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Attention Portrait Photographers: Stop tearing the place up 

click to enlarge A sign at a local park warns professional photographers that they are not allowed to take pictures on certain days and times. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • A sign at a local park warns professional photographers that they are not allowed to take pictures on certain days and times.
I recently visited Rockledge Ranch, a living history site that offers the public a chance to step back in time to see how homesteaders and Native Americans lived between 17th century to today. There’s a black smith, livestock, gardens as well as a number of special events including a Pow Wow and the annual Fiddles, Vittles and Vino festival.

Rockledge is also a great place to take pictures, with plenty of shade, flat ground and pleasing backgrounds with old buildings. I photograph families, seniors and wedding clients at this location often. A lot of other people like to take pictures here, too. I’ve seen the location filled with photographers, both professional and amateurs, in all corners of the property.

But a new sign at the entrance to the Ranch reads “No professional photography Wed.- Sat. 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.”

The reason for this new sign?

“We’re being loved to death,” says Andrea Tappan, Rockledge’s office manager.

Tappan says photographers have been crawling around every part of the ranch with props including furniture, moving farm equipment and even nailing signage to buildings without permission. Some don’t even take their props with them when they leave.

“They’re tearing up the site. And it’s taking away from our mission and our programming,” she says. “No one had cameras in the early 1800s.”

Still, the whole idea of prohibiting photography in a public space is troublesome — it’s not like tourists wouldn’t be taking pictures too.

But portrait photographers aren't your average tourists. To pose families, bring in furniture and manipulate the scenery all while people are visiting Rockledge to see living history? I’ve got to admit that's more than a little jarring.

I also see this whole problem as a troubling nationwide trend with parks and open spaces being constantly inundated. It’s important for every photographer to understand their responsibilities when using our parks and open spaces. You can photograph these places without ruining them, or making the managers so upset they prohibit you from the location or create special regulations.

It's easy: Go when no one is there and leave no trace.

All is not lost for photographs wanting to shoot in Rockledge, though. Along with the new signage, the ranch has instituted a permitting system. You can read about its policy regarding photography here. To purchase a photographer permit go here.

Sean Cayton is a wedding photojournalist of 19 years and operates a successful, award-winning wedding photography studio in Colorado Springs. He's also an award-winning photojournalist. Sean is happily married to the love of his life (also his business partner) and is father to three beautiful children. When he’s not working, Sean can be found outside flying kites with his kids, hitting golf balls or casting a fly rod to hungry trout.

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