A while back I wrote a blog about a trip to London to see Lee Evans and the impromptu photo session the morning after. If you cannot recall this, or maybe you havent read it then take a look here . To cut a long story short I was advised quite early in the morning of shooting images at Canary Wharf that I needed permission to shoot professionally at this location. Well as I wasnt shooting professionally and I had no intention of selling the images I couldnt see the problem. This moved on to them suggesting that I needed permission to use a tripod and would need public liability insurances for said tripod. Well, what a mess eh? In a way the police officers were right, the land at Canary Wharf is private property and a quick look on the website does in fact state that commercial photographers will require permission.
Why does a tripod, a long lens and the actual manner of looking like you know what you are doing make joe public think you are either a professional photographer or a member of the paparazzi? Answer…A sign of the time. My comment to this…does driving a 1984 Ford Escort make you a rally driver? Answer: No.
The very nice people at Strictly Yorkshire Photography Group had arranged a tea-time meet up at Clarence Dock in Leeds City Centre. If you are not familiar with this place then take a look here…(Wikipedia). This is a great locations for photography during the day but at night the scene is set for coloured lighting, awesome reflections, rippling water and countless silhouettes. Trip Advisor, Visit Leeds and various other tourism sites have good things to say about Clarence Dock including
“The docks are nice but nothing to rave about. However from behind it there is a really nice path through the canal. You can walk to Methley and even further enjoying the landscape. I highly recommend this if you have a day off with nice weather and a picnic”
“A pleasent walk on way to Royal Armouries, one can only imagine what this area must have looked like before it was re-developed. Seemed a very busy area, people taking boat trips, riding bikes or just sitting reading. Noticed nice selection of eateries.”
But no where in any of the reviews or details does it say you are not allowed to take photographs. This got me thinking how many images must there be on the internet of Clarence Dock and its waterways on the internet. My first port of call was flickr. Where I found this image and the quote “…this is one of my favourite locations in Leeds to come and test new (or old) camera equipment!” … mmmmm
The evenings photography had already started when I arrived and a few people were stood around arranging images and setting up tripods. I proceeded to do the same and within about 10 minutes of doing so I was approached by a security guard. His words to me were “Do you have permission to take photos?” to which I answered “Do I need permission?” he then began explaining that the land was private property but we could stand further back (approximately 20ft) and that was a public highway. Now this begs the question of signage. Surely if something is private property there must be a sign telling you so. There is a public footpath along side this area over Knights Bridge and within this area are local shops and restaurants i.e. Tesco, Mumtaz to name a couple. If it was private proprty then surely this would limit access to the shopping area?
Looking at Google Images reveals thousands of images of Clarence Dock, even at night. The BBC Leeds website even praises and hosts an image by a local photographer from the exact location we were stood at. Our latest distant accquaintance “Mr Security Guard” whom incidentally refused to give us his name but insisted he had only worked here a week had stuck to his decision and insisted we couldnt take photographs.
I was tired, my head was in agony and as much as it was ideal for photography a clear night would have been so different. As the others headed off to find a new location, I headed back to my car and a short ride home with my single image. It wasnt a total waste of time but it just felt like Canary Wharf all over again.
Unlike Canary Wharf who have a website that clearly indicates that no commercial filming or photography is allowed, Clarence Dock has very little and the only item I can find relates to a company called “Allied London” who are a property developer who originally purchased the “New Dock” site.
Maybe one day I will find out. Until then, all photographers out there, watch what you are taking…..you never when you are on private property