Corona Del Mar: Attack of the Camera Nazis

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Several months ago I wrote on my blog about 1st Amendment rights after reading an O.C. Register article about the city officials of Newport Beach citing photographers for taking pictures at Little Corona Del Mar Beach. Well now that I have first hand experience of being hassled there, now I can back up my claims with authority.

Now if you have never been to Corona Del Mar, there are multi-million dollar homes situated on the bluffs right above the scenic beach. It IS a PUBLIC beach but the city has this policy that “professional” photographers (anyone with a camera in their mind) has to have a filming permit otherwise they will get ticketed for $100. Meanwhile everyone else on the beach is free to do as they please including have their dogs step on and eat everything in the tide pools leash-free.

So yesterday as I am walking onto the beach, a female city employee approaches me and asks me if I’m here to take pictures. I said yes, then she said, “This is a marine sanctuary and the tide pools are fragile, etc…” I told the lady that I used to work at an aquarium in San Francisco so I know how to respect marine wildlife. Knowing that she couldn’t outsmart me, she resorted to, “are you a professional photographer?” I knew where this conversation was headed as soon as she said hello, so my response was, “We’re just here for fun.” “Okay well I guess you can take pictures as long as your tripod doesn’t step anywhere your feet aren’t allowed to. But if a police patrol comes down later don’t be surprised if he takes down your driver’s license number. If you are a professional, then you are expected to have a commercial filming permit otherwise you will be ticketed. Those people make a LOT of money so they should be expected to pay for permits.” Goes to show how little she knows about the photography industry. And people who live in Corona Del Mar / Newport Beach don’t make money? I could see her face light up once she mentioned the money they could swindle from photographers. I can understand a wedding photographer needing a permit as that operation requires props and numerous people which can be obstructive but a scenic photographer takes up no more space than your typical tourist. Nor does he make much more money in most cases…

I knew the lady was blowing smoke because that is so typical of wealthy cities to try and hog the beaches for themselves and drive away the outsiders. It happens everywhere from CDM to territorial surfers at Palos Verdes to David Geffen in Malibu. They figure if they scare off all the photographers then no more attention will be brought to the beach so it will be all for them. I’ve got a real simple solution. If you don’t want lower-class tourists walking past your house, then don’t live next to the beach. The sad part is that they are using the marine life as an excuse to drive people away. The lady had no interest in nor sufficient knowledge of the wildlife to even justify being out there making empty threats. Needless to say, a young woman with a camera came onto the beach moments after my conversation with the city employee and she was approached as well. By then I was already looking for my photos.

See more of my Orange County pictures.


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2 thoughts

  1. Damn! Corona del mar is beautiful, I’ve shot there before and no one said a thing. That sucks a $400 permit!

  2. Hi Steve. CDM is definitely beautiful. The first time I went there, I didn’t have any problems either. Since the encounter I haven’t been back so hopefully they aren’t doing that anymore. I ended up speaking with and writing to the Coastal Commission about this but don’t know if anything came of it.

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