Lightroom Tips

The Story of the Illegal HDR Photo

I was recently in New York and made a trip to St. Patricks Cathedral with the specific intention of taking an HDR photo (click the photo on the left for a larger version). I got my photo but I also got a pretty funny story along the way so I thought I’d share.

First, the details. This was a 9 shot bracketed series taken on a D700 with the Nikon 14-24mm lens. The aperture was set to f/11 and the shutter speeds varied throughout the series. I processed it from Lightroom using Photoshop’s Merge to HDR Pro, then some minor retouching to remove distractions and then back to LR for some post-processing. On to the story…

I walked in to the church with my tripod and camera in hand. As you know, anyone with a tripod is automatically treated like a criminal so I was prepared ahead of time. The security person at the front informed me that I could take photos but not use the tripod in the main isle for safety reasons. Knowing the shot I wanted was in the middle I went for plan B (even though I didn’t have a plan B yet). I walked around the church for about 15 minutes trying to work a different angle but I just wasn’t happy with anything. So I decided to throw a Hail Mary.

I saw my opening. The people had cleared the center isle for a few minutes. Off to the side, I set the camera to a 9-frame bracketed series, turned on continuous shooting mode and tested the height of the legs for the shot I wanted. Then I quickly and covertly walked into the center and put the camera/tripod down. Nobody was in site so I just kinda fake-leaned gently on the camera and held my finger on the shutter. Almost making it look like I wasn’t really shooting (yes, I’m sneaky like that). Since I had my camera set to continuous mode it would continue the auto bracketed series as long as the shutter was pressed.

“Click” – went the first shot. “Click” – 2nd shot. “Click” – third. YES!!! I thought I was in the clear. But as I got to the 5th and 6th frames the shutter speeds started creeping into the 8-10 second range. “Uh oh!” I thought.

Now, anyone who shoots HDR knows that these are the most crucial frames because they give details in the dark areas. Well during the 10 second exposure a security guard walked up and told me I had to move. I asked if I could just have 1 more minute and she said no. Then I asked if I could come back later (“Click!” – only 3 more frames to go) in the day when no one was there. She said no. I proceeded to ask if I could come back early in the morning, maybe before they opened. Oh and by the way “What time do you open?” I asked. She said they opened at 8am but that I had to move now (“Click” – 2 more shots to go).

At this point I still had a 20 and 30 second exposure to go so I had to start talking really slow. I was really getting desperate so I asked if she was married and would like to go on a date. She said no 😉 (just kidding on this one). I did ask if there was a place I could go to for media credentials. I was being as verbose as possible though. When she said they had a media contact I asked for the name, number and email address (“Click” – 1 more to go – the long one though). My keen ability to read people (or maybe the irate tone to her voice) told me she was getting frustrated by this point. Knowing I only needed about 25 more seconds, in desperation I asked if she could explain why you weren’t allowed to have a tripod where I was standing. I’d hoped she would give a long answer but to my dismay I received a simple “Because we said so”. I said OK and took my finger off the shutter (the shutter was already open and it was the last shot). I bent down to pick up my bag (making sure I didn’t touch the tripod). I zipped it closed, opened and closed a pouch on the bag a few times. Right at this point another guard approached and said “Sir, we really need you to move out of here now”. Click!. I said “Sure thing!” and being the ever-so-obedient photographer I am, picked up my tripod and walked away.

The Moral of the Story
Ya know, I don’t know what the moral of the story is. I guess I kind of felt like I beat the tripod police for once. I totally understand the need to keep the walkways clear for safety reasons but there wasn’t anyone there for me to pose a safety concern to at this point. So I’m OK with my choice. All in all, I got the shot I came for, didn’t get arrested and didn’t hurt anyone along the way.

What would you have done? Thanks!



  1. walter ludwig 9 September, 2019 at 03:26 Reply

    I think this story has some unnecessary rules for photographers. Maybe sometimes we should not follow the rules. Because this rule is really shit. Valuable and beautiful things should be photographed.

  2. ed 20 September, 2011 at 15:11 Reply

    if all photographers followed the rules there wouldn’t be any great images. greta image. more importanlty how in the world do you get your HDR lookign like that out of Photoshop HDR. Ive tried and tried but my stuff looks like hell coming out of that CS5 HDR . So Kudos to you.

  3. Troy 17 August, 2011 at 09:02 Reply

    I’m amazed only one person left this comment, buried in a rant…

    But seriously, why didn’t you just use a high ISO?!

    I do kinda agree with the rant though. Enough people pull a move like that, and “professional looking” cameras won’t even be allowed in.

    ps – Well… I still have to admit… it’s an incredible shot.

  4. Annette Marcucilli 30 July, 2011 at 11:22 Reply

    Re: Notre Dame photo. THANK YOU for this image! I’ve taught AP Art History for 15 years, and the most challenging concepts involve Gothic architecture — spatial relationships related to aisles, transepts, vaulting techniques, and clerestory windows. I have only been able to find photos that show these elements from a variety of views within one cathedral. To find one with the entire panorama from a single point is a gift.

    Is an individual permitted to stand stationary in the same spot as long as he does NOT have a tripod? Or is that considered a safety issue and they must move along after a certain time period? What’s the time limit? If there is none, why not?

    Or is it only tripods?

    How about wobbly old people who won’t budge? My father-in-law, at 93 years of age, uses a 20-year-old walker. He won’t use the new ones we buy him, with built-in seats, etc. (YOU try convincing him.) So, when he stands still for more than a few moments, he becomes a little wobbly. Would HE be required to move?

    If not, could he mount a camera on that walker and take photos? What if the walker had three legs? (which, frankly, might be a cool idea.)

    At any rate, THANK YOU for providing me with a spectacular way to finally teach my students a very difficult concept.

    LOVED your story. Standing in a cathedral watching tourists all day must be about as tedious as it gets. Yuck.

  5. Apple 2 April, 2011 at 04:18 Reply

    What a great pic. Kudos, Matt! I love the Notre Dame HDR photo as well.

    As for the no-tripod rule, I think it’s stupid. They should amend the rule and say no tripods if there are large crowds and you are in the way of the flow of traffic. That’s the only thing that makes sense.

    I can understand the “no flash” rules when it could affect works of art. But, they allow photography when they have weddings and other events inside of cathedrals…even flash photography…because they’re making money off of them.

    When churches start paying taxes like the rest of us maybe we’ll be able to overlook their pettiness. In the meantime, they should use more common sense when they print up their signs.

  6. Bluebird 1 April, 2011 at 23:17 Reply

    I think rules like these are good to have in place. It sifts out the lazy and stupid and leaves the determined and smart photographers to get it done however they can. Because you know if the rule wasn’t in place every hobbyist would block the isle taking a picture they’ll never show anyone. Good for you. I would only suggest you get more creative.
    You could disguise the tripod/camera somehow-have someone wear a long skirt and a hole for the lens.

  7. W Leung 26 March, 2011 at 16:48 Reply

    That’s a funny story. I did that in grand central once and camped out with a tripod for 30 minutes without anyone bothering me. Sometimes you get lucky. I’m wondering what if you really need to bracket that many shots for St. Patricks since there’s a decent amount of light available. I took this shot there handheld and just used a bit of Topaz Adjust.

  8. Harry Limey 23 March, 2011 at 13:59 Reply

    Problem is Matt, that particular lady is going to be that little bit less amenable with the next photographer she meets and if they all take such liberties it won’t be long before the “No Photographs” sign appears!!

  9. SteelToad 23 March, 2011 at 07:43 Reply

    What you did was against the rules, but not against the law. The most you were legally guilty of is trespassing. When it gets to the point that a church wants to charge somebody with trespassing, then we’ve got serious problems .
    Thank you for your picture, now I can show my wife what HDR is supposed to look like instead of the comic book hdr that’s all too commonplace. Excellent shot(s) !!

  10. Patrick 26 November, 2010 at 04:21 Reply

    How did you set up your shot in the first place? you didn’t mention whether you stooped down to look thru the viewfinder? or did you just use a wide angle and cropped and levelled the shot in post?
    i enjoyed your story tho… not something i have courage to do myself. i’m bad at breaking rules so i tend to just follow.

  11. Patrick 19 October, 2010 at 09:11 Reply

    i would have used a 2 second timer and put on mirror lockup so i wouldnt have to touch the camera and it essentially wouldnt make any noise during the whole process

  12. William from NYC 29 July, 2010 at 11:37 Reply

    You got the shot I could not take. I live in New York City but ask not to use a tripod, not to shoot something is ok with me.

    It is like this to me; someone says no tripod, it low light so I know I cannot get a shot in. I have three options. Respect the rule. Use a tripod. Use flash. I will go with the first.

    You use a tripod to get your shot. But I see no difference from what you did to the people I see in the Metropolitan Museum of Art or MOMA taking photographs in the no photographs area of the museum. I feel it is like saying ‘f’ the rules, I want to do what I want do.


