Tripod Harassment at Griffith Park

Griffith Park Sunset, Los Angeles, California

Griffith Park Sunset, Los Angeles, California

As I’m photographing the sunset outside of the Griffith Observatory, this guy comes up to tell me that photography is allowed but I cannot use my tripod to take pictures because I needed a permit to use it and that the park ranger will give me a ticket if he sees me. I responded with, “Are you serious?!?”. Not so much a question on my part, but more like disbelief that this guy would have the nerve to tell me what I can and can’t do in a publicly-owned park that is paid for with my taxpayer money. I can understand this policy applying to inside of the observatory due to safety reasons but I was outdoors in a corner by myself minding my own business. The guy proceeded to point out another photographer that was told to put it away as well.

Now this is not the first time I’ve had someone try to tell me what to do in a public place so I wasn’t buying it. Was the park ranger going to ticket me for exercising my 1st amendment rights? Give me a break; this is the United States of America, not North Korea. After responding with silence, he left and I continued going about my business. About twenty minutes later he comes back yelling at me, “Sir. You can’t use your tripod! I’m not going to tell you again!” Before I could turn around and offer a response, he had already walked off.

Though he had no right to force me to do something against my will, I ended up going to the other side of the complex because I was in no mood for bullshit and just wanted to pursue my photography in peace. I doubt I will be going back there for photography because it’s just not worth the headache, not even counting the 30 minute hike up the road that I had to do in order to get there. People should really mind their own business and focus on more important things than harassing others. The problem is that people assume that because you have a tripod that it means commercial photography (which does require a permit). No. Tripods are necessary to take good pictures when it’s dark outside!

Since we’re on the topic of photographer’s rights, here is a cool video that the ACLU recently produced on the topic.

10 thoughts

  1. Hi David. This is an issue that has been happening to photographers for years. It’s the first time I’ve encountered it in Los Angeles but I’ve heard about this happening before downtown. This was also a common occurrence in National Parks like Yosemite Valley at one time due to misinformed park rangers. The NPS though has since clarified this position and stated that any photographer that is acting in a similar manner as the average tourist is allowed to go about his business without harassment. They mainly want to crack down on those doing production shoots and anything that could disrupt the experience for others.

    I’ve not heard anything about Santa Monica specifically, as I think they are not technically part of L.A.

  2. I have often wondered how I would react if faced with a similar circumstance. The closest I came was being asked by 5 Vancouver Police officers what I was doing photographing downtown. I told them I was photographing downtown… the rest of the conversation was about gear and one even asked for some advice about a lens. So that went smoothly and I have no problem briefly explaining my purpose in a location. I often think that if I was in your situation here I would suggest they DO call the Ranger – and then hope that a reasonable ranger showed up. That is a gamble of course, but it is probably easier to move like you did.

    Perhaps a call to someone in charge there would quash further harassment?

  3. You are dead on regarding First Amendment rights and this guy being way out of line. It was smart and time-saving of you to walk away. I might have raised a big ruckus. I would hope to cause him to reevaluate starting with, “Who told you that having a tripod goes against any policies?” I might have asked for a supervisor and filed a complaint and on and on, but I’m not sure if that kind of activity makes any difference any more without a tremendous amount of extra time spent that few of us have. Might be better just to move on down the line and let someone else deal with the hassle. Seems like a lawsuit about to happen if you ask me.

  4. Thanks guys. I do have to admit, I considered telling him to have the ranger come over but it’s hard to make those sorts of decisions in the heat of the moment.

    Michael – it sounds like the Vancouver cops might have just been curious about what you were doing, though it would probably raise my blood pressure a little too just from them even asking since you never know what someone else’s intentions are. Glad nothing came of it.

    David – given how many people go there, I’d be surprised if no one had voiced their opinions before but this is L.A. and I’m sure they are overloaded in so many bureaucratic layers that it’s impossible for one person to change policy unless drastic measures are taken. I do hope someone does confront them about this.

  5. Yeah I have no problem with police/officials coming up and asking me why I am there – most have been just curious and not there to harass me in any way. In Vancouver I had a tripod on the sidewalk and there were still no problems.

  6. It’s always strange what kind of reaction we get from people in charge of something. Sometimes it’s is just the curiosity and sometimes it is just plain harassment. Street vendors give me a hard time occasionally.

  7. Lol. That’s funny, Brandon. To humor myself, I took my 5D MKII and 400mm off the tripod after it got dark and tried to brace it on the wall (is that not acceptable either?!?) while shooting the LA skyline. I had to rapid fire a bunch of shots at various ISO’s and I got one that was semi-sharp at 100% while at ISO 1600.

    Steve – weird that street vendors would hassle you considering they get in the way more than a tripod would.

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