The London Eye and a security guard

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As many photographers know, security guards can be a pain when we are trying to execute our art. In this location they don’t mind folk taking photos but attaching a camera to a tripod will attract security guards faster than Superman on Red Bull with Lois Lane in danger. I understand, the area around the London Eye can get quite crowded and a collection of photographers shooting with tripods can become an obstruction and a nuisance. However, it was not crowded at the time, so I had a go.

My first attempt got nowhere because I accepted being moved on by security. After some thought, I felt I really didn’t want to let this go as I could see a good shot with my fish-eye lens was up for grabs. A well known saying “you’ll catch more flies with honey” came to mind, so I decided to give it another go, being prepared to politely stand my ground with a smile and not let the irritation get the better of me.

I set up my camera low on the tripod, a short distance away from the area. I then moved into position and framed my composition. A couple of minutes later, sure enough, a security guard came to have a word. “You were told before, you can’t use tripods here.” said the guard. “No offence but I think I am going about my lawful business in a public place and I need to use a tripod to get this shot in the dark, I’ll be gone in a few minutes”, was my reply. The security guard then said something about the area being private property and you still can’t use a tripod. “Looks a very public place to me” came my next reply. The conversation continued, but at no point got heated. I was kind of stalling, so I could get my shots and move on.

As this went on, the guard was standing parallel to my camera so the fish-eye lens was catching his legs in shot, which didn’t do at all. So with all the cheek I could muster I asked “Please can you take a step back?”, while he was on his radio informing someone of my refusal to quit using a tripod. He did step back though, and I continued shooting the scene, having a remote shutter release was very helpful here.

It wasn’t long (a minute or two at most) before I was happy with what I had taken, so I got up from my crouched position, grabbed my gear and announced, “I’m done now, nothing personal, I understand you’re simply doing your job, I’ll get out of your hair now”. To my surprise, the guard then gave me a big broad smile and said “Thank you for not not making personal”. (Maybe he was just relieved he didn’t have to deal with me any more?) I shook his hand and went on my way. To be absolutely fair to this particular security guard, he didn’t over step his authority and was doing his job properly.

I’m sure that many photographers who encounter security objections don’t always have it go so well, but I think it wise to remember that they are simply dong their job. There are those who abuse their authority, and in those circumstances I believe it’s best to keep your cool and politely point out that you are going about your lawful business. If you are sure you are within your rights, invite the security guard to call the police and have them sort it out. If it’s in a public place and you are breaking no laws, the likelihood is that the security guard will decline your invitation. Even if he does call the police (and I repeat, as long as you are sure you are within your rights), he’ll be the one looking foolish and probably get short shrift from the police for wasting their time.

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