  13. A Canuck 16 July, 2010 at 11:32 Reply

    There are rules and then there is common sense. Unfortunately, many people these days seem to focus on enforcing the rules, rather than interpreting the spirit of them with a good dose of common sense. IMHO, it would be sad if you hadn’t been able to make that great HDR image. I agree with your uncle.

  14. Misty 16 July, 2010 at 01:52 Reply

    Beautiful work. I have been to St. Patricks and it is more of a tourist madhouse than a place of worship–with that in mind, I would have done the same.

  15. Alis 15 July, 2010 at 15:24 Reply

    OMG — that picture is so beautiful. When St. Patrick’s gets the print, they’ll forgive you your transgression. Thanks for sharing the picture and the story.

  16. John Berry 14 July, 2010 at 22:38 Reply

    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 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.

    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? I know, I know, as one person said above: “dude, get over yourself. no one hurt, no damage done, no big deal. now get back in your box.” Sad. Very sad.

  17. Arno 14 July, 2010 at 15:57 Reply

    this story resonates so much with my past experience in the castle of Blois, France. The difference is that multiple security guards rushed in the room running at me from multiple sides. I thought they would tackle me but finally stopped and tried to impress me with mean faces and talk about my terrible use of a tripod. The fact that it was the off season and that my wife and I were the only visitors in the entire castle was lost on them.. anyway I’m not the photographer you are and just left it there :0)

  18. Aaron Babcock 13 July, 2010 at 15:01 Reply

    One major change for me:

    I would do have done just one thing different. When I’m shooting an HDR sequence, I’ll put the camera on the 2-second timer mode. The camera will fire off every shot with just one press of the shutter. Hands free to visit, pack the back and not vibration on the camera.

    No problem with anything else. 🙂

  19. Mark Ensign 9 July, 2010 at 22:52 Reply

    Thats cool as hell dude!! You got your shot and its killer!! Not sure if i would have been clever enough to keep her talking long enough to get that last frame. Pretty cool.

  20. Richard Greenwood 9 July, 2010 at 15:20 Reply

    I had a similar thing happen at the Library of Congress. I was as out of the way as you can get and still be in the building when a cop rudely tried to grab my tripod. I told him that I had been told it would be okay when I entered, but he wasn’t about to let me take a single exposure. What I did in that case–and what I would have advised you to do–was write to the PR office for the Library, explain who I was and what I wanted, and secured a one day, specific time pass for a tripod. I always call ahead or, if it’s a spontaneous discovery, seek out someone who can really make a decision and get permission. Failing that, I’ve found that I can almost always find a sturdy spot to rest my camera, even for a looooooonnnnnggggg exposure.

  21. Ashutosh Khandha 8 July, 2010 at 15:21 Reply

    Firstly, beautiful shot, and well worth all the trouble.

    As to what I would have done, I would have tried to pull off the same thing you did, but may not have succeeded…….am still working on being a smooth talker 🙂

    keep clicking.



  22. Ron 6 July, 2010 at 18:54 Reply

    Matt exercised poor judgement first in taking the photo in violation of the rule (particulalry after being told the rule) and then by boasting about it on his blog.

    The rule exists to prevent a steady line of tripod-carrying photogrraphers from doing just as he did. The church probably carries liability insurance that forbids tripods. The reason he got the photo was because everyone else seems to be capable of respecting the rule that he violated for his own self-interest.

    Would it be rude if the security guard walked in front of his camera while he was in the last couple of frames? Or is that a violation of an unwritten rule that Matt would insist be followed. My guess is the story would have read “The tripod police ruined my photo”!

    I expect Matt as a professional photographer and NAPP member to set a high standard of professional conduct rather than a take a photo that he can later exploit as demonstration of his HDR skills.

    Matt – you would have been far better off to have taken the photo and kept it to yourself – assumiing that you took it for you rather than to exploit if for commerical gain as an example of your HDR skill.

  23. Rickey 6 July, 2010 at 11:40 Reply

    Are all you holier than thou nay sayers telling me you have never done anything illegal? Come on Man, you have never sped, jay walked, littered or any of the other multitude of things that are illegal. Let those without sin cast the first stone. Bravo Matt

  24. Juan Carlos Montero 6 July, 2010 at 06:51 Reply

    Maybe Matt didn’t ruin anything for other photographers, but I don’t buy the fact he’s proud to have broken the rules to take a photograph.
    Rules are made to be broken?
    People seem to be quite confused on this matter.
    The 9/11 attackers broke the rules.
    Are you happy with that?
    Rules are made to be followed.
    Take care.


  25. Brent 6 July, 2010 at 00:01 Reply

    Its just a building, folks. Read the Bible — God says that he doesn’t dwell in building made by men. It also goes on to say that the PEOPLE are the church, not the bricks and mortar. Take your pics. They’ll get over it.

  26. Marianne Bush 4 July, 2010 at 20:26 Reply

    Those tripod rules are mostly based on the fact that the venues are afraid of getting sued for people falling over them. You did nothing wrong and the guards were doing their job as well. Big deal, who cares. I have been assaulted by regular visitors for taking photos (no flash, mind you) in some places as well where it wasn’t about the tripod but about the fact that I was actually taking a photo. In the end, it’s all about money which makes the whole thing kind of sad. Anyway, Matt, great shot and congrats on beating the system.

  27. Michael Kocher 4 July, 2010 at 15:28 Reply

    My experience has been that the tripods rules are more about money and access. The thinking is tripod = pro photographer = selling photos for thousands of dollars. Media passes / permits are a way taxing that access with fees ranging from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars.

  28. Andrew 4 July, 2010 at 14:55 Reply

    Great story. Glad you got the shot.

    To all the HDR haters out there, HDR is an artist taking some license. Back in the film days, we used to do the same stuff using certain films, papers, and techniques, such as solarization or spot-toning. It really isn’t all that different on a conceptual level.

  29. David Aspinall 4 July, 2010 at 06:29 Reply

    The question I ask is was it worth it, like a lot of HDR shots it does not look right or natural. It is the darks and lights that make an image either to the eye or to a camera. Subtle HDR can enhance an image but I personally think this is too much.
    Look at the work of Fredrick H Evans, in particular the sea of steps, Wells Cathedral circa 1903. There is an exhibition of his work at The National Media Museum in the UK having just left LA.
    I know, use and appreciate the benefits of HDR but like all things in moderation.


  30. Clive Tonge 3 July, 2010 at 12:08 Reply

    HI Matt,
    I am not impressed that you used your tripod.
    I am very impressed that you have allowed all of this discussion for and against.

    From the angle and your description why not put the camera on top of your camera bag. This may be one of the times when a bean bag would have really helped too.
    There have to be some other creative solutions. Anyone with other ideas?
    Take care,

  31. Richard Bracegirdle 2 July, 2010 at 19:55 Reply

    Hi Matt,
    It’s a great photo, a great story to go with it – and I would have done EXACTLY the same as you did. In my book – get the shot – take the flak afterwards. There are some real pitiful (and weird) comments on here and some folk REALLY ought to get themselves a life. The whole thing has been blown totally out of proportion by some on here who have very blinkered views and obviously have nothing better to do. I’ll bet some of the reactions above have made you shake your head in disbelief. They did to me !!
    Best Wishes,
    Richard (UK)

  32. levonne 2 July, 2010 at 14:01 Reply

    Spectacular photograph!!! Good for you for getting the shot! Come visit when you have a few minutes: Levonne’s Pretty Pics and A Camp Host Housewife’s Meanderings.

  33. Bob 2 July, 2010 at 02:43 Reply


    I’m a former Catholic seminary student and an ex cop. Both of these experiences have had a large and lasting influence on my perspective toward most things.

    It occurs to me that Jesus broke more than a few rules during His short life on Earth. Had He not done so, I wonder if St. Pat’s or any other Christian institution would exist today. And while He did admonish us to “Render unto Caesar…”, I have to believe that He is not offended that your photo has brought many folks, at least vicariously, into His house for a visit; and that your minor rebellion has generated a spirited discussion concerning ethics, morality, respect for the beliefs of others, freedom and respect for authority (sounds almost like a seminary discussion about the Ten Commandments.) 😉

    Thanks for choosing a career that allows you to share your talents and knowledge with the rest of us.

    Finally, to some of my fellow “commenters,” (you know who you are) 🙂 “Judge not, lest you be judged” and go easy on the coffee.

    Kindest regards,

  34. tony Fluerty 1 July, 2010 at 22:10 Reply

    hahaha you cunning devil…..
    dont take it to heart from the over religous folks too much, God loves people not buildings and he doesnt live in one either.
    Ive been kicked out of a certain famous church in the South Island of New Zealand so many times they gave up and now allow tripods and dick head photograhers if the church is empty and ya aint in no ones way.Keep up the great work.
    PS Im a comited Christian either that or a Christian that needs commiting.

