Brush with the law
I had been feeling restless lately, so I decided to head out to baker beach to take some pictures and relax. I took the 29 bus to the Baker beach parking lot and started walking around. It was therapy, and it was research as I had been wanting to add some new locations and looks to my work. Being an avid people watcher, it was interesting to see the nude sections of the beach collide with the “regular” sections of the beach. Fully nude people mingling amongst the people in shorts and vests. It was an interesting interaction to me. As I moved north along the beach, I began getting more adventurous and started climbing over the rocks and bits of land the covered the beach, separating one secluded area from another. Before I knew it, it was almost 5:00pm and the tide was coming in. I was very near to the Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point, so I made my way over to avoid being swept away by the rising waves. As I made my way under the bridge to Fort Point there were some fences with barbed wire and signs that read “No Trespassing” but I made my way past them to avoid the tide. I thought I could maybe walk around the side of Fort Point, but the path was blocked by very high fences with barbed wire on top. My hopes of strolling on through the Fort Point parking lot unnoticed were beginning to disappear. I decided then that my only other option was to climb up the hill directly beneath the Golden Gate Bridge.
I began the hike up the hill and as I moved closer to top, near the tourist viewing point and parking lot, I saw a police officer and he saw me. He hopped off his bike and asked me to come over. There was another fence here that I was planning on climbing over but he unlocked it for me. He asked for my ID, what was in my bag and a few other standard questions. I told him exactly what had happened: I took a long walk on the beach, got so far out that I was forced to climb back up to civilization to avoid the destruction of my equipment by the rising tide. The officer was polite, stating that I was guilty of a misdemeanor because I was in a restricted area but he would let it go due to the circumstances. Right when I was feeling like I had really stuck it to the man, he asked me a question I did not expect. He asked to see the photos. I was hesitant but slowly pulled my camera from the bag. Upon viewing all 143 images, he asked me to delete the last 15 or so, which were taken when I was beneath the bridge. My mind raced as I thought of general photography laws and if they applied to my situation. “I can’t do that,” I said. He then ranted that he was giving me a lot of slack for trespassing and by not following his orders and deleting the images he could fine me, arrest me and have me detained. I explained that my photos were protected under intellectual property laws. He began to become more and more agitated.
Nobody wants to have a misdemeanor on their record. He could have easily given me one for trespassing, so I finally agreed to delete the photos but only because I had very reliable data recovery software in my studio. After a lecture about debating the law with a police officer, he dismissed me and I was off.
The photos I took today were for me. I had no real intention of publishing them or making a profit from them. But now the purpose they serve is to be shared. Take these views in, and know that if you see these things from this vantage point and you have a camera, you had better be weary of law enforcement. I feel slightly defeated because I didn’t know the specific laws about photography in California, especially in relation to being on private property. I will be spending the next few days researching photography law, so the next time I run into this situation I will be prepared. I suggest you do the same with your state and county as well. In the meantime, enjoy the restricted photos.