sorry to blow your cover but I expected that you would post the real story today. I wonder how many people will be angry at you for making it all up :) To all of you, remember, Matt asked “What would you do?”. We had a great debate and an opportunity to look inside ourselves!

    Thanks again Matt for a very enlightening and entertaining post!

    Oh… and the photo is awesome!

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    • Yep, you figured me out.
      Seriously, there’s no way I could have made this up. I guess it would have made a good experiment but I’ve never personally found lying to be a good way to build/keep an audience. If I lied about this and then said “Just kidding” the next day, anytime I posted something readers would continually wonder if I was telling the truth or not.

      And yes, my uncle is really a Monsignor. He just had his 50th anniversary 2 years ago.

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      • Thanks Matt. All tongue-in-cheek, of course. You could only get away with that trick on April Fool’s Day :)
        I understand your perspective on this issue. We’re all passionate about this art – no harm, no foul in this case. I’m more timid in these circumstances and defer to the rules-. That does not make me a better person than you. We learn from you in this blog, your books, and your videos. You take that responsibility seriously enough to sometimes bend the rules and we benefit from that experience.

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  95. Wow Matt, I almost missed the party! Nice photograph. Very professional. Thanks for sharing.

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  96. Hi,

    I enjoy Matt’s blog. I’ve never happened into the comment section, but was enticed by the teasers in the postings.

    Reading the comments has been fun.

    Good grief folks – this is an institution that has been convicted, in dozens of countries worldwide, of the systematic protection and harboring of child rapists.

    Make sure the enormity of this sinks in before you are ready to dole out that ‘respect’.

    The guard was a person doing their job. (S)he deserves courtesy.

    The only way one could think that the church or the institution it represents deserves respect is if one hadn’t thought about it.

    Matt was respectful and smart. Thumbs up.

    That being said, there is still something about the hdr-ness of the photo that I don’t quite like. Can’t put my finger on it yet.

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  97. There are laws and there are regulations. Most of what passes for law are actually regulations that have been implemented by a government department run and staffed by unelected officials. We citizens need to be responsible for ourselves and to some extent for others, but also can take into account the above when confronted by a regulation that isn’t sensible in specific circumstances.

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  98. so let me get this straight, just because a security guard says you can’t that makes it law? So the next time you are standing on a public sidewalk and some rent a cop tell you not to take a photo of a building what do you do? Maybe he was wrong and over zealous. Maybe matt should be given the benefit of the doubt. Maybe most of you should just shit up and let go of the holier than thou attitude. Let those without sin cast the first stone

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  99. hey Rob did your parents tell you not to drink or smoke or go to bars and chase women? Did you listen to them each time

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  100. I was a combat photographer during the last days of Nam and the evacuation of Saigon. I have forgotten how many MP’s told me I couldn’t take a shot. I usually found a way to and most were used by Stars and stripes

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  101. That has to be the most gorgeous HDR I have ever seen – you did nothing wrong and I respect you for your effort. It truly takes a phtotgrapher of your caliber to create a picutre as beautiful as this one.

    The church building as is everything else on this earth belongs to God – I do not believe he would of cared that you appreciated this church enough to want to make it look as fantastic as you did.

    Thanks again for sharing with us!!!

    -John

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  102. so let me get this straight, just because a security guard says you can’t that makes it law? So the next time you are standing on a public sidewalk and some rent a cop tell you not to take a photo of a building what do you do? Maybe he was wrong and over zealous. Maybe matt should be given the benefit of the doubt. Maybe most of you should just shit up and let go of the holier than thou attitude. Let those without sin cast the first stone

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  103. Great picture Matt! I think some people have to lighten up and not take things so legalistically. That shot is stunning. Kudos to you for getting it!

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  104. Gorgeous image and I love the social engineering! 20 years ago my brother and I were visiting the Vatican museums where photographs were allowed but no flash or tripod. I really wanted a shot of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel but it was way to dark for the film I had with me (and the graininess of higher ASA/ISO films would have been objectionable) so I hit upon my own plan B:

    I set the desired long exposure and laid the camera on the ground with the lens pointed straight up. As I tripped the shutter with the self timer on, my brother and I began gazing at the ceiling while absentmindedly bumping into anyone who would likely encroach on the frame.

    It worked quite nicely, now if I could just remember where I put that slide… :)

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  105. Sorry I got here so late, but all I can say after being a photographer for 32 years is, it’s better to ask forgivness than ask permission!

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  106. Matt, I think your comment up top — “I’m not going to change my mind” — reflects your indifference to other people’s rules and their opinions. I’m of the rules-are-made-to-be-broken school of thought. But I also subscribe to the respect-the-other-guy rule too; this is sometimes referred to as the have-a-nice-day rule. I had a similar experience (without a tripod)…

    To pass the time while my girlfriend did some grocery shopping, I took my camera into the store to see what I could shoot. Started with the flower display and then moved on to fruits and vegetables. Before moving on to canned goods, the store manager showed up and asked what I was doing (tempting me to make a wise-alec comment). I told him the situation, including the part about just passing time. He said photographing wasn’t allowed in the store and I said, “Oh, why is that?” He hesitated and then mumbled something about “the competition”. At that point I let it drop and put the lens cap back on, even though I wasn’t buying the competition angle. Here’s why…

    He was just an average Joe trying to do is job, and, more to the point, trying to keep his job. He didn’t make the rule, he was just doing what his boss asked him to do. And if I had to guess, I’d say he too thought it was a silly rule. But my photo wasn’t any more important than him and his job, so I let it go. And I saw no point to trying to outwit him, something I could have easily done.

    It happened again the same day, when we went shopping at the Amish market. Saw a great shot of one of the women working there. I asked if I could take her photo, and she said no. The shot would have been of the back of her head, as she was working to prepare food. I could have taken the shot without her knowing it, but I didn’t. Because her wishes were just as important as mine, and since there was a conflict, I gave the nod to her wishes.

    Here’s the deal… Whenever we put our wishes ahead of someone else’s, we’re inviting conflict. And it has a way of adding up. I think there’s enough conflict around already, without me adding to it.

    So that’s my rule. But it has exceptions too. What if I were witnessing some police brutality, for example, and was told by a cop to stop photographing? I’d go for the shot(s). And then run for cover.

    In any event, I know you’re not changing your mind. But I do hope there’s a chance you’ll remember this story, and the others like it, because I also hope one day you’ll learn to see these episodes in a different light. Have a nice day.

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