  35. al 1 July, 2010 at 17:03 Reply

    Good going Matt! Reminds me of the time I snuck some shots inside a casino…after i was done I had the great pleasure of walking up to a security gaurd and asking if photography was permitted. ” oh no ” he said and proceeded to tell me such action could result in camera confiscation. I thanked him and told him i was very glad i asked first.

  36. Ryan 1 July, 2010 at 15:47 Reply

    Haha! That was a great and very funny story!
    Since you asked, I’m a bit of a wuss myself and would have just chalked that one up as a loss and moved on. Your plan was brilliant and well executed.
    The shot is nice as well. Thanks for the post.

  37. Kurt Obermeier 1 July, 2010 at 15:12 Reply

    I’m kinda torn between the two sides on this one.
    In Prague, I paid $25.00 to get a sticker permitting me to take photographs in certain buildings. Guards were hassling others with cameras who didn’t have the stickers. It clearly was just a way to make money, but then someone does have to maintain these buildings so I paid.
    Churches are private property, not public buildings. Their property – their rules. I’d be more on Matt’s side if it were a taxpayer funded or maintained building.
    On the other hand, no one was hurt or inconvenienced by Matt’s actions so I guess I’ll forgive him – this time.
    Nice picture BTW.

  38. melissa 1 July, 2010 at 14:19 Reply

    beautiful shot, glad you got it. It takes a different approach to get a different shot sometimes. good job and doing both, getting the shot(s) and making the security detail feel like they made you follow their rules. You realize if something were ever to happen to the structure they will be clammering for your photo. That is something that gets overlooked, photos are a way to freeze a place in time for those later on for one reason or another never get to see it. Sort of a deep thought but in simpler terms, how many times have people intended to get a photo of the home they grew up in and suddenly it is gone and they never got the photo to show their children…

  39. John 1 July, 2010 at 13:03 Reply

    Wow, sweet. I’m gonna download a copy of this photo and make some prints for myself.
    After all, rules are made to be broken, right?

    • Michael Petersheim 1 July, 2010 at 13:23 Reply

      That’s a good point, but scary. Now that you mention it, much of the logic espoused in this thread in favor of Matt’s actions sounds disturbingly familiar… from folks defending pirated music/movie sharing, and if it’s used to defend theft of audio and audio-visual intellectual property you can bet it’s being used to defend theft of visual intellectual property… our photos. 🙁 Since photography doesn’t have a central body like the RIAA or MPAA the theft of photos goes largely unheralded, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

  40. Stacey 1 July, 2010 at 12:45 Reply

    Wow!! I usually just read the feed and only click in if there is a video I want to watch. However, after the follow up post, I had to come and read some of these comments. I’m really surprised at the reactions people are having.

    To answer your question… what would I do? Well, I would hope I could be as creative as you to get the shot I want. Have I broken institutional rules before?? Absolutely! I do birth photography. When I got my Mark II with video, I was so excited. I can now include video of the baby being born so mama can relive that first cry as many times as she wants. No one knows it’s video. Just looks like a camera to them. Do the ends justify the means? YES!! This rule, that deprives parents of this special memory on video is stupid. It’s simply for lawsuit protection. Not fair to parents at all.

    I enjoyed your story, Matt. It was well written and well told. After reading your follow up today, I’m glad you are just letting it roll off. I expect they will be quite happy to display a print that you send them. And I think it’s a great gesture.

  41. Sunny 1 July, 2010 at 12:39 Reply

    Tee Hee. I loved your story and the fact that you got your shots! Sometimes you’ve just got to bend/break the rules.

  42. andy 1 July, 2010 at 12:28 Reply

    Blindly following every single rule without a good explanation or at least questioning has more of an impact than breaking the rule.

    What photographer hasn’t bent or broke a rule or two to get the shot? If no one is hurt, who cares? It’s the sheep that think that every rule set forth is valid that do the real damage. I’m not saying that it’s ok to damage property and so on to get a shot, but we’re talking about being in a certain spot?

    Those agreeing that it was wrong can enjoy being sheep…me? I’ll be getting the shot.

  43. Steve 1 July, 2010 at 11:30 Reply

    I think this is a classic situation that there are two types of people… those who see the world in black & white and those that see in shades of gray.

    For those that see in black & white (including the “powers that be” who set the rules and security personnel whose livelihood depends on following the rules set forth by the powers that be) there is never a good reason break a rule or, conversely (for the rebels among us), to follow a rule.

    For those of us who see in shades of gray, there are often situations where we understand the rules, understand why they exist and yet see no reason why exceptions can’t be made, if no real inconvenience or harm is caused.

    In this case, Matt clearly stated that he only set-up his tripod when the aisle was clear of all other visitors and he was not impeding the other visitors or causing a potentially dangerous situation. By stating this, it is easily assumed that if the aisle had been packed with 100 people, he would not have taken his shot. For me this is not a case of why rules exist, but a perfect example of a situation where not following the letter of the law can be easily defended.

    Personally, I think many churches, museums and other places are missing a huge opportunity here. If I were running one of these places, I would be providing photographers with “photographers only” access, for a fee of course, that allows them to shoot without disturbing the “normal guests.” For photographers serious about capturing an image, they would be happy to pay the fees or make a donation simply to avoid having to bend the rules. I would have donated $100.00+ to the Vatican to have the ability to make a nice image in the Sistine Chapel or pay $50.00 to shoot the Chicago skyline, through an open window at the top of the Sears Tower. This could easily be a win-win situation for all involved, but common sense, on the part of rule and policy makers, seems to be hard to come by these days.

  44. West 1 July, 2010 at 10:24 Reply

    MATT… i think that since photos WERE allowed, and THERE WAS NO ONE else there that you were in the way of ….

    YOU did not disrespect GOD, the House of GOD, or Photography! OH yeah… the photo is amazing. i think that it brings the beauty of the inside of Church to where people can enjoy it…

    thanks for the POST!
    great pic too!

  45. Barnacle 1 July, 2010 at 10:03 Reply

    Disrespecting the house of god????? Are you guys nuts. You think those priests thought about disrespecting the house of god when they were raping children.. Get a grip….Its an effin photograph

  46. Joe 1 July, 2010 at 08:58 Reply

    Nice story, but to be honest – the resulting shot looks like a cartoon to me. If I had seen this image a year ago, I would have said “Photomatix”. Not intended to be a slam Matt, but I think you went over the edge with the tone mapping.

  47. Brendan 1 July, 2010 at 08:36 Reply


    I’ve been in St. Pats hundreds of times and security is a true concern there. They regularly have NYPD officers stationed there, so consider yourself fortunate that the ushers didn’t call over one of the real police.

  48. Caroline 1 July, 2010 at 00:25 Reply

    I’m a law-abiding person, but I love this story! I’ll bet the security guards entertained their buddies at the corner bar with this one. I think they let you get away with it! By the way, try using a tripod, or for that matter, a DSLR, in the UK. They consider you a potential terrorist. It’s getting almost silly-wouldn’t someone who wanted to harm a place hide what they were doing by using a small camera? Anyway, it’s just too bad that you couldn’t have arranged for the photo in advance, with the media contact. It would have made it a lot less stressful! A good lesson for the rest of us-to plan ahead and assume that we will need permission for a tripod.

  49. Brycia 30 June, 2010 at 21:49 Reply

    Great shot and fun story! Since one of my favorite quotes is by Katherine Hepburn “If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun”, I applaud you for having the guts to give it a try! No harm done! Too bad there are so many uptight people in the world today.

  50. James B 30 June, 2010 at 21:26 Reply

    I can’t believe how uptight so many of these responses are. Good for you Matt, I would have done the same thing. Thanks for the story and the picture.

  51. Mike Noble 30 June, 2010 at 21:01 Reply

    Matt, I can empathize with your situation. The thing that strikes me about this is that it is OK to take photographs but not with a tripod. Without one, you need to use flash which certainly can be annoying to others in the church. At any rate speaking to those in charge reveals that no one there seems to have a sense of practicality. You weren’t in anyone’s way; you would have taken a small amount of time; no one would have objected. No one seems to be able to make reasonable exceptions.

    I understand the church’s position. I don’t understand why they would make no concession to you.

    The weekend before last I ws shootin a wedding. The wedding couple wanted to have their photos taken at a local historical attraction. We took the photos on the grounds, outside. I knew that in the building was a beautiful, curved staircase would make a great photo with the newlyweds. My plan was to get in, take a few shots, and be out in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately, upon entering, the groom ran onto someone he knew who worked at the venue. We explained our plan and he said he would have to ask permission. I knew right then that our mission was about to be sunk. Sure enough, the manager came down and she said that we couldn’t take the photos. She didn’t have any good reason but that was that. If we hadn’t run onto the friend, we would gave been in and out without bothering anyone. Sigh!!

