Another visit to London on a cold wintry day. Temperature was 27 °F (-2 °C) with a windchill of 26 °F (-3 °C). Snow flurries danced their way around the city around noon, but they fizzled away quickly. I was hoping I’d get enough snow on the ground for a better winter scene but that means I’d be colder, so I guess it was just fine the way it was, for now.
It’s no secret that London is tight on security and not very photographer-friendly, but I did not know it was going to be this irksome especially if you come 80 miles away only to be told to pack up and go. I’ve never had to watch my back all the time while shooting – except maybe when I was in Manila Bay at dusk, surrounded by curious bums and squatters, but that’s another story. Taking pictures is starting to feel like a crime around here.
I did not expect to have 3 brushes with security within the next 24 hours. Sometimes it just doesn’t make any sense but there’s nothing one can do, except sneak in a couple of shots when no one’s looking.
Anyway, here are my latest conversations with my security pals:
In Somerset House—
It was still about half an hour before twilight and I was doing test shots handheld at the ice rink when I was approached by female security.
“Ma’am, what’s that for?” She was referring to the GND filter I had in front of my lens.
“It’s a filter,” I replied.
“Yeah, but what does it do?”
I was a little confused about why she was interested, but I explained, “It just balances the light, that’s all.”
“What are you going to do with the pictures?” She asked. With the tone in her voice, I now know where this was going.
“They’re just tourist shots, that’s all,” I reasoned. “It’s just a hobby.”
“I need to talk to my manager,” she said. “You’re not allowed to use professional cameras here.”
And off she went to get her manager while in the meantime, I sneaked in a couple more shots until the big boss came and just further emphasized what the other woman just told me.
So off to Westminter at twilight—
There were a few tripod-huggers at the promenade by London Eye up to the steps of Westminster bridge, but of course I had to be the one spotted right away.
“You’re not allowed to use that here,” he pointed to the tripod I had already set up. “But,” he continued very reassuringly, ” you can take shots on the bridge if you want.”
It was only about 20 steps to the bridge from where I was, so is it me or, I find no logic in that?
Anyway, that was it for my rendezvous with my new friends in London, but the following day at the mall in Bluewater 20 miles outside of London, I was taking shots of the Winter Wonderland scene when I got another visit.
“Can I see your press pass, please?” my new friend asked.
Press pass – I thought to myself – that’s a pick-up line I haven’t heard before. “I’m sorry what?” I asked. I had just taken 6 shots of the scene.
She repeated herself and I innocently replied, “Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t have one.”
“You’re not allowed to take photos here,” she said, “We have our own media people doing that.”
“I didn’t know, sorry.” And I said, with what’s becoming my new alibi-of-the-day, “It’s just a hobby.”
“Can I see what you’ve just taken?” She asked.
I turned my camera on and pressed playback. I showed her the last photo I took, “Just that one, is that okay?” I lied, then I turned my camera off.
“I want to see you put your camera away,” she then said. A little bit too harsh, don’t you think?
So I put my camera back in the bag while she watched, folded up my tripod, and sulked.
Poor me 😦