LR Tips The Story of the Illegal HDR Photo


Senior Member
Sep 27, 2006
I was recently in New York and made a trip to St. Patricks Cathedral with the specific intention of taking an HDR photo (click the photo on the left for a larger version). I got my photo but I also got a pretty funny story along the way so I thought I’d share.

First, the details. This was a 9 shot bracketed series taken on a D700 with the Nikon 14-24mm lens. The aperture was set to f/11 and the shutter speeds varied throughout the series. I processed it from Lightroom using Photoshop’s Merge to HDR Pro, then some minor retouching to remove distractions and then back to LR for some post-processing. On to the story…

I walked in to the church with my tripod and camera in hand. As you know, anyone with a tripod is automatically treated like a criminal so I was prepared ahead of time. The security person at the front informed me that I could take photos but not use the tripod in the main isle for safety reasons. Knowing the shot I wanted was in the middle I went for plan B (even though I didn’t have a plan B yet). I walked around the church for about 15 minutes trying to work a different angle but I just wasn’t happy with anything. So I decided to throw a Hail Mary.

I saw my opening. The people had cleared the center isle for a few minutes. Off to the side, I set the camera to a 9-frame bracketed series, turned on continuous shooting mode and tested the height of the legs for the shot I wanted. Then I quickly and covertly walked into the center and put the camera/tripod down. Nobody was in site so I just kinda fake-leaned gently on the camera and held my finger on the shutter. Almost making it look like I wasn’t really shooting (yes, I’m sneaky like that). Since I had my camera set to continuous mode it would continue the auto bracketed series as long as the shutter was pressed.

“Click” – went the first shot. “Click” – 2nd shot. “Click” – third. YES!!! I thought I was in the clear. But as I got to the 5th and 6th frames the shutter speeds started creeping into the 8-10 second range. “Uh oh!” I thought.

Now, anyone who shoots HDR knows that these are the most crucial frames because they give details in the dark areas. Well during the 10 second exposure a security guard walked up and told me I had to move. I asked if I could just have 1 more minute and she said no. Then I asked if I could come back later (“Click!” – only 3 more frames to go) in the day when no one was there. She said no. I proceeded to ask if I could come back early in the morning, maybe before they opened. Oh and by the way “What time do you open?” I asked. She said they opened at 8am but that I had to move now (“Click” – 2 more shots to go).

At this point I still had a 20 and 30 second exposure to go so I had to start talking really slow. I was really getting desperate so I asked if she was married and would like to go on a date. She said no
(just kidding on this one). I did ask if there was a place I could go to for media credentials. I was being as verbose as possible though. When she said they had a media contact I asked for the name, number and email address (“Click” – 1 more to go – the long one though). My keen ability to read people (or maybe the irate tone to her voice) told me she was getting frustrated by this point. Knowing I only needed about 25 more seconds, in desperation I asked if she could explain why you weren’t allowed to have a tripod where I was standing. I’d hoped she would give a long answer but to my dismay I received a simple “Because we said so”. I said OK and took my finger off the shutter (the shutter was already open and it was the last shot). I bent down to pick up my bag (making sure I didn’t touch the tripod). I zipped it closed, opened and closed a pouch on the bag a few times. Right at this point another guard approached and said “Sir, we really need you to move out of here now”. Click!. I said “Sure thing!” and being the ever-so-obedient photographer I am, picked up my tripod and walked away.

The Moral of the Story
Ya know, I don’t know what the moral of the story is. I guess I kind of felt like I beat the tripod police for once. I totally understand the need to keep the walkways clear for safety reasons but there wasn’t anyone there for me to pose a safety concern to at this point. So I’m OK with my choice. All in all, I got the shot I came for, didn’t get arrested and didn’t hurt anyone along the way.

What would you have done? Thanks!



Senior Member
Sep 12, 2009
Sin jia Po lah
what's the fuss with tripod when you could just swing your cam+lens and land anyone in hospital?:bsmilie:

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