    Rock on, bro!

  52. Marie 30 June, 2010 at 20:44 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    I have to say that you really got everyone going on this one. I just wrote an essay for a class I was taking about the rules of photography. I don’t think you put photography back any and you just gave more than a million people a reason to go see an absolutely beautiful church. I can’t say that I see the major ethical issue. If there was absolutely no photography allowed then maybe and since the church had emptied out there was no safety risk. No harm done as far as I’m concerned, especially since the only reason given was a safety issue. I don’t see what the big problem is.. If they didn’t want anyone to use the tripod at all in the center aisle then the part about it being a safety issue shouldn’t have even been said. I admit under the circumstances when the safety issue gone, I’d have taken the shot!

    BTW great shot and I would have went for the shot because it is one t

  53. E.B. West 30 June, 2010 at 20:08 Reply

    I’ve been thinking about this and wasn’t going to post anything but since there are so many, it’ll get buried down here.

    I was a cop for 37 years and found that you go through three stages (at least I did). First it’s all black are white, rules are rules and everybody has to obey them.

    Then, with some experience, you begin to see that maybe some of the rules are a little ridiculous and you let some people bend them and do some things that may be, strictly speaking, against the rules.

    The third stage is when you’ve let some people slide and they begin to take advantage of the situation and push the envelope to the point that they aren’t bending the rules but just ignoring them and helping others ignore whatever rule that’s in question. At this point you revert back to the black and white way of doing things, thereby assuring nobody pushes you or the rules too far.

    Even though we don’t want to blow this thing out of proportion, maybe that’s why you read so often about photographers coming up against cops or guards that can’t see the innocence of the act of just taking a picture.

  54. LRM 30 June, 2010 at 18:47 Reply

    My view is that St. Patrick’s can make whatever rules it wants and your choice is to comply with them or not to enter. Obviously, many people here disagree with that. My view in this instance, however, is bolstered by the fact that St. Patrick’s is a religious institution. I don’t know why it disallows tripods. It may have a good reason (crowd control), or a bad reason (“we hate photographers”) or no reason at all (“we’ve always done it this way”). But it also may have a religious reason, for all I know. I believe that it is presumptuous to assume that you know its reasons; it is arrogant to think that your view of the merits of those reasons should govern over St. Patrick’s’ view; and it would be offensive to trample over people’s religious beliefs in order to take a photograph.

    I would come out the same way if this had occurred across Fifth Avenue on the private streets of Rockefeller Center. I would feel less strongly about it, because then we’d be talking about sidewalks and not a religious institution. Nevertheless, their sidwalks, their rules.

    One final thought: agree or disagree with the commenters who have stated their beliefs that Matt’s conduct was inappropriate, but respect their concerns. Pejorative attacks — such as referring to them as “holier-than-thou” — don’t advance the ball.

  55. Micah 30 June, 2010 at 18:34 Reply

    Great shot! If you’re ever in town again, St. John the Divine catherdral uptown does allow tripods- as long as they have rubber bottoms. There are some interesting HDR opportunities there.

  56. Kent 30 June, 2010 at 18:15 Reply

    Matt –

    I have to disagree with most of the other comments on here.

    I think you were very respectful about trying to get the shot you had in mind. Like you said you waited ’til no one else was around and then you tried to calmly chat up the security guard. After asking about other times to come in and things like that, there was obviously no other way to get the shot, so I’d have to say I’m happy to hear that you handled it the way you did!

    As always, thanks for sharing!

  57. Dave Fitch 30 June, 2010 at 18:07 Reply

    Photographers can’t complain that their rights should be respected while acting in this way – at best it’s juvenile and unethical, at worst behaviour like this will be used to justify the increasing restrictions in access etc. that many photographers face.

  58. Shawn 30 June, 2010 at 17:48 Reply

    Something just occurred to me. Did you ever think that posting this may ultimately lead to this security guard losing her job? To pull the stunt is one thing but to then brag about it on a reasonably popular website is wrong. You made her look like a monkey. Hurray.

    Stunts like that got a lot of ‘rebels’ tossed into the cage up in Toronto last weekend. Rules is rules. I’d say you are lucky you had a very easygoing individual dealing with you. Others might have forcibly ejected you.

    BTW, great website.

  59. Steve 30 June, 2010 at 17:44 Reply

    It’s a fantastic shot!! I think HDR has it’s place, and your picture showcases the benefits nicely.

    However… I agree with many others here; you were the a-hole photographer in this case. It’s a bummer too, because your actions only strengthen their resolve in cracking down on the rest of us and reinforce the negative feelings they probably already have toward photographers. For me, your story tarnishes the photo. I’ve done many shots like this too – including places like the St. Peters, Notre Dame and the Sistine Chapel (without a regular sized tripod), so I know you can pull it off without offending or even drawing the notice of anyone. Incidentally, I use 3 or 5 exposures for HDR and they always turn out fantastic.

    No doubts on your skills in photography department. Just don’t be the a-hole photog anymore please.

  60. Paul 30 June, 2010 at 17:24 Reply

    Well Matt, it looks like you’re on your way to a life of crime. It may start small like using your tripod where you shouldn’t, but before you know it, you’ll be running with sissors.

  61. Ben 30 June, 2010 at 17:22 Reply

    Nice photo!
    How can a tripod be a safety hazard? A friend of mine stumbled over his own feet and broke his wrist … are feet a safety hazard?

  62. Jeremy Brooks 30 June, 2010 at 17:13 Reply

    Great story, thanks for sharing!

    I’m sure the trolls and Holier Than Thou Ethics Police will be out in force for this one, but it was an amusing story, and a creative way to get the shot. Bravo!

  63. Kristen 30 June, 2010 at 16:21 Reply

    Debate regarding the merits of HDR aside, I think that this is a beautiful photo.

    I agree with those who have expressed concern about the ethics of setting up a tripod and taking these shots, however. Catholic churches are consecrated spaces and even non-believers should be on their best behavior while visiting. Catholics believe that Christ is present in a very real and physical sense in the form of the Eucharist (stored between masses in the tabernacle behind the alter), so a church is not the place to play pranks or act like a 14 year old trying to outsmart security.

    David duChemin is a class act and in his book Within The Frame he offers a thoughtful discussion of the etiquette of taking photographs in houses of worship and of people who are worshipping that contrasts sharply with the smug tone of this post.

  64. Julian Roberts 30 June, 2010 at 15:57 Reply

    Matt – although the D700 can bracket upto 9 exposures, many DSLRs can only cope with 3, which is a bit limited for doing HDR work in high contrast situations.

    Can you pls offer any practical guidance for those of us with lesser cameras…?

    Thanks very much

  65. Gary 30 June, 2010 at 15:18 Reply

    Ethics? Is standing in the same spot and looking at the same scene the same amount of time it took to get the sequence of photographs unethical? There’s no difference ethically speaking. Is it unethical to oppose authoritarian behavior? No. If this place is open to the general public, there is no ethical issue with taking photographs.

    It’s simply a matter of control and how people need to feel in control.

    If you are a photographer and aren’t pushing the limits, your photographs will be limited to what you can get by being intimidated.

    I admire Matt’s determination. This isn’t a question of ethics. Nobody was being hurt nor was in danger of being hurt.

    • Michael Petersheim 30 June, 2010 at 15:46 Reply

      Of course it is; ethics is really the only thing this is about. According to, ethics is a system of moral principles, and the folks weighing in today have a good bit of variance in their systems of moral principles, hence the disagreement. For some of us, our system of moral principles says it’s wrong to disobey the rules in a church; for others of us, our system of moral principles says it’s okay as long as “Nobody was being hurt nor was in danger of being hurt.” It’s still ethics.

      • captain spin 30 June, 2010 at 18:15 Reply

        There are many flavours of ethics. Utilitarian( Greater good), Absolutist (individual rights) and Judeo Christian (doo unto others). Look ’em up. Anyway I’m off to Matt’s place with my tripod. Cheers,
        The captain.

  66. Will 30 June, 2010 at 15:01 Reply

    thinking more about this. Interesting to read all the different points of view.

    Right now there is a real war on photographers. I have a friend who just got kicked out of a state park for shooting, because her shot had a model in it. For some reason landscape photography is fine but you put a subject into your shot and you are breaking a law. I don’t believe that the State should have the right to essentially censor art by deciding who can and who can’t be in the picture.

    I can’t tell you how many times, I or other photographers I have known have been hassled by security for taking pictures in public places. And having a tripod or a decent camera is bound to get you in treated like a terrorist (I am pretty sure terrorists use point and shoots).

    In these cases I am all for a little civil disobedience. If security tries to stop me from shooting in public I am going to make a stink, and I think if you are shooting something legally (or what should be legally) you have an obligation to stand up for your right to shoot.

