Last night, my good friend,, asked if I’d be up for shooting around Union Station in Portland. It had been a few days since I had last shot and I was feeling peckish… plus, the weather has been fantastic lately.
Jeff and I got to the station and walked around the interior for a bit, noticing some of the elements that we’d like to shoot but also noticing the majority of the obstructions due to the holidays and construction that prevented us from getting what we wanted. So, we took our chances to shoot on the tracks.
We walked around the far side of the station, where access to the tracks was wide open. In these situations where you’re clearly shooting in and around restricted areas, it pays to feel out the surroundings first. We started shooting in mild locations, close to the public sidewalk and parking lot.
After a few minutes, we felt a bit more brazen and crossed the first set of tracks. Shooting was easy and the creativity started to flow, especially since it seemed like we would have free reign. After another 15 minutes or so, we moved to the far tracks, which offered the best views. Because none of these lines had a third rail, I wasn’t worried about getting electrocuted. And, there was no traffic on the tracks the entire time we were there.
But, all good things do end. After about 45 minutes, a security guard did casually make his way to us and politely asked us to leave because we were clearly trespassing. This is the pivotal point for us photographers.
We could have taken one of two roads – be rude or be cordial. We chose the latter and it paid off. The guard was very friendly, didn’t rush us out, and even helped us find a person who we could speak with about obtaining a permit to let us shoot legally.
Now, I do not regret getting my shots. I will always opt to seek forgiveness before seeking permission with photography. The priority is to always get the shot. Without it, you have nothing.
But keep this in mind:
When you get caught, and it will happen, how you handle the situation is critical. Your actions at this point will cause ripples that will not only affect you, but also other photographers in the future. My hope is that because Jeff and I acted politely and subserviently, the next photographer who gets caught may also benefit, as it were.
My father always likes to say, You get more with honey than with vinegar.
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