    In Matt’s case he was on private property and it wasn’t about weather he could take a photo, it was about weather or not he could block a fire exit. So he is not exactly Rosa Parks here.

    • captain spin 30 June, 2010 at 18:10 Reply

      I agree.
      We are suposed to live in a free world. Many people are far worse off than us when it comes to freedom of expression (USA Aust.). Many would not be able to see this blog. Lets think of them and lets think of the brave people who have broken the rules and stood up for freedom!

  67. Roy 30 June, 2010 at 14:52 Reply

    Damm Matt, you are going to need a PR campaign to get a hold of this monster! lol. Just follow Tiger and every other celebrity and say you are going into rehab for “breaking the rules!” addiction. haha.

  68. Aimee 30 June, 2010 at 14:48 Reply

    I just don’t like the fact that you didn’t respect the rules that were set forth for that location. I’m sure that you or your co-workers wouldn’t be so happy if someone came into your offices and wouldn’t leave and were doing something so obviously against whatever rules you may have. If you are a guest or a visitor, you are supposed to respect the rules and not take it upon yourself to do as you please.

  69. Will 30 June, 2010 at 14:47 Reply

    Funny stuff Matt. Sometimes you just need to get the shot and you do what you gotta do and you just have to evaluate the risk. I know a lot of security guards who would would have “accidentally” knocked your tripod over but I am sure you considered that.

    Once on a trip to Japan I had a friend who needed to get a shot of a particular item in a museum. It was practically the whole purpose for his trip. The security guard said no photos. Had we known there was a no photo policy we would have (and could have) arranged something more formal but we didn’t know. So I wandered to the other side of the room and started taking flash pictures of nothing in particular like crazy. While security was busy trying to stop me my friend got his shot.

  70. Larry Weissman 30 June, 2010 at 14:29 Reply

    I’m a fan of your photography, your teaching methods and your blog. I’m just not a fan of your ethics. You were wrong – plain and simple. I understand “bending” the rules, but in this case you clearly broke them. Character counts.

  71. Kevin Lloyd 30 June, 2010 at 14:23 Reply

    Great story Matt, exciting all the way to the end 🙂

    Unfortunately I don’t like the picture. I won’t go as far as to say wasn’t it worth the effort, because I think it made for a great life experience, and you succeeded in what you were trying to do.
    But, and here comes the negative, I think the image looks blurry on the outside, the colour is awful, and the whole image looks nothing like what I see with my eyes on a day to day basis.
    I think HDR is over rated, and one day when we have cameras with higher dynamic range shot’s like this will be looked back upon with comments like “Oh I remember the hassle I used to go through for what? a cartoon image?”

    I like your non HDR work a lot Matt, you divulge information really well, full respect to you, this is just my opinion.


  72. Marco 30 June, 2010 at 14:10 Reply

    Tough one. Don’t we all sometimes break a rule?
    I know I have.
    “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone” might be an appropriate quote here.

    The way Matt stalled was clever.
    Should he have done so?
    I really don’t know.
    I can sympathise with everyone who says: no matter how ridiculous the rule – if it’s there you have to obey it. After all, you are a guest. If they say you can only enter if you keep crawling on hands and knees then you can choose to do so and go in, or stay outside.
    But I’m also with Scott Valentine. If you know why there are rules and act on what they intend to achieve, then it might be (a bit) OK. Though you set an example for those who don’t understand the rule…

    I recently came across a rule that – in my mind – was a bit strange and hard to follow.
    Our family went to a concert in a soccerstadium. It was a show for children from about 3 to 9 years old.
    The houserules of the stadium state: “With the exception of persons who are, in the opinion of [venue], authorised press photographers, film-makers or journalists, making audio-visual recordings (including still photography) for commercial purposes is not allowed in the [venue]. This ban may be extended to all purposes. In this case this will be indicated at the entrance.”

    Since I didn’t want to run the risk of having my camera confiscated, I mailed ahead to ask if the ban would be extended for that show or that it was OK to take some pictures for personal use.
    It took a couple of mails before they said: “At this time, the producer of the show allows photography, but only with cameras that have lenses with no more than 70mm focal length. The rules may change though, so pay attention when you enter the venue.”
    I replied that I would respect that rule, although I thought it to be a bit strange. I tried to explain that someone in the frontrow with a digital compact and 70mm lens would get quite a different picture from someone with a fullframe SLR and 70mm in the backrow of the upperring. But I understand it’s impossible to say “OK, you are sitting in this section, so you’re allowed a 150mm lens on that type of camera.”

    From where I was sitting, 70mm on my Nikon D80 was good enough for most shots. But since there were no restrictions posted at the entrance, I zoomed in for some of the shots.
    Did I brake a rule? I guess so. But at this point I felt that the rule only applied to me, because I tried to do the right thing and ask up front what I could and could not do. Had it been indicated at the entrance, I would have been more willing to follow (and/or scared to brake) the rule all the time.
    And so there is always something we can say to justify why we brake the rules.

    The posts here made me think and maybe next time I better leave my camera at home. Because I can’t trust myself to obey all the rules when I have it on me. Though I know I should…

  73. Shawn 30 June, 2010 at 13:53 Reply

    Another example of the sense of entitlement many people feel today. Nice photo Matt but…tsk tsk. And in a CHURCH yet. BTW, great website.

  74. Scott Valentine 30 June, 2010 at 13:15 Reply

    On the topic of rules, it usually pays to know why the rules are in place. That gives you some latitude in creatively side-stepping them. In general, regardless of the reason for the rules, I try to get permission in advance. In Matt’s case, though, the stricture isn’t against taking the picture, it’s against obstructing traffic.

    It’s not a case of the end justifying the means, it’s more about making an informed decision about how the rules are applied and how they can be broken. Most ‘safety’ rules can be addressed by understanding how to interact safely, though most security guards do not understand (or are unwilling to make) a distinction.

    The guard knew what was up, and needed to at least keep appearances up for her job. This discourages others who might not be as considerate as Matt for the other patrons. As proof that she knew what was going on, I present the fact that she did not stand in front of the lens during the exposure. I’ve encountered this many times – if the guard truly doesn’t want you taking the picture, they will stand in front of the camera.

    This is called social engineering 🙂

    • Bryan 30 June, 2010 at 13:23 Reply

      ^ ^ ^ Yes! exactly what Scott said. Thank you for articulating the point i was trying to make much better than i did in my comment. 😀

    • Michael Petersheim 30 June, 2010 at 13:24 Reply

      I was thinking along the same lines concerning the guard, and I suspect you’re right; if she had really been taking it seriously she would have obstructed the view…

  75. Steven Alexander 30 June, 2010 at 13:06 Reply

    No Mace no Malice. I might have just stepped to the side out of the central aisle and made my shot. In fact, IMHO, the dead center composition doesn’t add anything.

  76. gerry slater 30 June, 2010 at 12:47 Reply

    Matt—I have a friend who got caught having sex in that church—–so your tripod incident pales by comparison. Keep shootin kid—your doing great. See you in Vegas.

  77. John T. 30 June, 2010 at 12:41 Reply

    I’m pretty sure Matt posted with the expectation of garnering a mixed bag of comments ranging from “How dare you!” to “Way to go, bro!” Personally, I would not have handled it the same way as my ethical standard is different from Matt’s. Regarding the image, it’s a little too HDR for my taste, but that’s what makes it art: Subjectivity. However, I will not forsake Matt, his blog, or his teachings over this one incident. -John

  78. Tim Rucci 30 June, 2010 at 12:33 Reply

    Great story, Matt. We’ve probably all been in a situation like this at one time or another. The negative comments that you may have blown it for everyone else simply make me laugh. Do these folks actually belive that hundreds of others have not entered the catherdral with a tripod, so that your particular incident would actually stand out from the others?

    When vacationing in Italy, I wanted to get a photo of Michalengelo’s David, for memory’s sake if nothing else. I would have been happy to pay a fee for the privilege, but they don’t do that. Photography is not allowed, although it was until a few years ago. Many folks raised their cameras and shot photos, only to have the ‘plain clothes’ camera police run over to them and say “no foto”.

    Observing this for a few minutes, I learned who the camera police were, and then simply walked into a corner, which put one of the huge marble colums between myself and the camera police. I then took a couple of quick shots (in natural light, of course) and left with a smile. Seeing this magnificent work of art was a dream come true, and it’s amazing to think of how it was made, showing such intricate detail of the human form. I made it a point to speak to the camera police with a smile on my way out, commenting on the wonderful statue and telling them I had waited many years to see it.

  79. Kayla 30 June, 2010 at 12:23 Reply

    Really enjoyed this post. The photo is amazing but the story makes it better IMHO. I realize there are rules and you definitely skirted the gray on this one – but it was worth it…

  80. Lyle 30 June, 2010 at 12:22 Reply

    Their rules; their house of worship – their policies.

    Regardless – send them a really nice framed print, thanking the guards for being so patient with you…


    Great shot btw !

  81. KC 30 June, 2010 at 12:20 Reply

    Hey, do you run red lights when you don’t think anyone is coming (no one there = no one hurt, right)?

    I hope that you are not a member of any professional organizations that have ethical guidelines that are to be followed. I’m afraid that this would be a big no-no in their book.

    I’m sure this will be a proud moment to share with your children…

    (I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop tomorrow. Probably a “I was just kidding! Wasn’t that a funny story? The truth is, we photographers need to respect…”)

  82. Diane Franklin 30 June, 2010 at 12:06 Reply

    Wish I could be that confident! Good for you! All these well known locations want you to buy their postcards which are, in my opinion, not good! Love your image.

  83. KatVitulano 30 June, 2010 at 12:03 Reply

    Wow –
    Matt – You needed to do what you did to produce this fantastic image. The greater powers that be are surely smiling down – no doubt in my mine, they appreciate a fantastic shot of their crib. RESPECT – LOL !

  84. Martin E. Morris 30 June, 2010 at 11:52 Reply

    Nice bit of subterfuge there Matt.Over here in England Cathedrals are one of the few places where tripods are not viewed with suspicion.Normally there is a small charge for the use of a camera and another charge if you want to use a tripod but other than that no problems.(Wish it was like that everywhere else but that’s another story!).The humble village churches when they are open don’t charge at all.I think it’s important to bend the rules and question authority from time to time,particularly to get glorious images like this one!

  85. R Roth 30 June, 2010 at 11:51 Reply

    Hey there Matt,
    Good story and a very nice shot. Most of the catholic churches I have done weddings in, have very strict rules for us “criminals”. I know that you and most of us are more than respectful of these beautiful churches and try to be respectful and professional in every way possible, but I have seen on America’s funniest videos many times with a photographer doing some of the most bizarre things just to get a shot.(standing,stepping,leaning,knocking over people/church property.
    Those are the ones who have ruined it for us to take just a simple shot as yours with no one around. With that said, maybe you could blow up a nice print and send it to them as a nice gesture. Take care!
    Robert Roth
    Robert Roth Photography

  86. eileen ludwig 30 June, 2010 at 11:40 Reply


    I love breaking rules, especially when they are obtuse. You accessed the situation at the time and a tripod was not interfering with people traffic. So go for it. Rules that are treated like concrete are just interference for those who think it through.

    Glad you got your shot(s). I am surprised at the many that admonished you for not following rules. They are part of the problem and possibly why the rules were created. Most rules are made for the masses that blindly follow them.

    For the rest of us, finding clever ways to circumvent them is the challenge of the moment. We are the ones who understand these rules are for the masses to protect them from themselves. Now publishing your conquest, that might not have been smart. This will entice the rule makers to make stronger more concrete rules.

  87. Mike Sweeney 30 June, 2010 at 11:38 Reply

    Definitely a mixed bag. I despise someone telling I cant do something “just because I said so” but this example really pushes the limits of acceptable behavior. Cameras are already considered the new assault weapon by many wearing uniforms and to deliberately flaunt the rules is really in poor taste.

    In my own world, there have been times where my DLSR adn tripod are a banned weapon (or at least I’m treated that way) but my G11 point and shoot with a rinky-dink gorilla pod etc are perfectly acceptable. So I use the G11, get the shot I want and I dont piss off the world doing it. Nice compromise all the way around till someone gets wise to the new P&S cameras are as good as a typical DLSR.

    I would have been much more impressed if you had worked the problem with “social engineering” or alternative equipment like the G11 where nobody cared.

  88. Bryan 30 June, 2010 at 11:31 Reply

    I understand that you are arguing the “principle” of disobeying rules, and surely don’t think that setting fires in a national forest is the same thing as setting a tripod down in a “restricted” area. Do you?

    I also completely respect your right to your opinion. Obviously you have very strong feelings on this particular subject. I just happen to very strongly disagree with you.

    Now if Matt had pulled out a smoke machine & strobes inside St.Patricks…….. well, maybe I’m with you. That’s my problem with being anal about rules. Rules assume everything is black & white. Ir RARELY is. Matt’s “escapade is, in my opinion, a very light shade of gray. 🙂

  89. Don LaVange 30 June, 2010 at 11:22 Reply

    I appreciated you be willing to describe your experience and open yourself up to others impressions.

    My own feeling is that while one could justify this or not justify it using any number of different philisophical approaches (as can be implied from most every comment) it’s more interesting because of the questions it raises than any one idea of the morality of this particular act.

    I say if you can keep your guilty transgressions to something this esoteric you’re doing pretty good! One has to obey one’s art.

  90. Rod 30 June, 2010 at 11:05 Reply

    hmmm, I tend to agree with both sides. A. I hate going against what someone has set down as policy. I agree that this might make it harder for the next person who wants to take a tripod into the building. However B. Sometimes the rules are just so stupid. If you are not interfering with anyone at the time. There is no one around why the heck can’t there be some leeway in the guards?

    I had this almost exact same run in with a county sheriff last year. I was partially blocking 1/2 a lane on a road in the middle of nowhere Iowa at 7am on a saturday morning with no traffic. He wanted me to move as I was/might blocking traffic? What is up with that? I could see 2 miles in each direction and there was noone around. I had just setup my tripod for a shot of a glorious sunrise over a hayfield. Amazed he didn’t want the tripod out of the way of the sunlight?

  91. Michael White 30 June, 2010 at 11:03 Reply

    First off, awesome shot 🙂 Secondly, could you invite me to come with you when you try this in the Port of Tampa? 🙂 I’ve never tried the tripod deal with them, the yelling and screaming about my camera alone was enough for me LOL 🙂

  92. mhartt 30 June, 2010 at 10:58 Reply

    Matt certainly subverted the rules for his trophy — whether they were fair or not — but his most egregious lapse is in bragging about it publicly. Regardless of whether one supports his actions, celebrating how he got away with it for his own gain, regardless of the consequences for others who either wouldn’t or couldn’t do the same, hardly sets a good example. Indeed, it could even prompt more restrictive limitations for future photographers. Whether we agree with the various rules of the game or not, we should at least try not to promote calculated disregard for them.

  93. Steven Korner 30 June, 2010 at 10:56 Reply

    Nice picture.

    Unfortunately you were a very rude and ungracious guest while there. You were on private property and expressly disregarded the rules set in place by the property owner. You expect guests in your home to abide by your wishes, and this is no different.

    The sense of entitlement in the “way to stick it to the man” replies above is disappointing, but predictable. Too many people have no respect for others in many levels of life these days, and this is just indicative of that.

    I’ve been a fan of your blog, but this is disappointing.

  94. Rikk Flohr 30 June, 2010 at 10:50 Reply

    Of course, you obtained a property release?

    Next time you come back there will be a photo of you on the front door with the words:
    Do not serve this man.

  95. William Chinn 30 June, 2010 at 10:45 Reply

    OK, HDR. Now lets take it one step farther. How do you do this picture with HDR and lens correction. Can you display the result with both HDR only and then both?

    Did you try to call ahead and get permission to shoot with the tripod in the main aisle explaining the time needed? Would they have consented?

    • William Chinn 30 June, 2010 at 15:33 Reply

      I tried manual lens correction and it cropped off the bottom of the picture, but the rest looked better in terms of distortion.

  96. James Frederick Bland 30 June, 2010 at 10:42 Reply

    Congratulations on peeing in the pool.

    I’ll bet you didn’t check to see if you needed a permit, property release, or fees / donations to support the church either. What you did wasn’t worth it for any HDR image.

    I like the suggestion regarding Lightroom and the 5 exposure method.

    I’d be looking over my shoulder if I were you. God will get you for that. 🙂

  97. Mike Pennington 30 June, 2010 at 10:27 Reply

    Great image. Your all assuming the guard didn’t know what he was doing anyway. having spent 12 years in law enforcement (not security) I can tell you there are a lot of rules you have to enforce that are just plain stupid. My guess is she was making as big a show as Matt. You might have pushed a little too far Matt but you got the shot. 😉

    As for following stupid rules only because the are rules would mean we would all still be British! But remember, don’t tie your alligator to a fire hydrant in Florida either.

  98. Jack Larson 30 June, 2010 at 10:26 Reply

    If the issue really is safety, it is the photographer that is at risk. You probably made the woman’s day; she had a war story to tell from what was a few boring hours.

  99. jim Stamates 30 June, 2010 at 10:18 Reply

    Matt, funny story, I would have loved to have heard it over a beer.

    I’m caught between both sides. I hate rules. Rules suck! Especially in photography. Rules stifle creativity. Rules make us cogs. I live to break rules!

    On the other hand, when we blatantly break rules it may give all photogs a bad rap.
    Maybe they treated you the way they did because of the last arrogant photographer?
    Maybe they deal with this on a daily basis”
    Maybe they’ll change the rules and not let a tripod in the church?

    The first rule of breaking rules is ‘don’t get caught!’
    The second rule of breaking rules is to only tell your closest friends, not your tribe.

    • Peachy 30 June, 2010 at 14:06 Reply

      Agree with this comment Jim.
      Sometimes it is best just to keep quiet. The photo was great without the story

  100. Bryan 30 June, 2010 at 10:15 Reply

    Many of the world’s most enduring and compelling images would not exist if the photographers were as sensitive to the “rules” as many of the previous posters.

    rules are implemented in a lowest common denominator method. They can’t count on everybody to have enough sensibility to not block the aisle when there are many tourists there, so they ban tripods in the aisle. Matt had enough moxy to realize this, and pursued the shot accordingly.

    Its the same reason most of us don’t actually obey a 20mph speed limit on a road where its clearly not endangering anyone if we drive 35mph. If you get pulled over, you remain courteous, pay your ticket, and promptly go back to … GASP breaking the law. 🙂 I’m with Kim. Way to go Matt.

    • Karl 30 June, 2010 at 10:47 Reply

      I’m trying hard to think of great images that were taken while breaking the rules. The only one I can think of is when Mr. Fatali damaged Delicate Arch with his disregard of the rules to get a unique image. Here is a short quote from the AP: A photographer who started fires under Delicate Arch in Arches National Park for dramatic effect was charged with seven misdemeanors Friday in federal court. Michael Fatali, 36, of Springdale, Utah, burned four fires underneath or near Utah’s most recognizable icon, Delicate Arch, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Conservationists attempted to scrub the rock Thursday, but the discoloration of the famous red sandstone proved difficult to remove.

      • Bryan 30 June, 2010 at 11:33 Reply

        I understand that you are arguing the “principle” of disobeying rules, and surely don’t think that setting fires in a national forest is the same thing as setting a tripod down in a “restricted” area. Do you?

        I also completely respect your right to your opinion. Obviously you have very strong feelings on this particular subject. I just happen to very strongly disagree with you.

        Now if Matt had pulled out a smoke machine & strobes inside St.Patricks…….. well, maybe I’m with you. That’s my problem with being anal about rules. Rules assume everything is black & white. Ir RARELY is. Matt’s “escapade is, in my opinion, a very light shade of gray.


  101. rory 30 June, 2010 at 10:05 Reply

    Good on you Matt! Great job. I am a full-time pro and am CONSTANTLY hassled by petty authority here in London because I carry a big camera and tripod. These guys seemingly make it their life’s work to make my working life difficult, so I’m thrilled you got your shot under their noses. Oh and don’t listen to mean-spirited and sanctimonious self-important rubbish from the likes of Karl (above) Not sure you need his kinda readership anyhow… Keep up the great work – I read you blog daily and have learned a ton.

  102. Karl 30 June, 2010 at 09:56 Reply

    Matt, I am truly disappointed with you. You knew that photography was not permitted with a tripod yet you tried doing it anyway. Then when you got caught you underhandedly continued doing it. Have you no respect for anything? If you are going to disregard this, will you also disregard copyright protections and start using other people’s work and passing it off as your own. Odds are you will never get caught and the ends always justify the means as you demonstrated here. I am angry right now and will have to decide later if my annoyance with your ethics are enough to stop reading your blog and the KelbyTV spots featuring you. I am pretty sure, though, that I will never pay to see you.

      • Karl 30 June, 2010 at 10:42 Reply

        Correct, no one was hurt. There are no injuries from many transgressions, but where does this leave society when everyone chooses to apply the philosophies of “the ends justify the means” and “I’m going to do whatever the hell I want as long as I don’t injure anyone?” Man, I just hope I don’t get in your way when you are making your “professional” images. I’d be afraid you would hit me with your big camera and tripod. Because after all, getting the image is all that matters.

    • stew 30 June, 2010 at 12:32 Reply

      Carl just make sure that are perfect before you condemn someone else. i have to admit that there are times that i have had to take a photo in a way that was against the rules but many times it was for a special need. many times the rules are out of control (like our government) and we have to take risks.

      • MGM 30 June, 2010 at 13:14 Reply

        Why does Karl need to be perfect before he voices an opinion? Show me a single person who has at one time voiced a negative opinion who also has never done anything wrong in their life.

        Karl has every right to have an opinion on this matter, just as you do. There are going to be (and already have been) many negative comments, in addition to lots of “way to go” comments. This has turned out to be a somewhat contentious issue (to Matt’s dimay I’m sure), and everyone’s going to have an opinion on it one way or another.

    • John 30 June, 2010 at 17:51 Reply


      I’m assuming you’ve never gone over the speed limit in your life, with an attitude like that. But more to the point, rules are set in place for a number of reasons, and those reasons are the real important thing. The reason for the tripod ban is so it doesn’t block the main aisle (or, if you are cynical, to make sure that the church can make a buck off people paying to get the shot they want). If people hadn’t blocked the aisle at one time with a tripod the rule would not exist. So, clearly it’s not an “ends justify the means” as you would like to paint it, in your draconian world, but spirit of the law, versus letter of the law. I think Matt was definitely following the spirit of the law. He made sure the aisle was clear and no one was inconvenienced by his tripod. I feel it’s much better to be a thoughtful and kind human being who thinks about the reason for rules, than a brainless zombie who only knows how to follow them. How many atrocities have been committed because people or soldiers were following the rules?

  103. Dave Wilson 30 June, 2010 at 09:40 Reply

    I discovered the St. Patrick’s tripod ban last year. While it’s annoying, I somewhat sympathised with the security folks because the cathedral was so busy and setting up a tripod in the aisles would definitely have impeded access for a while. One thing that you don’t mention, though, is that they are more than happy for people to use small tripods. I shot for an hour or so using my Gorillapod attached to the backs of various pews and got some great HDR images without needing to break any of the “house rules”.

    While I understand the tripod ban in the cathedral, don’t get me started on the ridiculous situation across the street at the Rockefeller Center though….

  104. Vince 30 June, 2010 at 09:37 Reply

    Classic “The ends justify the means.” Or .”The rules don’t apply to me.” Or, “I get to decide if the rules make sense. Anyone’s rules. Everyone’s rules. If they don’t make sense to ME, then I don’t have to follow them.”

    This was a life opportunity, not a photography one. You blew it, big time.

  105. Eduardo Mueses 30 June, 2010 at 09:28 Reply

    I guess we can all start bending the rules a little bit, just to see what we can get away with.
    Let us speed a little bit on the highway…
    Let not cross on the cross-walk
    Lets cut in line in front of somebody…
    Lets walk out on the streets with no clothes on…

    Rules are meant to be broken!!
    What do we need rules for?

  106. Kim 30 June, 2010 at 08:56 Reply

    I think some of you really need to lighten up. The point is that if you have a tripod you are automatically treated like a criminal. It has happened to me many times with just my camera taking a photo of a building on a public street. I have been accosted by “rent-a cops” more times than I care to remember and it’s frustrating.

    So good for you Matt. I love the pic.

    • Jeff 4 July, 2010 at 18:36 Reply

      Why do people care so much about people standing up in defense of breaking the churches rules?


      The same open-minded people will throw a hissy fit it one of the following so called social rules gets broken:

      Neighbors dog barks too loudly
      Neighbors dog takes a dump in your yard
      Somebody flirts with your husband, wife or significant other.
      Someone barges in front of you in the checkout line
      I drive across your lawn

      People all have some sensitive spot, where someone tells them to “lighten up”…. they will blow a gasket.

      Pretending you are impervious to it is fake.

  107. Zack Jones 30 June, 2010 at 08:41 Reply

    Looking at the large shot makes me dizzy for some odd reason. Tough call on this one, Matt. You got the shot and no one was harmed in the process but you did display a lack of respect for the security personnel by not following the rules for photographing inside the church. Their church, their rules, you should have followed them. You probably should send a print to the church to repent for your sin. 🙂

  108. Rob Jones 30 June, 2010 at 08:32 Reply

    Matt – great story and a great shot. Get my email address from Scott or Brad, and shoot me an email and I’ll send you an official “Using a Tripod Is Not A Crime” T-shirt on the house.

  109. Ryan McGovern 30 June, 2010 at 08:09 Reply

    Hey Matt, Just one question, do you think it was necessary to take 9 exposures? In this case, would 5 not have sufficed and then you could have got in and out without anyone noticing.

  110. James Bullard 30 June, 2010 at 07:58 Reply

    Looking at the convergence of the columns toward the top of the photo, I’d have used a shift/tilt lens. Just kidding. I don’t own one. Seriously, I’d have chosen an off-center shot that was allowed. I know. You weren’t in anyone’s way and the “tripod police” were being inflexible. That’s their job. People who don’t do what they are paid to do get fired. If you felt that the center aisle shot was an absolute must do the appropriate path was to talk to someone with authority to permit it.

  111. Tom Jelen 30 June, 2010 at 07:22 Reply

    I was told not to use my tripod also but I was using a Mono Pod some so called Church guards can’t count.
    I could see using it because Nothing was going on in the church and the guard only wanted twenty for lunch.
    Catholics money driven!
    Of course if you tried Trump Towner down the street I met a guy two heads taller than I escort me to the street informing me of the same thing and I didn’t want to teach him how to count ether.
    Fish Story’s aren’t they great!

  112. Robert 30 June, 2010 at 07:04 Reply

    I’m OK with the rule; it prevents the cathedral from looking like a Gitzo convention.

    Since you knew you would go there, this could have been an educational post on how to avoid running into trouble by calling ahead and getting permission. Instead, it’s a “here’s how to annoy another person who’s doing their job because I didn’t use common sense” post.

  113. David 30 June, 2010 at 06:58 Reply

    Creative shot and technique, ethically unacceptable IMHO. Churches and the like may be open to the public, but I believe they are private property. I don’t like “no tripod rules”, but they are entitled to have them. In many cases, this might be for “safety” or just the convenience of their other visitors, but often, I believe, it is to prevent commercial photography (think museums).

    Being creative in delaying the security folks (and evidently getting them riled up) may initially sound humorous, but it comes across to me as “I’ll do whatever I want to get the shot, even when I know I am breaking the rules and giving someone else a hard time.”

    I have always held you in the highest respect, but frankly this post troubled and disappointed me.

    • naturelover 30 June, 2010 at 14:55 Reply

      The guards said that it would be ok if photos were taken from locations other than the main isle, so I don’t think photos were completely disallowed. This is a wonderful photo, Matt. Good work. Security guards often haven’t got a lot to do all day in a church, so going after a minor scofflaw helps to alliviate boredom. I wouldn’t think any rule changes would follow- especially since there were no human traffic issues.

  114. Phat Photographer 30 June, 2010 at 05:26 Reply

    Nice photo. Steady shutter finger and well composed especially given the time constraints. It would be a shame if others have a more difficult time taking photos with a tripod as a result of the incident but I can’t cast the first stone since I’ve broken rules before.

    …and you definitely have a better touch with HDR processing than I ever will.

  115. captain spin 30 June, 2010 at 04:58 Reply

    Great shot. No one got hurt. That says it all. Re. HDR. I use Photomatix and my shots don’t look horrible. PS is just not there yet. Tone mapping.. Just use the settings you like. I think Matt’s shot is great, I would have used different processing settings. Hey thats what we do.

  116. Ramelli 30 June, 2010 at 03:55 Reply

    Dear Matt,

    This rule is ridiculous I had the exact same story in Notre Dame in Paris.

    As long as no one gets hurt, and I dont think you ruined anybody else shoot as I came to notre dame several time and did times over and over.


    • Kuddl 30 June, 2010 at 04:40 Reply

      Sorry. Following the rules, that you agree are “right” is … not good (for lack of words).
      And the omnipotent “rule” = it’s OK, as long as no one gets hurt = is just plain BS !
      If that’s your philosophy, I’d rather not ride the car you’re driving.

      • Josh (New Zealand) 30 June, 2010 at 05:10 Reply

        Well, in all my years of experience. People fall of high horses, and when they do… they end up in spinal units.

        That’s a spectacular photo, and “rules” so you go and purchase the right to take a photo, are taxation and opportunistic. And if they want to be honest about it, just say…. sure you can use a tripod to take a photo, just flick us $5 so we can keep it looking good for you.

        Nice photo again Matt, I look forward to each podcast/blog from you.

        Come to NZ sometime, a photography feast…. and very few security guards. Most of who will take a photo so you can be in it too.


      • Frode E. 1 July, 2010 at 07:08 Reply

        If everybody followed the rules and didn’t try to do anything out of the ordinary and safe, then the world would not evolve. Progress is only made through change!

    • Burt 1 July, 2010 at 02:20 Reply

      Then why are you even reading this blog? It is all HDR all the time. If you don’t like HDR, then simply don’t come here. If you are just trolling, don’t come here too…

    • David Latour 1 July, 2010 at 09:32 Reply

      Agree with Burt. I often wonder if people dont like HDR so much why in the world do they spend so much time on it. If you dont like what is on TV change the channel.

  117. phil 30 June, 2010 at 03:30 Reply

    Totally agree with the other comments re your blatant disregard for the rules, I admire your image (though to be honest 9 bracketed HDR leaves me cold) but you have probably not only “socked” it to the tri-pod Police, you have also most likely “socked” it to any other guy, or lady, wielding a tri-pod in the future. We all need to play ball with regards to ridiculous rules, and seek permission from time to time. I am sure if you had planned this shot really carefully, contacted the owners or mangers of the building up front, gained permission from them, and so circumvented the “anal” guards, then this series of events would not have occurred.

  118. Burt 30 June, 2010 at 03:23 Reply

    For THAT shot, I would have done it, for sure…

    In 1988, we went to see the terracotta warriors in Xian, China. Sign outside said “no video” though still cameras were allowed. (I was shooting video in those days)

    I went to a corner, put some tape over the recording light of my video camera, then went to the edge and (holding the camera at my side) proceeded to video tape the dig. A Chinese soldier came over and looked at me, looked at my camera, then at me again. The whole time I was shooting the cavern, including panning and zooming, but not looking at the camera at all.

    He turned and walked away, and I got one of the highlights of my vacation video.

    After normal editing to remove places I pointed wrong (I used an Avid Composer for video editing i those days), the resulting video was a hit back home. 🙂

  119. Kayla 30 June, 2010 at 02:18 Reply

    Very sneaky! I would have probably shied away. But if I had the tools to be inconspicuous, I would have certainly used them.

  120. ivan kann 30 June, 2010 at 02:12 Reply

    story of all of us, bus so delicious when it happens to some other than us….

    so remember that tip… learn a list of questions to ask in that case and the last one will be

    may I see the the main priest ?
    may you call my ambassy ?

    thanks to you for the great tips of LR (it is really rare for me to say thanks to US citizens…)

  121. Neil Partridge 30 June, 2010 at 02:11 Reply

    Great story…. sock it to the man!

    I reckon there could be money in a tripod made to look like a walking frame (we call them Zimmer Frames in the UK). Stop in position to take the picture, make it look like you’re stopping for a breather…. if you’re asked about the camera fixed to your walking aid, just say it’s the only way you can use it without shaking.


    • Joe Penn 31 March, 2011 at 15:29 Reply

      Sorry to jump in so late 😉 – stumbled across this thread while searching google.

      There actually is something similar like that. I have seen people attach foldout foot plates on monopods. The right monopod (like the Vivitar one I have) looks just like a walking stick. I may have to attach a footplate to mine to give me a quick tripod stick in a pinch…

  122. Rolf Hicker 30 June, 2010 at 01:49 Reply

    Great story Matt – I can feel every second as I have done the same in so many locations. Especially interesting was Spain – no – I don’t speak Spanish, which at the end helped me through the last 30 sec. shot by simply playing stupid – sorry, don’t understand.
    Best was at the Alhambra – till they called the translator I already had picked up my bags.

    Oh, beside a great story – it is a great picture too!

  123. jk 30 June, 2010 at 01:47 Reply

    I don’t think you helped the cause of photography on this one. One might argue the purpose of these rules. But ignoring them this blatantly just adds fuel to the fire. The next guy won’t be able to take his tripod inside even for a side aisle shot. So you might have gotten your shot, but may also have ruined a lot of other’s.

    • René Damkot 30 June, 2010 at 02:23 Reply

      Agree: If you need the shot that desperate, ask for permission. If you get it, fine. If you don’t get it, nothing is lost. Buy a postcard or something. Or use high ISO.
      If a tripod isn’t allowed and you know it, yet use it anyhow, you are just plain rude IMO. And, as said, possibly ruined it for the next person who wants to take an image. A blog post about it, in a “hey guys, look what I just got away with” tone also doesn’t increase my respect… YMMV.

      • War 30 June, 2010 at 06:43 Reply

        IF there are postcards and they don’t like they were taken by a 10 year old kid.

        I’ve been in many places were we aren’t allowed to take pictures but they don’t give us any real alternative.

        Allowing a tripod is almost the same security hazard has allowing a wheelchair in… I hope they don’t start blocking them as well.

    • captain spin 30 June, 2010 at 05:03 Reply

      Rules are made to be broken……that’s where the edge lies….that’s where creativity lurks….thats where the fun is….subvert the dominent ….. you know the rest…

    • Jeff Powell 30 June, 2010 at 08:15 Reply

      You guys need to lighten up, I highly doubt Matt ruined everything for all other photographers out there or that they are going to change their rules over this minor little incident. I’m sure they’ve seen worse :-I

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